When invited over to someone else’s home for a barbecue, proper party etiquette usually dictates that you not point and laugh at the main dish as it is brought to the dinner table. That would be rude.
However, grilling a whole chicken with a beer can stuck betwixt its drumsticks not only yields a moist and flavorful bird, but it also merits a few chuckles when presented to the table. So by all means, do point and laugh if you are ever presented with beer-can chicken. But you should also be ready for a tasty treat once the bird is on your plate. And there are quite a few foods that combine both hilarity and deliciousness like beer-can chicken can. Just look at that picture above. It appears to be a nicely roasted and juicy chicken on a grill (delicious!), but then there’s a beer can stuck up its arse (hilarious!). Sorry, but I’m easily amused.
Although vertically roasting a chicken with a half-full (hooray for optimism!) beer-can stuck where the sun don’t shine is a common practice in many parts, there may still be some of you out there unaccustomed to such culinary delights. Let me first explain that the beer-can is more than just a novelty–it actually does help prevent the chicken from drying out by steaming the bird from the inside out, all the while perfuming it with beery goodness. Grilling in this manner is also not limited to just beer-cans. You could also use fruit punch, colas, energy drinks, whoop-ass, and whatever else comes in a can these days.
Now I make beer-can chicken a few times a year, and I normally take to dispensing a dry rub of herbs and spices to flavor my bird. But this being a Filipino food blog and all, I figured I’d do a Filipino-style barbecue. And if there’s one culinary tradition that Filipinos and Americans have in common, it’s good barbecue.
Of course, Pinoys can lay claim to piggy goodness in things like Lechon, but we can also grill up a mean and tasty bird in the form of Chicken Inasal–chicken marinated in a heady mixture of vinegar and lemongrass and then thrown on the grill while being basted with red achuete oil.
Mmmmm. Beer-Can Chicken Inasal. It’s the best of both worlds.
Although the chicken in chicken inasal is usually cut up and put on skewers, I had to keep my chicken whole in order to roast it on the beer can. So I stuck my chicken into a gallon-sized zip top bag and poured in a mixture of coconut vinegar, soy, kalamansi juice, brown sugar, lemongrass, garlic, and ginger (yes, it all actually fit in the bag, but feel free to use a big bowl). I let everything marinate for 8 hours, flipping the bird (literally) halfway through so that everything was evenly marinated.
Next, I chugged half a beer and spooned in a bit of the marinade and lemongrass into the can and poked a couple more holes at the top of the beer-can. I also use a special beer-can chicken stand to help hold the chicken upright, but this is by no means necessary. I only have a stand because I make beer-can chicken so much and I’ve had one too many chickens tip over on the grill. But a beer-can and the chicken’s legs should be enough to serve as a tripod in holding the chicken upright.
After the chicken was done marinating, I plopped it on the beer can and gave it a good swabbing with achuete oil (vegetable oil that was steeped with annato seeds). Achuete oil has a very mild flavor, so it’s used mostly for its color rather than for taste. With that said though, the oil also helps to absorb the smokiness from the grill.
Speaking of smoke, if you happen to have a gas grill like I do, that doesn’t mean you can’t duplicate the smokiness of a charcoal grill. Just fashion yourself a smoke bomb by soaking wood chips in water and then wrapping the wood in a foil pouch. You can leave the top of the pouch open, as well as perforate the pouch, and place it over the flames of your gas grill. The wood will smolder and begin to smoke from the openings of the pouch.
Finally, I put the beer-canned chicken on my grill over indirect medium heat (350 degrees to be more specific) and opposite the smoke bomb.
After about an hour and twenty minutes, my 3.5 pound chicken was done. It was moist and flavorful from the beer, smokey from the grill, and sweet and tangy from the inasal marinade. Chicken inasal is usually served with a side sauce of vinegar and chilies, but I served it with white rice, grilled veggies, atchara, and a cold beer (don’t drink what’s left in the can that was stuffed into the chicken, unless you like hot beer and chicken grease).
Beer-Can Chicken Inasal
1 cup coconut vinegar
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup kalamansi juice, or lime juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 stalks lemongrass, chopped
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
3.5 – 4 lb. whole chicken
1 can of beer
1/4 cup achuete oil (recipe below)
1 cup hickory chips, or other wood for smoking, soaked in water for 1 hour and drained
In a large bowl, combine the vinegar, soy, kalamansi juice, brown sugar, lemongrass, garlic, and ginger and stir until sugar dissolves.
Place the chicken in a large zip-top bag, or in a large bowl, and pour marinade over the chicken. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours, turn the chicken over, and let marinate for another 4 hours. After chicken is done marinating, remove from marinade and pat dry with paper towels.
Drink half of the beer, then poke some holes in the top of the beer-can with a can opener. If desired, pour a small amount of marinade into the beer-can. Lower the chicken onto the top of the beer-can and baste the chicken all over with some achuete oil.
If using a gas grill, place the soaked wood chips in a foil pouch and perforate the pouch with a knife to allow smoke to escape. Place the pouch above the flames on your grill, or place the wood chips in the smoker box if you have one. If using a charcoal grill, just place the wood chips directly onto the charcoal.
Place the beer-can chicken onto your grill over indirect medium heat (350 degrees for a gas grill) and roast with the grill cover closed for 1 hour to 1.5 hours, basting with the achuete oil every 20-30 minutes.
adapted from “Memories of Philippine Kitchens” by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan
1 cup canola oil
1/4 cup Annatto seeds
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1 ancho chile, stemmed and seeded
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the oil begins to bubble, remove from heat and let the ingredients steep for 1-2 hours.
Pour cooled oil through a cheesecloth-lined funnel and into an airtight container. Store oil in refrigerator.