Show 107:
Birds on a Can

When it comes to sheer wow power, nothing can beat beer can chicken-one of the most eye-popping, jaw-dropping dishes on the American barbecue circuit. As far as I'm concerned, there's no better way to cook a whole chicken-or any fowl-than in an upright position over an open can of beer on the grill. The beer steams the bird from the inside, keeping it moist, and the upright position helps drain off the fat, producing a crackling crisp skin every time. To that add the novelty factor, and you've got a new American classic.

Today's menu:

  • The Great American beer can chicken
  • Beer can duckling a l'orange
  • Pineapple juice quail
  • Beer can turkey

Tips - Beer Can Chicken Safety

Yes, it's safe. There's no leaching of aluminum or label dyes from the can into the beer can. (We had this tested in a laboratory.) The only real risk you run is the danger of spilling hot beer or soda when you remove the chicken from the grill or the can from the chicken. Take the following steps to minimize this risk:

  • Be sure the chicken is propped up securely on the can. Use the legs for support, pulling them forward and out to make a tripod.
  • Use long handled tongs or heatproof gloves to transfer the chicken from the grill or oven to a platter. If using tongs, grasp the chicken by the can, just beneath the butt. Use another set of tongs or your hands (wearing heavy rubber gloves) to steady the top of the chicken.
  • Present the chicken on its can to your guests at the table, but take it to your kitchen or work area to remove the can and carve it. Pour the hot beer or soda out of the can into your sauce (if using it for this purpose) or into the sink.
  • The stability of the process can be greatly enhanced by using a beer can chicken device, like one of the following.

Beer Can Chicken Devices

Beer canning is darn near the perfect way to cook chicken. Darn near. The only hitch is the less than rock solid stability of a chicken perched on a beer can-it's tendency to tip over unless perfectly balanced. This has led several barbecue loving entrepreneurs to invent chicken roasting devices that eliminate the risk of a tipping beer can.

Buster's Drunk Chicken Roost: Beer can chicken is so good, believes Jesse "Buster" Burgin, you won't just want to make one. So he created a device that allows you to roast four birds at a time. P.O. Box 2038, Acworth, Georgia 30102, tel. 770-425-8797,

Cajun ChickCan: This ingenious wire frame is holds a beer, soda, or fruit juice can in an upright position, so you can do beer canning without risking tipping. The open wire open wire frame lets you see the beer can. Available at Walmart.

Captain Steve's Beer Can Chicken Roaster: Believing that at least part of the joy of making beer can chicken is seeing the beer can, Floridian Steve Heide created a wire frame with a wide, stable base that fits around the beer can. When not in use, the roaster folds up flat to fit in a kitchen drawer. Capt. Steve's Beer Can Chicken Roaster, Aquabotics, Inc., 84961 Old Hwy #8, Islamorada, FL. 33036, 800 480 4450 code 00,

Papa Jeabert's Chicken Up: If you've ever fretted about the fat that drips off the chicken during roasting, this device is for you. The Chicken Up features an open rectangular polished aluminum metal box with an upright metal tube in the center. Simply fill the tube with beer, wine, cola, or other flavored liquid and you're ready to roast. Papa Jeabert's, Inc., 530 C West Pinhook, Lafayette, LA 70503, tel. 877-267-4468,

Beer Can Duckling "A l'Orange" printer-ready version

Serves 2.

  • 1 duck (about 5 pounds), thawed in the refrigerator
  • coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 strips orange zest (remove them with a vegetable peeler)
  • 1 orange, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can (16 ounces) of beer
  • 1 can (12 ounces) orange soda
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, or to taste
  • Orange Sauce (recipe follows)
1. Remove the packet of giblets from the body cavity of the duck and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the duck, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Prick the duck skin all over with a sharp fork (like a carving fork), taking care not to pierce the meat. Place the duck on a wire rack on a tray in the refrigerator and let dry out overnight. (The latter is optional, but it will help give you crisper skin.)

2. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in center.

3. Very generously season the front and main cavity of the duck with salt and pepper. Place a strip of orange zest in the front cavity and one in the main cavity. Rub the outside of the duck all over with cut orange. Drizzle 1-1/2 teaspoons oil over the duck and rub it all over the skin. Very generously season the outside of the duck with salt and pepper.

4. Pop the tab off the beer can. Drink 3/4 the beer or save it for another recipe. Using a church key style can opener, make 2 additional holes in the top of the beer can. Using a funnel, add 1/2 cup orange soda and the Grand Marnier. (Save the remainder for the sauce-see below.)

5. Holding the duck upright, with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom, lower it onto the beer can so the can fits into the cavity. If using a chicken roasting device, fill it with beer and orange soda and position the duck on top.

6. Pull the legs forward to form a sort of tripod, so the duck stands upright. (The rear leg of the tripod is the beer can. You don't need to do this if using a roasting device.) Tuck the wing tips behind the duck's back.

7. When ready to cook, carefully stand the duck up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the duck until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (about 180 degrees F on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thigh), 1-1/2 to 2 hours. After 1 hour, reprick the duck skin with a sharp fork (again, take care not to pierce the meat). This helps release the fat. Baste the duck with the remaining oil, taking care not to knock the bird over. If using a charcoal grill, you'll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour. If the duck skin starts to brown too much, loosely tent the bird with foil.

8. Using tongs, carefully transfer the duck in its upright position on the beer can to a platter and present it to your guests. (Grab the bird by the beer can just under the butt.) Let rest for 5 minutes.

9. Carefully lift the duck off the beer can. Take care not to spill the hot beer or otherwise burn yourself. Carve the duck or cut it in halves or quarters and serve with the following orange sauce.

Sub-Recipe-Apricot Orange Sauce For Duck

This sure isn't like the orange sauce we used to serve in Paris. Not with the addition of orange soda and apricots-the latter to thicken and enrich the sauce. Try to use a homemade chicken broth or at very least a low sodium canned broth.

Makes 1-1/4 cups.

  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) orange soda
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 strips orange zest (remove them with a vegetable peeler)
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or _ teaspoon ground cinnamon)
  • 1/2 cup dried pitted apricots (2-1/2 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the orange soda, chicken stock, orange zest and juice, and cinnamon in a heavy saucepan and boil for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the apricots. Let soak for 30 minutes. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.

2. Transfer the apricots and soaking liquid to a blender. Add the marmalade, sugar, vinegar, and lemon juice and puree until smooth. Pour the mixture through a strainer into a saucepan, forcing the fruit pulp through the strainer with a spatula. (Don't' forget to scrape the strained pulp off the bottom of the spatula.)

3. Simmer the sauce for 3 minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in the orange liqueur and stir it into the sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes: the sauce will thicken slightly. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter. Add salt and pepper-or additional sugar or vinegar if needed-to taste.

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