It doesn’t need to be summer to roast a chicken on an outdoor grill – we’ve been known to get a fire started during all kinds of weather in my backyard.
I’ve posted a simple recipe for perfect roast chicken here a while ago, and it’s still the method I use when cooking a whole bird, whether inside in the oven or outdoors on the grill.
But there is no doubt that a chicken roasted on a charcoal or wood fire is like chicken nirvana – the crackly, smoke-infused skin and tender, juicy meat that comes from roasting the bird slowly over indirect heat on a grill simply makes my mouth water.
Last weekend I switched up my usual modus operandi with a variation on a classic beer can chicken recipe, inspired by grilling master Steven Raichlen.
Instead of the usual rub and beer combo, I thought it might be fun to season my chicken with Tuscan flavors like fennel, garlic and rosemary, and to use the Italian bubbly Prosecco in place of beer.
I loved it. Impaling the chicken on a can and roasting it vertically means more even cooking and there’s no need to flip the chicken over and risk tearing the precious skin.
This might become my new go-to recipe for roasting a chicken. It’s a good thing I keep plenty of the bubbly around! And plenty of rosemary, of course.
1 whole roasting chicken (3 or 4 lbs)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher or coarse salt
1 teaspoon fennel pollen or ground fennel seeds
1 teaspoon onion powder and garlic powder
Prosecco or other sparkling wine
- Set up a charcoal grill for indirect grilling by piling the hot coals on opposite sides of the grill with a drip pan or large piece of foil in between, or preheat a gas grill to medium.
- Put the chicken on a small sheet pan. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and rub about 3 tablespoons all over the chicken to coat it thoroughly, and put 1 tablespoon into the cavity.
- Poke a few holes in the top of an empty 12-ounce beer or beverage can and fill halfway with Prosecco or other sparkling wine; then carefully spoon the remaining rub into the can. (You don't need to use expensive bubbly here, unless of course you happen to be drinking from an open bottle as you start to cook, my personal preference).
- Center the cavity end of chicken over the can and slide it in as far as will go before carefully arranging in the middle of the grill rack.
- Cover the grill and cook undisturbed for an hour, checking halfway through to be sure your grill temperature remains at a constant temperature between 325 and 350 degrees, adding more coals if needed.
- Take the chicken off the grill when the skin is nicely crisp and brown and juices that spew out of the chicken run clear. If you want to be precise, gently insert an instant read thermometer in the thick end of the thigh, without touching bone, to get a reading of 165 to 170 degrees.
- Let the chicken rest for at least 10 t o 15 minutes before removing the can, carving and serving.