Most people perusing this site have heard of beer butt or beer can chicken. Stick a can of beer in the butt of a chicken, stick the chicken on the grill for a couple hours, the beer in the can keeps the chicken nice and moist. This is dad’s version: Beer Butt Chicken Stew.
The idea behind beer butt chicken is simple enough. Take am empty beer can, cut the top off, fill with beer (and herbs if desired) and push the can into the cavity of the chicken. Use a beer can chicken rack or just position the legs to keep the chicken upright. The beer will steam throughout the cavity and essentially constantly baste the chicken keeping it moist, tender and delicious.
Now for our twist. When doing beer butt chicken the traditional way all that glorious fat runs off the chicken down into the bottom of the grill. We harness that wonderful flavor that normally goes to waste by placing the chicken inside a roasting pan full of vegetables for beer can chicken stew. I’ll hand it off to dad to complete the writeup…
Recently, during a road trip with business partner Don, the subject of grilling came up He mentioned that he had done beer can chicken before but with a different twist. He indicated he placed the chicken into a pan and the filled the pan with assorted vegetables. He said his dinner guests always raved about the flavor of the vegetables. So, with this inspiration, it didn’t take much for a Grillin’ Fool, I decided to give beer can chicken stew a try.
First, at the prompting of the Original Grillin’ Fool, I decided to brine the chicken overnight. Locating a pot large enough to hold 2 birds and a couple of gallons of brine that would still fit in the fridge was a challenge. A trip to the garage was rewarded with an alternative anyone can use, a beverage cooler.
1 gallon apple cider
2 cups table salt
2 cups brown sugar
1 ltr of Sprite
1 cup molasses (or syrup)
2 large oranges, sliced (add any other fruit you desire)
1 bag of ice
***Editor’s Note – This is not a hard and fast rule for how to do a brine. The basics are these: approximately 1 cup of salt per gallon of water.
Add some fruit (I’ve used apples, oranges, lemons, limes and peaches but just about any fruit can be used – the riper the better), add some sweets (syrup, brown sugar, regular sugar, and molasses are all good candidates), some soda for some acidity (dark or light are fine but don’t go with diet because the sugar is desired). You can also add garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, etc. The final key is to keep it cold overnight either in the fridge in a pot or in a cooler with a bag of ice.***
Now for the birds. I purchased 2 whole fryers at a local grocer (about 4 lb. each):
Here’s a view of the brine cooler. Rather looks like Sangria to me:
The next morning I removed them from the brine, rinsed, and patted them dry:
In order to maintain moisture and add flavor, the birds were stuffed under the skin with garlic butter. Getting under the bird’s skin can be a bit of a challenge but just keep working your fingers carefully between the skin and body until you create enough room for the garlic butter. One stick of softened unsalted butter combined with a heaping tbsp. of minced garlic was sufficient for both birds:
For this recipe I decided to forgo the typical rub normally applied. I wasn’t sure how the rub would affect the flavor of the vegetables (perhaps I’ll give it a try in future episodes). The outside of the birds was given a coat of olive oil to reduce burning of the skin (yeah, that worked well as you’ll see later).
Notice the church key on the counter? It was used to completely open the top of the cans to allow more moisture and steaming from the beer. Each can was about 2/3 full (had to have some for the griller!):
The birds are prepped and mounted on their can stands, and now we have beer can chicken ready for the vegetables to be added. Don’t forget to add the extras that come with the chicken to the roasting pan. They pack a lot of flavor too.
***Editor’s note – Is it just me or does it look like these chickens are posing for the camera?***
5 lb. red potatoes chunked
2 large sweet onions chunked
1 stalk of celery hearts chopped
2 lbs. baby carrots
4 cans chicken broth (the photo shows 3 but one was added later)
The smoke wood chosen was apple chips that were soaked for about an hour before grilling. This seemed the natural thing to do since apple cider was used in the brine and the sweetness of the apple flavor would be readily accepted by all dinner guests.
Here is the grill I will be using. And the view ain’t bad either:
Next, in went the broth, potatoes, onions, celery, and carrots and we’re ready for the grill. In retrospect, I would put the carrots in first next time as they require more cooking time and then add potatoes about a half hour into the grilling process. It still turned out fine but this is all part of the learning experience as this was the first time attempting this recipe:
Here’s the process about 45 minutes in. The beer can chicken is browning (perhaps a bit too quickly) so I wasn’t sure how much the olive oil helped, but it was a hot fire. I set the grill up for direct cooking believing the large pan would deflect the heat but the vegetables would cook better than with the ‘indirect’ method.
Once the fluid began bubbling I gave it a stir and did so every 15-20 minutes from this point forward. I was concerned about the doneness of the carrots and, as time would tell, this was not an issue. A few more coals were added about every 45 minutes and additional apple chips every 20 minutes. The soaked chips disappear rather rapidly but no chunks were available for this effort:
Another photo an hour and a half in shows the vegetables in our beer can chicken stew cooking down a bit and the top of the birds really getting dark and almost looking burnt. Perhaps a small foil tent could’ve been added to the top of each bird to minimize scorching once they began to brown. Please note that this old Charbroil grill has 4 settings for adjusting the coals and it was set on the lowest setting for the whole process. Total cooking time was 2 ½ hours:
The beer can chicken stew is at hand and the birds were removed 10 minutes earlier than the stew to allow them to rest before carving:
Close up of those nicely browned birds:
The Big Green Egghead, Tom (the third Grillin’ Fool), was in attendance and performed the carving ritual aptly:
The beer can chicken stew was very tasty and the flavor imparted to the potatoes and carrots was as good as Don said it would be.
Mimi Linda (G-Fool’s Pappy’s wife) completed the menu with Cheesy Garlic Biscuits (similar to what you find at Red Lobster). They were really delicious and easy to prepare. Just follow the regular instructions on a box of Bisquick then add chopped green onions, a couple packages of shredded cheddar cheese, and minced garlic to taste:
Six adults and two kids were fed from the beer can chicken stew with significant leftovers. Everyone in attendance rated this grilling recipe a success and I look forward to doing it again:
Note: please use caution when removing the bird from the hot beer can. Boiling beer can ruin your grilling enjoyment so use insulated gloves and tongs and I suggest making this a two person process just to be safe. Also, remember to wash your hands immediately after handling poultry and before handling other food or utensils. The Food Police are out there, they know who they are, but they are right about this. Should you use a cooler, as shown here, it should be sanitized and air-dried before the next use. Be safe out there and hope you have time to grill this dish for yourself soon.
***Editor’s note – awesome job as usual Dad…and Mom***
If you have any questions about beer can chicken stew please feel free to comment below or email me.
And if you would like to try a similar recipe using beef, try Grilled Chuck Roast Stew. Similar concept as beer can chicken stew but with a couple of chuck roasts instead of chicken. Great comfort food for cold weather grilling. And for other poultry recipes click here.
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