A friend of mine told me how great Beer-Butt Chicken is. Apparently you take a chicken and beer flavors it in well, the butt. How can I cook the chicken like that while keeping the beer in the chicken?
If you google beer can chicken, you will find many, many recipes and descriptions.
The basic idea is that you use a half-empty beer can as stand for the chicken, placing the chicken's cavity on top of the can before roasting or grilling.
The idea is that the aroma from the beer will transfer to the chicken, and the steam will help keep it moist.
You can even buy commercial racks to do the same thing without the beer can.
My personal opinion is that both of these ideas are bunk:
Very few if any aromatic molecules will transfer to the chicken, and even if they do, they will not penetrate past the surface
The steam will not keep the chicken moist, as the dryness of the meet is essentially a function only of the temperature to which you cook it, and very little else. If the chicken is cooked to too high a temperature, then the proteins will tighten up and express water making the chicken tough, rubbery, and dry tasting. The minimal amount of steam cannot change this fact.
There has been testing on the cooking for engineers site which shows that using beer doesn't actually impart any real flavor. What really makes a difference in flavor of chicken is a) getting a good quality chicken in the first place, and b) marinading or brining, and c) not overcooking it. Get yourself some good chicken and a decent meat thermometer and go to town.
I have cooked many "beer can style" chickens. I use something similar to this. I have found that beer does not flavor the meat very much but I have used wine, chicken stock and especially aromatics such as onions and garlic in the "can" part really seasons the chicken well. Another trick is to try to close the neck-hole as much as possible. Around here, chickens are generally butchered with a little bit of neck and I try to push that closed. Granted a little bit of room for steam to escape is good. I have also used an actual can that I cut the top off and had the similar results but it tipped very easily.
Not only it's questionable whether the beer flavour transfer to the chicken, what does get transferred is the likely non-food-grade ink on the can. First hand, I can tell you the ink left an awful taste and heaven knows what kind of chemicals. The vertical roaster racks, however, do a much better job.
This article from meathead hits it dead on the head: