Tender and juicy drunk chicken is seasoned with a blend of Cajun-inspired herbs and spices. Serve with my homemade sauce on the side for maximum flavor.
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You know, taking an attractive picture of a chicken with a beer can shoved up its, um, cavity is just about impossible. No perfect lighting and no artistic camera angle changes what it is – a dead chicken squatting over an aluminum can. But boy, is it delicious.
Why is beer can chicken so yummy?
Now that I have painted such an attractive picture for you, let’s get down to why drunk chicken is so yummy. If you have ever tried it, you know what I’m talking about. The liquid from the beer steams the meat from the inside out as it’s cooking. It ends up being so tender and juicy and falling off the bone. Unless you just throw common sense out the window and cook your chicken to excess, it is pretty hard to mess this up.
What type of beer should you use?
First, it has to be in a can. Bottles are a no-go here for the simple fact that bottles can shatter if they get too hot. You don’t want to toss an entire chicken for fear that someone might bite into a shard of glass. If there is a brand of bottled beer that you are just partial to, consider a chicken roaster that comes with its own stainless steel can.
Second, use what you will drink. You only need one can to make this recipe, so purchasing something that no one will drink is just a waste of good beer. I chose Bud Light because it’s The Husband’s favorite brand.
If you aren’t a beer drinker, that’s okay.
Believe it or not, beer is not necessarily required. Some die-hard beer can chicken aficionados might argue that there is a “scientific reaction” that takes place between the yeast in the beer and the meat while it’s cooking. However, in all the times I have made drunk chicken, I never once thought the meat came out tasting like Budweiser.
Instead of beer, consider one of these substitutes:
- Chicken broth
Prepare the Chicken
Whenever I cook a whole chicken, I like to brine it first. Brining is the process of soaking the chicken in salt water for several hours to add moisture and flavor. You can use a basic saltwater brine or try my sweet tea brine.
After brining, I like to let my chicken set at room temperature to air dry for about 30 minutes. Dry skin gets nice and crispy while it roasts. Then I rub the entire outside of the chicken with olive oil and season it with 2-3 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning. I prefer to whip up a batch of my homemade Cajun seasoning blend and store any leftovers in an airtight container. It’s delicious on other recipes like blackened catfish and pork chops.
Place the chicken on the roaster
This may be obvious to some, but I’ll say it anyway just in case … open the beer can first. If you don’t, the contents of the beer could cause the can to explode due to the building pressure cause by the heat.
Second, dump about ¼ – ½ of the beer out – either down the drain or better yet, into a glass to drink later. The beer will reach boiling during cooking. We need to give it a little space so it doesn’t boil out of the can and make a big mess.
Place the open beer can down into the chicken roaster. I like to drop a couple whole cloves of peeled garlic down into the can as well. I’ll explain why in a minute. Lower the chicken cavity down over the can so that its basically sitting on top of the roaster. If your roaster doesn’t come with drip pan, place a pie plate or a casserole dish underneath to catch all those yummy juices. This is also a good place to arrange some sliced vegetables for a side dish!
How to Make Drunk Chicken in the Oven
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Move the oven rack to the lower third of the oven. Once preheated, slide the chicken roaster, with the chicken standing upright, into the oven. Roast the chicken for 18 minutes per pound. For a five-pound bird, it took two hours to cook through.
The recommended internal temperature for poultry is 180 degrees. Insert a reliable meat thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast of the bird, but not touching bone. Remove the bird from the oven when the internal temperature reaches between 165 – 170 degrees. Allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes to give the juices time to redistribute through the meat. The chicken will continue to cook while it rests.
How to Make Drunk Chicken on the Grill
Prepare the grill for indirect heat. For charcoal, once the briquettes have enough ash on them, pile the briquettes to one side, leaving a “cool” side. If using a gas grill, turn on all burners until the grill reaches 350 degrees, then turn off the burners on one side.
Place the chicken on the “cool” side of the grill. Roast for 18 minutes per pound, about two hours for a five-pound bird. Rotate the chicken about halfway through cooking time. Cook until an instant read thermometer reaches an internal temperature of 165 – 170 degrees.
Remove the chicken from the grill. Allow the chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes to give the juices time to redistribute through the meat. The chicken will continue to cook while it rests. It should end up reaching an internal temperature of 180 degrees.
Removing the chicken from the can
Here comes the tricky part. The chicken is hot. The roaster and the can of beer are really hot. And as the chicken cooks it kind of sticks to the roaster and the can. How do you get the gosh dern thing apart?
Silicone oven mitts come in really handy here because you can handle the chicken without burning your fingers and then rinse the gloves off under the sink. But if you don’t have a pair handy, place the roaster on a cutting board. Hold the roaster down with a spatula and grasp the chicken with a pair of large tongs. Pull the chicken straight up using the tongs. Move the roaster with the beer can out of the way and lay the chicken onto the cutting board.
Make the Sauce
This is why I stuck garlic cloves into my beer can. Once the chicken is off the roaster, pour the hot beer from the can into a small saucepan. Stir in ½ cup of salsa. Bring to a simmer until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
IF you’ve never carved a chicken, this video provides an excellent step-by-step tutorial on the proper way to carve a bird. Serve drunk chicken with the sauce on the side for dipping.
Storage, Reheating and Freezing
Storage: Leftover cast iron roast chicken should be cooled completely before transferring the carved meat to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator and consume within four days.
Reheat: Leftover chicken can be reheated for a few in the microwave. Alternately, place the meat in a covered casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until heated through.
Freeze: Place leftover meat in an airtight freezer bag. Consume within three months.
What to Serve with Beer Can Chicken:
- Southern Potato Salad
- Baked Beans with Bacon and Ground Beef
- Southern Skillet Fried Corn
- Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Wedge Salad
- 1 5 pound whole chicken
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
- 1 12 ounce can of beer
- 2 cloves whole garlic
- 1/4 – 1 /2 cup salsa
- Brush the outside of the chicken with olive oil.
- Season with the Cajun seasoning.
- Empty out (or drink!) half of the can of beer. Place the can in an upright chicken roaster.
- Drop the garlic cloves into the beer can.
- Carefully fit the chicken over the roaster so that the beer can is snug within the cavity of the chicken.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven.
- If your roaster does not have a drip pan, place the roaster in a pie plate or casserole dish.
- Place the chicken on the roaster, standing up, into the oven
- Bake for 18 minutes per pound, until an instant read thermometer reaches 165 – 170 degrees.
- Remove chicken from the oven. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.
- Prepare grill for indirect heat – once the briquettes have enough ash on them, pile the briquettes to one side, leaving a “cool” side. If using a gas grill, turn on all burners until grill reaches 350 degrees, then turn off the burners on one side.
- Place chicken on the “cool” side of the grill.
- Roast for 1-1/2 – 2 hours, rotating about halfway through cooking time, until an instant read thermometer measures an internal temperature of 180 degrees.
- Remove chicken from the grill. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.
For the sauce:
- Pour the beer left in the can into a saucepan. Mix with the salsa and simmer until heated through. Serve on the side as a dipping sauce.