Beer Can Chicken or Why We're Celebrating the Anniversary of Canned Beer

You don't need imported beer or a parsley garnish to make great beer can chicken.We can sort of imagine the "wonder what would happen if…" moment that first inspired a cook to shove a can of beer up a chicken's nether regions. It's the same brand of under-the-influence ingenuity that prompted a baker to fold marijuana into chocolatey brownies. But the culinary revelation that is beer can chicken (which also goes by the names drunken chicken, thirsty bird, dancing chicken, chicken on a throne, and the ever-charming beer butt chicken), would never have graced American grills had the first canned beers, Krueger's Finest Beer and Krueger's Cream Ale, not hit Richmond, Virginia's shelves on January 24, 1935.

"Here's the biggest news since repeal," reads an ad for canned Krueger's Cream Ale. "Imagine buying Ale or Beer for your home without paying a bottle deposit […] Imagine being able to get twice as much in the same space in your ice-box! These are the modern conveniences made possible by the astounding keg-lined can."

You know what happened next. The "more modern, more convenient way" to drink beer caught on and we've been cracking open cans in backyards, at barbecues, and as a cold, end-of-day salve to the injustices of the work day ever since. God bless America!

Beer can chicken recipes ask you to drink half the beer or reserve it for another purpose (what other purpose?) before placing the can inside the chicken. This might prompt beer connoisseurs to wonder if different types of beer affect the flavor of the chicken. In a word, no. Bon Appetit put two beers to the test in side-by-side beer can chickens. One chicken was made with Budweiser, the other with "the farthest cry from mass-produced lager I could find: Oskar Blues Old Chub Scotch Ale, a rich, strong, syrupy sweet brew of dark and smoky malts." The result? "About an hour later, the chickens were browned, crisp-skinned, delicious, and tasted exactly the same."

If you're dealing with arctic temperatures and not quite ready to brave the cold for some grilling, this juicy, crisp-skinned bird works in the oven, too. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the chicken as directed in the recipe below on an open half-filled can of beer, sitting up, in a roasting pan on the lower rack of your oven. Roast at until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160°F to 165°F and the juices run clear, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Basic Beer Can Chicken
adapted from Simply Recipes
Serves 4

1 3-4 pound chicken
Salt and pepper or your favorite spice rub
1 can of beer

Prepare your grill for indirect heat. If you are using charcoal, put the coals on one side of the grill only, leaving the other side free of coals. If you are using a gas grill, use only half of the burners.

Remove the neck and giblets from the chicken and discard. Rub the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper, or the spice rub, if using.

Drink half the beer; leave the other half in the can. Slide the chicken over the can and place on the cool side of the grill, balancing the chicken on its two legs and the can, like a tripod. Cover grill.

Grill about 1 1/4 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160°F to 165°F and the juices run clear. Total cooking time will vary depending on the size of your chicken and the internal temperature of your grill, but a 3-4 pound chicken will take about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Carefully remove the chicken and hot can from grill. Let the chicken rest 10 minutes before lifting it from the can.

More on Shine:
More Ways to Cook with Beer
10 Weirdest Beers in America
The Most Popular Beer in the World (It Isn't Bud)