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Some time ago I've read about Beer Can Chicken.

I've never heard of this in my area, but it seems (and looks) tasty! So I would like to give it a try. There is just one thing that worries me:

Is it safe to bake a can on the grill (or in the oven) like this? Doesn't it give off any chemical flavours?

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I can't stop saying this in a Jamaican accent. Makes it sound even more delicious. –  Sam Holder Jul 13 '10 at 16:15
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We tried it a while back and, while I don't think the can itself is a concern, we had a hard time getting the chicken to a safe internal temperature before the outside was completely charred - the most direct way for heat to get to the inside of the bird is completely blocked by this method. –  GalacticCowboy Jul 13 '10 at 17:19
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@GalacticCowboy Low and slow is the way to go. Indirect, smoky heat. –  ceejayoz Jul 13 '10 at 17:52
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Works good with coke or Mountain Dew too :-) –  Chris_K Jul 14 '10 at 4:09
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Remember to open the can! –  Martin Beckett Feb 8 '11 at 5:43

6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I'm not sure if its dangerous, but if you are worried about the can you can get various tools, designed to cook a chicken like this.

enter image description here

enter image description here

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Wow, looks amazing. Never heard of anything like this before :) thanks! –  Cornelius Jul 13 '10 at 16:16
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I picked up a similar item from Sur la Table: surlatable.com/product/666214.do –  ceejayoz Jul 13 '10 at 16:24
    
@ceejayoz: does that one allow a liquid to be pushed up through the chicken? –  Sam Holder Jul 13 '10 at 16:26
    
Yep, it has a beer-can sized cup you fill with fluid that the chicken sits on. Hit "additional views" for a photo. –  ceejayoz Jul 13 '10 at 17:53
    
The link doesn't work anymore. Should the Poultry Pal be described in the answer (or add a picture of one). –  J.A.I.L. Feb 24 '13 at 10:25

My main concern (would have been) BPA, as most cans nowadays are coated with BPA plastics inside to protect flavor. Cooks Illustrated evaluated the BPA leeched into chicken using this method:

Beer can interiors are coated with an epoxy that contains Bisphenol A (BPA). Is the popular method of cooking a chicken perched on an open beer can really a good idea?

Some studies have linked BPA to cancer and other harmful health effects. To evaluate the ramifications of cooking chicken on a beer can, we roasted two whole birds, one set on an open beer can containing 6 ounces of beer and the other on a stainless-steel vertical roaster with the same amount of beer poured into the reservoir. After roasting the chickens, we collected their drippings and stripped each carcass, grinding the meat and skin to create homogeneous samples. We sent the samples to a lab to be evaluated for BPA content.

In each chicken, the BPA measured less than 20 micrograms per kilogram, leading us to believe that the beer can cooking method is safe. (The Food and Drug Administration’s current standard for exposure is 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight for adults, or 3,400 micrograms per day for a 150-pound person.) For those who have any remaining concerns, there is always the vertical roaster, which works just as well as a low-tech option.

Published May 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.

There are several available vertical roasters that act just like a beer can. Here's a photo of the Steven Raichlen SR8016:

Steven Raichlen SR8016

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+1 for the only answer that cites actual science. –  Carey Gregory Feb 24 '13 at 17:27

The beer can shouldn't be able to rise above the boiling point of the liquid inside until it is empty. Your chicken should be finished cooking long before that.

Obviously, the aluminum of the can itself isn't a safety issue anyway. If you are worried about the paint on the can, you can either buy the Poultry Pal that Sam linked to, or take some sandpaper to the beer can and scrape it all off (before opening the can of course).

For ease of removal later, you should be coating the can itself with fat/oil before inserting it into the chicken.

Cook slowly. Last time I made it, I aimed for about 275f to 300f. If you are doing it on the grill, use a pan to catch the drippings and prevent flare up.

I also basted occasionally to help create a more flavorful crust (not to prevent drying out, since the steam inside does that wonderfully).

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First: This is delicious Second: I simply use a small jar (from jam e.g.), which is about the same diameter as a beer can and simply pour the beer into the jar and the jar into the chicken.

--> The jar (especially if it's from jam) won't break, but survive the heat

--> It is absolutely non-toxic and can be put in the dishwasher to be cleaned.

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Also not sure of the safety aspect of this.

The point of the beer can is to provide moisture to the chicken as its cooking, so it doesn't dry out (and maybe add some flavor).

An alternative method would be to brine your chicken at least 24 hours before cooking. This will give you the desired effect of the beer can, although may not look quite as interesting while cooking.

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I've brined chickens before roasting them on the grill and they didn't get as juicy as I've gotten them with the beer can method. –  ceejayoz Jul 13 '10 at 17:54
    
I've had the same experience. Brining with beer can chicken is not necessary. –  Rich Armstrong Aug 6 '10 at 19:54

I make this regularly in a regular domestic oven and it's delicious. properly cooked legs and dark meat with super juicy, tender breasts. The only thing I can think of that would give off any vapours would be the ink on the can, but as the oven is only at 180C and the can is surrounded by chicken, I can't imagine than the can get's hot enough for that to happen.

I've only done it once in a kettle barbecue over charcoal and I used indirect heat and a meat thermometer to check the deepest part of the thigh was at the correct temp. IIRC, it was took a couple of hours.

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