In the United States, you can find beer almost anywhere if you look hard enough—including wedged into the rear end of a chicken. Though it may sound crude, beer can chicken is a decades-old dish that’s enjoyed at backyard barbecues, college cookouts, and renowned restaurants across the nation. (The origin of beer can chicken is unknown, but most agree that it originated somewhere in the South.)
While more traditional ways of roasting a chicken entail placing it in a baking pan or roasting it on a stick rotisserie-style, this method requires balancing the bird atop a can of beer. To prepare this peculiar dish, one must open a beer can, pour out nearly half of its contents, and puncture two holes in the top to ensure it doesn’t explode. As the chef seasons the outside of the chicken, she also plops a bit of the spice blend or rub into the open brew. Once the bird’s insides have been emptied, the can goes into the cavity. Using the the upright can and its two outstretched legs, the chef positions the chicken into a makeshift tripod. Though heavily debated, fans of the boozy bird claim that as the can heats up, some of the beer evaporates, seasoning and moistening the fowl from the inside out.
This spooky standing chicken has, inevitably, ruffled some feathers. Many claim that it simply doesn’t work—that the beer doesn’t actually evaporate and moisten the bird. Some denounce the danger of the roasting method, as beer cans could explode if not opened and emptied, and the hot liquid is a safety hazard. Others just think it’s a waste of beer.
Despite the criticism, the strange bird has found its way into fine dining: You can find beer can chicken at several restaurants, including Harold’s Meat + Three in New York City or 5th & Taylor in Nashville. For those who’d prefer to cook it up themselves, there are countless stands, holders, and crates that can help to stabilize the chicken (or several) while it roasts.