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Jessica Karley: The secret ingredient for tender chicken

Lemon Garlic Rosemary Beer Butt Chicken recipe keeps chicken juicy and the flavors fresh when roasting whole chickens. JESSICA KARLEY/FORUM NEWS SERVICE

Chicken can be one of the most difficult meats to cook. It dries out easily and for that reason it’s frequently served swimming in cream-based sauces. Beer can or beer butt chicken is a simple and delicious way to roast an entire chicken on the grill or in your oven, keeping it tender and moist on the inside while creating a wonderfully crispy skin on the outside.

It’s the closest you can get to rotisserie-style chicken without having to go to the deli. Of course, it’s easier to pick up the ready-to-go version, but the skin is always soggy by the time you get home. Ten years ago, when I started grilling chicken this way, I couldn’t believe that inserting half of a can of beer into the bottom of a chicken was going to be my no-fail method of preparation, but now I love it so much that I even have several different variations.

The basic rules for beer butt chicken are simple, and the flavor possibilities are endless. The chicken is first seasoned with a rub, either dry or wet, and then placed over a can of your favorite brew. The chicken and can are then placed directly on the grill or inside of a pan in a high-temperature oven.

To steam the inside of the birds, you can use any variety of beer, wine, soda or fruit juice. But because some of your favorite flavors might not come in a can, you may have to grab a few out of your recycling bin to wash and fill.

Another fun twist is to use tomato paste cans for tiny beer can Cornish hens — just be sure to shorten the cooking time or you may end up with some poultry jerky!

This all sounds simple enough in the beginning, but the real skill comes at the end when it’s time to remove the chicken from the grill. It can be very dangerous, so use caution.

You don’t want to spill boiling beer on yourself or other members of your cooking crew. I recommend bringing a 9-by-13 pan to the grill with you and either using two large sets of tongs or silicone mitts.

Carefully remove the bird and can from the grill and place it in the pan and carry it inside. Once you are at your carving board, remove the bird from the beer can, taking care not to spill the steaming contents of the can. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. This will help to keep all of those juices inside.

My personal favorite and the most popular recipe among my friends is my Lemon Garlic Rosemary Beer Butt Chicken.

The chicken gets its delicious flavor by rubbing a mixture of lemon zest and juice, garlic, rosemary and olive oil under the skin of it and seasoning the outside with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Instead of using plain beer, I add a tablespoon of dried ginger to each can of beer before placing the chicken on top.

I find that it adds a really wonderful flavor.

The smell of this chicken roasting with lemon, herbs, garlic and ginger is so fresh and delicious that your neighbors are sure to be hovering around when you cook out!

I like to serve something with a pop of color along with the chicken. What better way to enjoy the flavors and colors of the season than to add a plate of mixed greens and deep red roasted beets?

To make it even more fun to look at, I layer the beets with tangy garlic herb goat cheese.

This salad is gorgeous and works great as an appetizer, side dish or sometimes even an entrée.

For years, I avoided cooking beets because every time I did, everything in my kitchen would turn a slight shade of pink — including my hands — and I would end up with yet another tie-dyed looking shirt!

Luckily, I’ve discovered a few tricks to prevent some of this.

Wear thin vinyl or latex gloves when working with the beets and always avoid using a wooden cutting board, as the porous surface will soak up the purple juice. A great alternative are thin plastic cutting mats that can slip right into the dishwasher.

I also roast beets instead of boiling them to eliminate possible splatter from the pink water when draining them in the sink.

Simply wash the beets with a scrub brush and cut the greens almost completely off.

By leaving a little less than a half-inch of stem attached to the beets, you’ll reduce the bleeding of the red color during the cooking process.

Wrap them in tin foil and be sure to tightly seal the edges.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes or until tender and cooked through.

Cooking time will depend on the size of the beets. Larger ones could take over an hour.

Peeling beets is easy. Open the foil and let the steam escape, allowing the beets to cool for a few minutes.

While still warm, use a fork to hold the beet in place and a small knife to scrape the skins right off and trim the ends.

Let the beets cool completely and store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the salad.

Assembling the salad is the fun part. Slice the beets into thin rings and layer it with creamy goat cheese.

Drizzle with balsamic glaze, olive oil and sprinkle with walnuts and cracked pepper.

You may want to have your camera ready to show off your perfect fall salad!

Jessica Karley can be reached at Read her food blog at

Lemon Garlic Rosemary Beer Butt Chicken

  • 1 can beer, half-full (save the other half for personal consumption)
  • 1 tablespoon dried ginger
  • 1- to 3-pound chicken, whole with neck and giblets removed (be sure to check what size chicken your grill or oven can hold)
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  1. Preheat grill to medium high heat or oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle ginger into beer and carefully set on cutting board.
  2. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and zest, garlic, rosemary and olive oil. Using fingers, rub mixture underneath the skin of the chicken. Get into both the breast area and legs. (Anywhere you can possibly pull the skin away without tearing it.)
  3. Sprinkle outside of the chicken with sea salt and cracked pepper. Lower chicken onto the open can, so the chicken is sitting upright, with the can in its cavity and legs out in front. Place chicken on grill, using legs and beer can as a tripod to support and secure chicken on the grill.
  4. Shut the lid and keep an eye out only for flare-ups. In case you do have a flare-up, have a squirt bottle of water ready. You don’t want any direct flames burning the chicken instead of roasting it.
  5. Roast for about 45 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165 degrees at the thickest part of the bird, usually in thigh area.
  6. Carefully remove chicken and beer can from grill using a pan. Remove chicken from the can and let rest for 10 minutes. Serves 4.

Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Stacked Salad

  • 2 medium beets, roasted, sliced thin (¼-inch or less), chilled
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped herbs, fresh (I use basil, rosemary, oregano or a mixture)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups arugula, cleaned and dried
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic glaze (I use Gia Russa brand)

In a small bowl, combine goat cheese, herbs and garlic. Blend until smooth. On a cutting board, lay one beet slice, spread goat cheese over, being sure to get close to edges and keep cheese as level as possible. Top with another beet slice, repeat cheese layer and finish with another beet. Cut into quarters. Repeat 3 more times until you have 16 wedges of stacked beets. This portion can be made up to 8 hours ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the rest of the salad. On each serving plate, place ½ cup of arugula, arrange 4 beet wedges and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of balsamic glaze, 1 tablespoon of olive oil over greens. Sprinkle each salad with 1 tablespoon of walnuts and season with a few cracks of fresh black pepper. (About ¼ teaspoon). Serves 4.

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