The Hammered Hen (Beer Can Chicken)
Story, photos and playlist by Bryan Maxwell
Everybody’s got their own way of doin’ things. From eatin’ cereal to brushing your teeth, we pretty much all do everything a little different. I think that’s a good thing. Differences make the space for innovation, creativity and uniqueness. The space between how it has been done and how you do it is how we got to where we are now. Without somebody thinking or doing something a little bit different, we wouldn’t have cameras, cell phones or the internet. BBQ is all about doing it your way.
That being said, let’s make ourselves a beer can chicken. I have to thank the pitmaster who years ago showed me, albeit briefly, how he did his beer can chicken. He didn’t go step-by-step or anything. It was more along the lines of “hey here’s a chicken, and I put a beer inside of it.” The rest of the recipe came from all the differences I found through experimentation and practice. I’m going to show you how to cook a beer can chicken my way, save you some time. You’re welcome.
Beer Can Chicken
Some people call it beer can chicken as that’s the most self-explanatory description, some call it Borracho Chicken or even el pollo borracho. I refer to it as the hammered hen, because that’s who I am and that’s how I do things.
Why did the chicken cross the road? She didn’t, she was hammered.
What You’ll Need
- A beer can and its contents. I prefer Mexican beer in general. Just steer clear of that “light” nonsense. Use real beer.
- A chicken (7 or so pounder’ll do)
- 1/2 stick of Butter
- 1 onion
- A clove of garlic
- The Rub: Seasoned salt, Black pepper, Garlic powder mixed together
Let’s kick off the tomfoolery and wrangle this fowl. What’s that? Quaker City Night Hawks. That’s what.
The Beer Can
Open the beer can and pour the contents into a glass. Put the beer can on its side and cut into it so 3/4th of the bottom of the can remains. You don’t have to but I fold part of the can over itself to prevent myself from getting cut.
Take your onion, halve it, cut into it about 1 finger width and cube it. Peel and cut your garlic into 4 pieces. Take a pinch of Cilantro shred it and put the onions, garlic, cilantro, some rub and beer back into the can. Fill it up so it’s just shy of full. Stir it with your knife. Drink whatever’s left over (If you’re of legal drinking age). Don’t be wasteful.
Rinse your chicken with cold water and remove the gizzards. Use a chefs knife and trim away any excess fat on the top or the bottom of the chicken. Using your fingers, from the top of the chicken separate the skin away from the meat and stuff both the front and the back with butter.
Apply the rub evenly both inside and outside of the chicken.
Take your chicken and beer can and carefully set the chicken (bottom side down) on top of the beer can. If you’re having trouble fitting the can properly within the chicken you can pinch the can inwards to make it easier to fit. Below is a simple device (~$8 or so at your grocery store’s BBQ section) that helps keep the can in place if you’re cooking more than one. If you don’t have this, simply just position the can, hold the chicken and spread the chickens legs on the grill to keep it upright.
We’re not trying to actually intoxicate the chicken, we’re trying to enhance what the good Lord gave it through what the good Lord gave me, cerveza.
Now there’s two ways to do this. They both require Eagles of Death Metal on the speaker. You can smoke it, or you can grill it. Both ways will end up delicious but grilling it takes a bit more practice and monitoring as the butter and chicken grease tends to catch fire.
- Grilling: get your coals up to about 350-400F and place your chicken directly over the coals.Cook it for about an hour and a half or 170F degrees in the breast. Monitor it so if it does catch fire you can move it off direct heat long enough to stop it from burning.
- Smoking: get your fire rolling about 350F consistently and place the chicken in the smoker. Smoke until 170F degrees in the breast. Cook it for about 2 and a half hours or 170F degrees in the breast.
This is a delicious way to prepare a chicken my personal favorite. It stays tender like it was prepared on a rotisserie yet crispy as if fried. The alcohol and the beer tenderizes the meat and steams it so you get a tender, juicy chicken that’s easy to cook (as long as you watch out for fire if you’re grillin’ it!). You get a subtle hint of beer in the flavor but it doesn’t taste like beer as the alcohol cooks out in the process. I mentioned it involves beer too. Just checking.
This is a dish best prepared on a sunny Sunday afternoon with friends and family.