My husband and I have recently discovered the beauty of barbecuing a full roasting chicken versus individual chicken pieces. Of course there's nothing wrong with barbecuing chicken breasts, thighs, or drumsticks—some of our favourite recipes call for these—but we've found that we're using whole chickens more often now because there are so many benefits. It's much more economical to cook a whole chicken and there are delicious leftovers for the week. We use the leftover chicken to make homemade pizzas, to put into sandwiches instead of processed meat, to add to salads or soups and to throw into stir-fries or into quesadillas. It's a great way to "cook once, eat multiple times" if you're week nights tend to be busier like ours.
Not to mention the fact that barbecuing a whole chicken (especially when you make beer can chicken) produces deliciously juicy and moist meat that you often can't produce with chicken pieces alone.
My three-year-old absolutely loves when we cook this recipe because he thinks it's hilarious to see the chicken "sitting" on top of the beer can, and my nine-month-old can't get enough of the tender meat. My husband loves it because it involves beer, and I love it because it's easy and creates great leftover meals. It's an easy and delicious recipe that your whole family will love.
If you can find yourself a whole fresh (or frozen) chicken (preferably organic—I buy our organic chickens at Costco!) and if you have a can of beer sitting around the house as well as some common dry herbs/spices, you're almost there!
(Note: if you are missing one or more of the rub ingredients, don't fret. You can make your own concoction—using as many if the above as possible—with the herbs/spices that you have on hand)
Preheat your gas grill. Mix all of your rub ingredients in a bowl. Brush your chicken with the olive oil or melted butter and then coat the outside of the chicken with two thirds of the rub mixture and then use the remaining third to sprinkle inside of the bird's cavity and into the beer can. If you're using fresh thyme and/or rosemary, place them inside the beer can.
Here's my husband's secret instruction: take your cloves of garlic and stuff them underneath the chicken's skin wherever you can (at the neck, at the bottom or make a small cut in the skin somewhere in the middle).
Set chicken aside. Note: some recipes instruct to "rinse and dry" your chicken, but I find no benefit in doing this and to me it just creates a food safety issue inside of your sink).
Open your can of beer and drink about 1/4 cup (my husband's favourite part) of it and punch an extra hole (or two or three) in the top with a bottle opener. Place the chicken on top of the beer can before you place it on the grill or use a special "beer can chicken holder" (like we did), which holds the can of beer in place and steadies the chicken over top.
We got ours at Barbecues Galore I believe. If you find that you're making this recipe all of the time, you may want to invest in one of these (they aren't expensive as I recall—maybe $10). Make sure half of your grill is at medium-high heat and half is on low heat. Place your chicken on the low temperature side of the grill.
Close the grill lid and cook the chicken, rotating the chicken every 20 minutes or so so that it doesn't burn on one side, until the internal breast temperature is 165 degrees F and the thighs are 180 degrees F (1-1.5 hours).
Remove the chicken using tongs on either side to steady it, and sliding a large spatula underneath to transfer it off of the grill and onto a cutting board or other work surface. Using tongs again, carefully slide the beer can out of the bird and discard it. Let the chicken sit for 10 minutes before carving.