Among the food obsessed, certain foods, tools, and cooking techniques have attained cult-like status. The Big Green Egg smoker comes to mind. Marshmallow Peeps. Fruit salad suspended in molded gelatin.
Beer can cooking is another one. But why?
Of course, thousands of recipes use beer as an ingredient, but not so many use the beer can. One of the few is beer can chicken. Variations of it are everywhere, from community cookbooks to the New York Times, but apart from slightly tweaked seasonings, the basic concept is always the same.
Beer can chicken is typically made outdoors on a charcoal or gas grill. (Though you can do it in an oven or large air fryer.) The process starts with a half full beer can. The liquid in the can could be beer, or it could be something else. I’ve seen recipes that call for soda pop, sake, broth, even plain water. Then, you position a whole raw chicken onto the can, nestling the can into the bird’s cavity. The chicken gets roasted upright with the can acting like a stand for the bird. In the oven, the liquid in the can turns to steam, creating a moist-heat roasting situation. The chicken also gets infused with the flavor of whatever is in the can.
Roasting the bird upright exposes it to heat on all sides; so, once it's cooked, the chicken skin is extremely crispy, while the meat is juicy and tender. In other words, it’s perfect! And, this is why fans of the technique are so fervent. Beer can chicken is practically foolproof.