I’ve got two issues with beer can chicken. First of all, I’ve decided to only drink beer on special occasions, and it’s wasteful to pour out a beer/soda can and fill it with wine or cider (let alone buying a six pack of canned beer just for the purpose of roasting chickens).
Secondly, taking the beer can out of a cooked chicken is a pain in the butt. Luckily, one simple kitchen tool solves all of my problems: this two-in-one vertical chicken roaster from Williams-Sonoma. This heavy duty dish allows you to roast one or two chickens using any liquid you’d like, with a lower tray that allows you to roast vegetables at the same time (and be basted in the chickens’ falling liquid). The roaster sells for $50 and I think it’s totally worth it.
This recipe uses hard cider – there are several different varieties and brands available, and I suggest experimenting to find one you like. I used the cider you see above because my wife drinks it so we had it on hand. White wine is also an option, as well as beer if you’re not anti-grain or gluten-free.
2 whole chickens, 4-5 lbs each
1 bottle hard cider or 12 oz white wine
10 cloves garlic
4 sprigs each rosemary, thyme
1/4 cup each sea salt and honey
1 tsp pepper
4 tbsp butter, melted
veggies (see below)
When cooking whole chickens on the grill, I prefer to brine them since I don’t have the luxury of braising/roasting them in the oven (my usual method). Brining not only helps infuse the chicken with more liquid, but the salt and sugar help break down the chicken’s proteins to act as a barrier to keep the liquid from escaping. A common brine ratio is 1 cup each sugar and salt per gallon of water; however, I reduce the amount of salt and use honey in my unending quest to minimize unnecessary salt and sugar in my diet. It obviously results in a less effective brine, but it helps me sleep at night.
To brine, place the chickens in a large stockpot and fill with water that’s been mixed with salt and honey, enough to cover both chickens. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours. If you don’t have room in your fridge, you can put ice in the water – just keep the brine at 40 degrees.
In the meantime, you can prepare your veggies. I simply made the same potatoes I use for my grilled rosemary potatoes recipe, but I also added a few carrots as well. I would suggest only using firm veggies, since they’re going to spend a lot of time in the heat – potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, parsnips, or cauliflower should be fine. Anything else might have a tendency to overcook. Be sure to toss them in olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper and minced garlic.
In the two cups that come with the roaster, add the cider, herbs, lemon, and garlic.
When the chicken is sufficiently brined, remove the chickens and rinse them in cold water, patting them dry afterwards. Rub them with the pepper and place them on the roaster. Roast them on a grill using indirect heat on med high or high (you want the grill’s temperature to be between 350-400 degrees). Roast for 1 1/2 hours, and rotate and brush them with melted butter after 45 minutes.
After 1 1/2 hours, check the chicken’s temperature – the breast and the thickest part of the thigh need to be at 165 degrees. Keep checking every ten minutes thereafter until the temperature is right.
I found that because the chickens were facing each other the breasts weren’t as nicely browned as I would have liked. Putting them directly on the grill on direct, high heat for a few minutes finished them off perfectly.
To carve, check out the carving video I made below last year. This time around I kept the thighs intact because they looked so great.