#14 beer butt chicken

As Thanksgiving came around the corner, and with Christmas quickly creeping in, I decided to find some holiday recipes to add to my collection.  However, I had been looking forward to this particular one, not necessarily as a festive holiday meal, but it seemed to serve the purpose of letting us enjoy our own rendition of the grand American Thanksgiving feast here among the oblivious German crowd, who has nonetheless adopted the Black Friday/Cyber Monday fad with ferocious enthusiasm.

I give this recipe top reviews and high recommendations.  Not only is it easy and fool-proof, but the results are crazy good: totally satisfying, tender and juicy chicken, with deliciously crisp skin and tender meat.  I was so delighted with the results and my family was too, which makes me consider doubling the recipe next time, makes for great left over chicken scraps!

For The Recipe

  • 1 large broiler chicken, 3-1/2 pounds (1.5kg)
  • 1 can (480ml) of lager beer

For The Brine

  • 3-1/4 quarts (3000ml) of boiling water
  • 1/2 cup of salt (150g) of salt
  • 1/2 cup (100g) of sugar

Begin by unwrapping the chicken and removing the innards/giblets (which are usually separately packed and stuffed inside the chicken).  If the chicken is frozen, let it thaw out a bit so you can work with it…it doesn’t pose too much of an issue if the chicken is still too frozen to remove the innards – through the brining process, the chicken thaws just fine and you can remove the giblets later.

Add salt & sugar to a large deep stockpot.  Boil water separately – kettle works best! – and add to pot, stirring to dissolve salt & sugar.  Submerge entire chicken and make sure it remains underwater by adding some sort of weight to it.  In my case, I filled the stockpot almost on its entirety (with submerged chicken included) and the lid did the trick.  Let the chicken brine for a minimum of 3 hours, best time is 6-8 hours!  I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how soft and tender the chicken will be afterwards.

For the Rub

  • 1 tablespoon of thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of ground paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

Heat oven to 300°F (150°C).  Prepare the rub in a small bowl right before your chicken brining time is up.  Mix all the dry ingredients and combine well.  Add olive oil, tablespoon by tablespoon, until you have a paste of your desired consistency.  The best consistency, in my opinion, resembles face scrub: pasty enough to rub over smoothly, but grainy enough to add texture – and most importantly, not drip off!  Drippy rub will only end up burning on your baking tray.

Remove the chicken from the brine, making sure to drain the inside completely and removing the innards if you hadn’t done that before.  Pat the entire chicken dry with kitchen paper, making sure no wet areas remain – this includes the interior cavity!  With your hands, rub the chicken with the paste, making sure to get every single surface and niche!  Rub the interior of the chicken as well, so the flavors seep through while baking.  I also like to delicately rub in between the skin and the meat on the chicken breasts, but ever so carefully because the skin is very delicate, and more so thanks to the long brining!  Leave some rub in the bowl for one last rub later on.

Wash the beer can and open to take a couple of swigs – you’ll only need half the can full, and you & your chicken both deserve some of it after that intensive massage session.  Line a baking tray with aluminium foil, and place the can on the center.  Pick the chicken up very carefully, like you would a crying baby, from the wings holding the cavity firmly.  Lower it onto the top of the can, sitting the chicken and pushing the can through into the cavity as far up as it may go, sitting the chicken stably on top.

Place chicken in lowest oven rack (very carefully not to tip it over!) and cook for about 1-1/2 hours or more.  You can see how your own chicken is moving along and can decide from this point on how much more you’ll want to broil it.  Once done, remove from oven very carefully as beer can will be extremely hot and chicken might tip over.  You can set it warm as a fun table centerpiece, or you can avoid the awkward table disaster and carve it yourself in the privacy of your kitchen and serve the separated pieces on a tray.  Either way, it’s definitely a deliciously cooked chicken!

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