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Barbecue Bible!

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Season 2

Show 208: Fire Birds

Last year, Steven demonstrated Beer Can Chicken, certainly one of the most legendary recipes he's ever written. This year's all-poultry show starts with Iced Tea Chicken, a non-alcoholic version of that famous recipe that's infused with a sweet Southern flavor all its own. Silver Paper Chicken is a healthy update of a fried dim sum dish, made with five-spice marinated chicken breasts grilled in aluminum foil shu mai. And the professor shows off a pair of dishes he learned trekking the world's barbecue trail, Piri-Piri Chicken from Portugal and Grilled Game Hens with a marinade he learned from a grill master in Afghanistan.

On the menu (page numbers indicate page in the Barbecue! Bible, unless otherwise noted):

  • Iced Tea Chicken (from Beer Can Chicken, page 130, sauce on page 133; recipe follows)
  • Silver Paper Chicken
  • Afghan Grilled Game Hens (page 273)
  • Piri-Piri Chicken (page 241)

A Runaway Revolution

Beer-can chicken is just the beginning. In the five years since I first encountered this singular dish, I've experimented with every imaginable bird, brew, and seasoning. In my book Beer Can Chicken, you'll find instructions for beer canning duck, game hen, partridge, quail, and even turkey. (The turkey is roasted on a giant 32-ounce can of ale, while the quail are cooked on diminutive 6-ounce cans of fruit juice.) As for beverages, I've used everything from beer to wine to soda to fruit juices and nectars to lemonade, cranberry juice, and even iced tea (see below). The seasonings alone will take you on a tour of the world's barbecue trail, from Mexican chili rubs to Mediterranean herb pastes to fiery Asian spice mixes. The great thing about beer-can chicken is once you understand the basic principle, there's no limit to where experimentation will take you.

Iced tea Chicken printer-ready version

Think out of the box-this cutting-edge business philosophy is also good for barbecue. Sweet tea (heavily sweetened iced tea) is so popular at barbecue joints in Texas and the South, I thought, why not use iced tea mix in a barbecue rub and grill the chicken on a can of iced tea? It sounds outrageous. It is outrageous. But being outrageous should be one of the goals of a grill master. And, besides, you'll be surprised how well the tea flavor marries with smoke and spice in this chicken.

For the rub:

  • 1 tablespoon powdered iced tea mix
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 can (12 ounces) iced tea
  • 1 chicken (31/2 to 4 pounds)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • Iced Tea Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)
You'll also need:

2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory or cherry), soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained Vertical chicken roaster (optional)

1. Make the rub: Put the iced tea mix, paprika, coriander, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and celery seed in a small bowl and stir to mix.

2. Pop the tab off the iced tea can. Pour half the tea (3/4 cup) into a measuring cup and set aside for the sauce. If cooking the chicken on the can, using a church key-style can opener, make 2 additional holes in its top. Set the can aside.

3. Remove the packet of giblets from the body cavity of the chicken and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the rub inside the body cavity and 1/2 teaspoon inside the neck cavity of the chicken. Drizzle the oil over the outside of the bird and rub or brush it all over the skin. Sprinkle the outside of the bird with 1 tablespoon of the rub and rub it all over the skin. Spoon the remaining rub into the iced tea through a hole in the top of the can.

4. If cooking on a can: Hold the bird upright, with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom, and lower it onto the can so the can fits into the cavity. Pull the chicken legs forward to form a sort of tripod, so the bird stands upright. The rear leg of the tripod is the can. If cooking on a roaster: Fill it with the iced tea mixture and position the chicken on top, following the manufacturer's instructions.

5. Tuck the tips of the wings behind the chicken's back.

6. Set up the grill for indirect grilling (see page 9 for both charcoal and gas) and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch (see page 12) and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.

7. When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals. Stand the chicken up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the chicken until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (about 180°F on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh, but not touching the bone), 11/4 to 11/2 hours. If using a charcoal grill, you'll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour. If the chicken skin starts to brown too much, loosely tent the bird with aluminum foil.

8. If cooking on a can: Using tongs, hold the bird by the can and carefully transfer it in an upright position to a platter. If cooking on a roaster: Use oven mitts or pot holders to remove the bird from the grill while it's still on the vertical roaster.

9. Present the bird to your guests. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then carefully lift it off the support. Take care not to spill the hot iced tea or otherwise burn yourself. Halve, quarter, or carve the chicken and serve with Iced Tea Barbecue Sauce.

Serves 2 to 4

Iced Tea Barbecue Sauce

The annals of barbecue have seen some pretty strange sauces. This one may seem over-the-top, and yet, canned iced tea has a lot in common with the flavor profile of a good barbecue sauce. It's sweet. It's tart. It's earthy and aromatic. What more could you ask for? Think of the bragging you'll get to do the next time someone admires this sauce and asks you what's in it.

  • 3/4 cup canned iced tea (reserved from Iced Tea Chicken)
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons A.1. steak sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine the iced tea, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, liquid smoke, onion and garlic powders, and pepper in a heavy saucepan with 1/4 cup of water and gradually bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

2. Reduce the heat to medium to obtain a gentle simmer. Let the sauce simmer gently until slightly reduced, thick, and richly flavored, 6 to 8 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding brown sugar or lemon juice as necessary; the sauce should be highly seasoned. If sauce is too thick or intense, thin with a little more water.

3. Transfer the sauce to a bowl or clean jar and let cool to room temperature before serving. Any leftover sauce (in the unlikely event that you have it) will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for several weeks. Let return to room temperature before serving.

Makes about 2 cups

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