Beer-can chicken might seem more stunt than legitimate recipe. But yet, it’s not. In fact, the simple technique is a shortcut to juicy, succulent chicken. “It steams the chicken and keeps it moist at the same time, so it’s easy for anyone with a barbeque to pull off,” says Meatsmith’s Troy Wheeler.

“Plus, what is better than standing around a barbeque drinking a beer, while you cook a chook that is standing on a beer?”

Wheeler is co-owner of leading Melbourne butcher Meatsmith, which, since 2015, has had a focus on showcasing small Aussie – and often Victorian – producers raising animals in a way that’s ethically and sustainability minded. The other owner of Meatsmith is acclaimed Melbourne restaurateur Andrew McConnell, who also runs top Melbourne venues including Gimlet, Cutler and Co and Supernormal.

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How it works is you put a three-quarter-full can of beer in the cavity of a chicken and then you place the bird vertically on a barbeque to cook. This allows all sides of the chicken to crisp up, and the beer creates steam so it helps to offset any dryness, while adding flavour. Even though it seems like an utterly Aussie way of cooking, it’s believed beer-can chicken originated in America’s South.

“Typically if you are roasting a chicken on the barbeque by just putting it on the grill and shutting the hood, that type of heat can be super drying,” says Wheeler. “It's easy to overcook the whole chook as the breasts can become quite dry before the legs have had a chance to cook. So shoving a can in the cavity helps to essentially steam the breasts a little more gently while the legs are roasting.”

Before you prop your bird in the barbie, Wheeler says you should massage a smoky spice rub into the skin to add flavour. “We love the flavours of smoked paprika, toasted fennel seed and garlic powder. Fancy Hanks does a great one [you can buy ready to go].” As for which ale to use, that’s totally up to you. “Beer is a go-to as the maltiness can add a lovely caramelisation to the flavour,” he says.

Wheeler’s beer-can chicken is cooked on a charcoal barbeque, but it’s not essential – it’s just another element that can add flavour to the dish. “An optional equipment flex is a Meater+, or another heat-proof meat thermometer,” he says. It has a built-in Bluetooth and relays cooking details to you via an app.

Using a thermometer ensures the bird is cooked through, but not overcooked. And when it comes to carving time, Wheeler says you can refer to Meatsmith’s tips here so it’s not a hack job.

Beer-can chicken
Prep time: 15 minutes (plus an hour to ignite the charcoals, and chicken resting time)
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Makes one roast chicken

Ingredients:

1 chicken (Meatsmith’s preference is Bannockburn)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp smoky spice rub
1 can of beer
Sea salt
Lemon wedges for serving

Method:

About an hour before you start to cook the chicken, take the bird out of the fridge.
Using a charcoal chimney, light the coals for the barbeque. After half an hour, the coals should be white hot and ready.

While the coals are heating, prepare the chicken. Drizzle the olive oil over the bird, making sure it is evenly coated. Sprinkle the smoky spice rub over the chicken and massage it into its skin.

Crack open a tinnie then drink about a quarter of the beer (this will make sure it doesn’t overflow while the chicken is being cooked). Open up the cavity of the chicken then slide the chicken down onto the can, pressing the body of the bird directly over the beer can. Place a heat-proof meat thermometer vertically down into the chicken’s breast.

Empty the charcoal chimney of coals on one half of the base of the barbeque, preheating it to approximately 180 degrees Celsius. Place the chicken upright on the other bottom half of the barbeque then close the barbeque lid.

Allow the chicken to roast for 35 minutes or until it reaches a 70 degrees Celsius internal temperature on the thermometer. Once it hits that mark, take it out of the barbeque and gently remove the beer can from its cavity. Allow the chicken to rest on a tray for about 20 minutes then carve it into pieces (see above for tips on carving a chicken). Serve the chicken on a platter, seasoned with extra sea salt and garnished with lemon wedges.

Looking for more recipe inspiration? Check out Broadsheet’s recipe hub.