With grilling and barbecue, as with almost everything else in life, the general rule of thumb is: Basic is better.
And it's hard to get much more basic in barbecue than beer-can chicken, which, in my backyard circle, has gone from novelty to steady favorite in little over a year.
Beer-can chicken's so simple you can pretty much describe it in a single sentence and still be hard-pressed to screw it up: On a grill set up with the ashed-over coals on either side, take a dry-rubbed whole chicken, stick a three-quarters-full beer can with extra holes punched on top into the cavity, prop up the chicken so it stands on the can in the middle of the grill, and cover and cook for about 90 minutes. (You can find a more detailed recipe on this site.)
And that's pretty much all you need to all but guarantee some of the most succulent barbecued chicken you'll ever have. It's goofy-looking, it's suspiciously simple, and it works.
Which brings me to the basic-is-better lesson we learned once again last night, the hard way. Thinking that it wouldn't be too difficult to improve on a good thing, we opted to drape the chicken with bacon, which we hoped would be nice and crispy when the chicken was. Instead, after 70 minutes, the bacon was burnt black on the outside while the bits that were stuffed inside the neck cavity (to keep them from falling into the coals) were still raw. We ended up having to just spread them out on the grill and finish them there, but we soon found out that the bacon had somehow soaked up all the jerk seasoning from inside the bird and become so salty as to be nearly inedible.
But the chicken was still fantastic.
Any too-simple-to-be-true recipes that you've come to rely on regularly?
Michael Y. Park is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He studied medieval history as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and journalism as a graduate student at New York University. His stories have appeared in publications including The New York Times, the New York Post, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.
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