Beer Butt Chicken, or: A Series of Fortunate Events
By Kevin Vaughn, founder and head chef of MASA.
All the stars aligned just so. A friend had gifted me a full bag of New Mexico chile powder, some weirdo with pesos to burn bought a six-pack of Isenbeck and forgot half of them in my refrigerator, my pollo spot was having a promo on whole chickens and a tweet about baked beans manifested itself into a slobbery obsession that couldn’t be erased from my fat kid brain. It’s mostly the fat kid brain that gets me, I imagine anything from ribs to the perfect spinach salad and its drop everything, call all the homies, and make food NOW.
I had heard of the illustrious beer butt chicken – which also goes by the less fun name beer can chicken, and the long-winded and more sarpado beer in the butt chicken – but wasn’t too keen on a whole roasted chicken. I’ve seen it in a variety of forms: barbecued, smoked and oven roasted, no matter which method is your favorite, cooking an entire chicken is daunting. And my mother sums it up perfectly, “You’re going to get salmonella!”
All good food is about the perfect timing, but chicken more so than any other meat. Undercook a steak or pork cutlet and you’re most likely just going to have a rare cut of meat. Undercook chicken and you might get sick. What a great way to sell this article right? But don’t fret, if you’re like me you will be making this dish for the simple reason of being able to announce to a room full of people that we are about to eat beer BUTT chicken. 26 going on 9 years old, deal with it.
For this recipe you will need the following:
- 1 4lb chicken
- 1 can of beer, room temperature
- 2 orange slices
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 jalapeños
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons each of honey and olive oil
- ½ teaspoon each of cinnamon, cayenne, cumin
- Juice from 2 limes
- Handful of cilantro
Optional (but not really): two cups of pinto beans, 1 chopped onion, enchilada sauce (1 cup chile powder, 5 cloves garlic, one onion, 4 cups broth)
First lets make our marinade. In a blender, combine all ingredients except for the beer and orange slices. Cover a large baking dish with some aluminum foil. Remove giblets from chicken, wash and dry. Rub on some salt and pepper, then brush on the marinade.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Open your beer of choice, empty out half the can into a cup, put it in the fridge to cool and drink. Stuff two slices of orange in to the birds butt. Place open can in the baking dish, and slide the bird onto the can trying to make sure the orange slices stay to the side of the cavity. Be gentle, this is his/her first time. A four-pound beer should sit just right without tipping over.
This is the optional (but not really) part. Take about two cups worth of pinto beans, and half a chopped onion and bathe them in your favorite enchilada sauce. Bake those beans on the bottom of the dish and let them soak up all that chicken juice and beer vapor. HAVE FAITH IN MY WORDS. For a simple enchilada sauce, make a rue with a few spoons of oil and some flour. Mix in chopped onion and minced garlic, then one cup of chile powder and slowly add 4 cups of water or broth. I like to add a little bit of cinnamon and brown sugar to lighten the flavor and sometimes substitute one cup of broth for fruit juice.
Now it’s time to put in the oven. It kind of looks like he’s getting ready for the worst roller coaster of his life right?
Cook for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting the chicken every 15 to 20 minutes. If you have a gas oven like me, it’s probably a stupid doodoo head that gets really hot in one part of the oven. Mine likes to get particularly hot up top in the back right. I will never understand. Rotate your bird accordingly so it cooks evenly.
If you don’t possess a nifty meat thermometer, there are two tests. One, the legs should rip right off of the rest of the body with little to no effort. Two, stick a fork in it. If the juice runs clear it’s ready to be inhaled, I mean consumed. Let the chicken cool, a. because rather than the juice falling all over your cutting board if you let it sit for five minutes the juice will redistribute throughout the meat, and b. it’s pretty damn hot. Be extremely careful when removing the beer can. Not only will the can be hot but the liquid inside could scald the skin if it goes squirting everywhere. Wear oven mitts and pick a partner.
Then carve that turkey and be sure to slather it in all of its juices. This is my new favorite way to cook chicken. The vapor from the beer will keep the meat particularly juicy, and the mixture between this slightly sweet but kinda spicy marinade and those BEANS (I mean seriously, those beans) will make you say, “this is the best goddamned thing I’ve cooked,” for hopefully the second time this week. It’s worth repeating, because seriously, those baked beans.