Brined Beer-Can Chicken

Brining is a great way to ensure a moist bird. See Brining Notes below.  If you're using a fryer instead of a roasting chicken, you can reduce the amount of brine, as well as the brining time and cooking time by about half.


Chicken Cooker
  • 1 large "tall boy" can beer (16oz/48ml)
  • approximately ¾ cup salt, any kind
  • 1 cup (25ml) hot water + 1 gallon (3.8 litre) cold water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 strips lemon zest (use a vegetable peeler to remove 2 inch/5cm long strips)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and gently crushed with the side of a knife
  • 1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 roasting chicken (6 - 7 lb/2.5-3kg)
  • 2 Tbsp butter or avocado oil (or substitute grapeseed or camelina oil)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • The Epicentre Chicken Love or sweet paprika (not smoked)
  • 2 cups wood chips or chunks for smoking 


Pour half the beer, 1 cup (25ml) into a large deep pot, just wide enough to hold the chicken.  Reserve the remaining beer; cover and keep in the fridge.

Pour 1 cup (25ml) hot water into a 2 cup (50ml) measure.  Add salt until the water reaches the 1.5 cup (37ml) mark.  Add 1 gallon (3.8 litre) of very cold water.  Add bay leaves, lemon zest, garlic, and peppercorns.  Stir to mix well.  Make sure brine cools to room temperature.

Remove the packet of giblets from the chicken cavity, if included, and discard or save in the freezer for stock.  Remove and discard any excess fat from inside the body and neck cavities.  Wash and rinse the bird inside and out; pat dry.  Place the chicken in the brine, making sure it is fully submerged.  You may need to weigh it down with a large plate.  Allow to brine in the fridge for 12 hours.  It must be kept in a refrigerator for food safety.

Remove the chicken from the brine; discard the brine.  Pat the chicken dry all over with paper towels.  Melt the butter, if using.  Brush the chicken all over with melted butter or avocado oil.  Season the skin freshly ground pepper and Chicken Love or paprika.

If cooking the chicken on the beer can, remove it from the fridge and place the can upright in a roasting pan.  Lower the chicken cavity onto the can.  Pull the legs forward to form a tripod of sorts.  If using an upright chicken cooker, pour the reserved beer into the reservoir.  Set the chicken upright on the reservoir.  Tuck the chicken wing tips behind the chicken's back.  Wrap a little piece of foil over the neck of the bird to keep moisture from escaping during cooking.

Set up your grill for indirect cooking.  Place the wood chips in a smoker box, foil smoker pouch, or on the charcoal, whichever is your preferred method.  (See our post on smoking with wood).  Preheat to high until you see smoke coming from the wood then reduce the heat to medium.  

Place the chicken in the roaster or on the chicken cooker over indirect heat; lower the lid on the grill and cook until the skin is crispy and browned and the internal temperature reads 170°F/76°C on an instant read thermometer, approximately 2 hours.  Remove the chicken and roaster/cooker from the grill.  Allow it to rest for 5 minutes while your guests admire the chicken.  With oven mitts, remove the chicken, careful not to get burned by the hot beer.  Place on a cutting board and halve, quarter, or carve the chicken.  Serve with your favourite barbecue sauce.


NOTES ON BRINING: 

  • Brining works by creating a salt bath that is diffused into the meat while soaking. 
  • Brining is best suited for lean meats that tend to dry out during cooking, like chicken, turkey, wild game, pork loins and chops.
  • DO NOT brine meats that are labelled as "enhanced," "tenderized," or "self-basting." These meats may have been treated with a salt injection so brining them would make them extremely salty.
  • The basic brine proportion is approximately 1 cup salt to 1 gallon of water. From there you can add whatever you like: sugar, maple syrup, herbs, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, or try substituting apple juice for some of the water.  The brine will not penetrate all the way into the meat, so don't get too elaborate with the ingredients.
  • Not all salt is equal. 1 cup of table salt equals about 1.8 cups of Kosher salt.  Follow this method for any salt:
    • Put 1 cup (25ml) hot water into a 2 cup (50ml) measuring cup
    • Add salt until the water line reaches 1-½ cup (37ml) mark
    • Pour into 1 gallon (3.8 litre) of water
  • You need about 2 - 3 times the volume of the meat in brine.  
    • 1 gallon (3.8 litre) of brine is enough for about 6 pounds (2.7kg) of meat  
    • 2 gallons (7.6 litre) will due for most turkeys
  • Brine Time: the larger the piece of meat, the longer it needs to brine, however, leaving the meat in too long will result in a tough meat texture and overly salty flavour.
    • Meats that are 2" (5cm) thick or less : 1 - 2 hours
    • Meats that are 3" (7.5cm) thick or more : 8 - 24 hours
    • Fryer chicken (3-½-4 lbs/1.5-2kg) : 6 hours
    • Roasting chicken (6-7 lbs/2.5-3kg) : 12 hours
    • Turkey (10-15 lbs/4.5-7kg) : 12 - 18 hours
    • Turkey (20-25 lbs9-11kg) : 24 hours

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