When I first read about beer can chicken, I was spell-bound... only off-putting thing being the beer, which I am not too keen on, but I was so intrigued that I just had to try it. The original recipe is actually for a barbecue, but since I do not own a proper one due to a grill-cleaning-phobia (I use the pathetic disposable ones, I hate to admit), I had to resort to very boringly using my oven.
I say boring because that's what I thought it would be at the beginning, after all the oven is such a common thing. I got over this very quickly, though, and instead laughed my head off in the preparation. The bird looks so funny sitting on its can, it's unbelievable! I decided to share this with you splashing out on not one, but three images in one post!
For the "glaze" I used cranberry preserve, thyme leaves, garlic and a splash of sherry. I use the inverted commas because I ended up stuffing most of it under the skin and only massaged a tiny amount of it into the skin. I did not want to waste all this goodness, most of which would just end up on the bottom of the pan, and instead let it thoroughly infuse the meat with all its flavours. Doing it this way also allows you to play around with it a bit and use fresh fruit rather than a preserve - think raspberries or, more timely for the winter months, pomegranate... just crush the fruit and proceed as usual, omitting the preserve - should work very well, although be aware that the flavours might be subtler.
We served this with jacket potatoes and tzatziki, a healthier version than the usual garlic sauce. Accopanied by a fresh salad, this tasted just as good from the oven as it does from the barbecue. I wasn't bothered by the beer after all, the flavour was not over-powering, in fact, hardly noticable - but as the beer heats up, the cavities of the chicken are being constantly steamed, which makes for fantastically moist meat. I have also tried it with red wine instead of the beer and even a sherry or whisky would work nicely, if you don't mind the expense...
Beer can chicken with sticky cranberry-sherry glaze
1 x 440 ml can beer (even a 330 ml would be enough)
1 whole chicken, gutted and cleaned, ca. 1.2 kg*
ca. 125 g or 2 tbsp cranberry preserve
1 tsp thyme leaves
½ tsp lemon myrtle**
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 dash dry sherry
Start by opening the can and drinking half of its contents. Make 3 holes in the top part of the can, to allow the steam to escape from all sides. (Use wine or sherry as a substitute for the beer, if you like)
Combine all the ingredients for the glaze, then carefully lift the skin off the chicken where you can (breast, thigh and back pockets) and stuff in some of the mixture, squeezing the skin all around to evenly distribute it. (You can prepare this the day before to allow the flavours to really penetrate the chicken.) Use all but 1 tbsp for this, then "sit" the bird on the can, carefully balancing it out, before rubbing the rest of the glaze into the skin. Place the chicken in an oven-proof pan.
Pre-heat your oven to 220 C and cook the chicken for about 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on its size. Carefully remove from the can and carve as usual.
*Make sure your chicken is the right size - too small it won't fit over the can, too big it will be difficult to balance out and might be too high for your oven.
**Lemon myrtle is a native Australian plant growing in the rainforest - I recently purchased some from Herbie's Spices. The flavour is distinctly lemony, more so than lemongrass, with a hind note of eucalyptus.