Monthly Food + Beer Pairing – September 2016

This one is a bit out of order, but wanted to share the delicious-ness.  September was West Coast Lager and Beer Can Chicken.

We had heard of beer can chicken; however, I never knew how to make it.  We did some research as to how exactly this method operates, but (spoiler alert) after we had collected the data we ended up butterflying the whole bird and grilling in directly on the rack.  Some points on why it is disappointing clear we had to go our route:

  • First, the beer can in the chicken plays no gastronomic role at all!  That is, the beer can only exists to help hold up the chicken.  There are a few sites that will tell you the [open] beer is supposed to evaporate into the chicken to make it more juicy, but my whole grilled chicken always comes out juicy, so I don’t see why this is a problem in the first place.
  • If the beer can is supposed to structurally support the chicken while cooking, the physical setup still baffles me.  I don’t think that top-heavy foul would support well even with a big beer can crammed in its cavity.  I imagine one would have to create a suspension system to keep the bird up.  So, even if it could be balanced, the practicality here makes it pretty hard to make the point.
  • The chicken won’t cook properly on a grill if it sits on top of a beer can- the top part of that bird is so far from the rack/heat source that the bottom would be extra crispy while the top of that breast would be extra rare.  This method might work in an oven where the heat is evenly distributed, but I fail to see it working on the grill.

These are my thoughts, so take them with a grain of salt.

To prep the chicken, I butterflied it by taking a large chef’s knife and cutting along the backbone.  I also cut the skin that holds the thighs and legs, since I want the heat more evenly spread.  The whole then essentially lays flat.  I season the skin with salt, pepper, paprika, very little cayenne pepper, and maybe some rosemary.  I make sure the grill is hot and throw on the bird, cavity side-down.  I always start chicken with the skin-side up, so it get mostly cooked then halfway through I put skin side down for not quite the rest of the half.  This gets it cooked well all the way through and the skin has time to crisp but avoids burning it.  The whole chicken will take about 20-25 min to cook on the grill.

We served it up with a simple meat and potatoes meal – a microwaved sweet potato and some red leaf lettuce with a bit of balsamic vinegar + olive oil topped with cheddar.

Now the beer:  We cooked this at the apartment in Minneapolis, so I had a hard time finding “West Coast” lagers from which to pull.  I ended up using a Lakefront Brewery, Inc. Oktoberfest Lager, which is based in Milwaukee, WI.  For the truest West Coast notion, I went as far west as we can go- Kona Brewing Co Longboard Lager, which also reminded us of the warm vacation just back in Jan at Hawaii.

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September 2016 – Beer Can Chicken and West Coast Lager