Books for cooks


Sunday, July 14, 2002

"Beer-Can Chicken and 74 Other Offbeat Recipes for the Grill,"
by Steven Raichlen
(Workman Publishing, 2002, paperback, $12.95)
StarStar 1/2

Pour yourself a can of chicken

By Barbara Burke
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Get ready to have some fun with an unusual recipe for barbecued chicken that might well become the talk of the neighborhood.

The basic recipe for beer-can chicken involves roasting a seasoned, whole bird as it straddles an open can of beer inside a covered barbecue. The result is the most moist, succulent and flavorful chicken author Steve Raichlen says he has ever tasted. He predicts that this method of preparing poultry is so good that beer-can chicken will soon become as trendy as sushi, tiramisu and fajitas.

Raichlen didn't invent beer-can chicken (it's been on the barbecue contest circuit for years), but he did put together a nifty cookbook that both novice and experienced backyard cooks will enjoy. "Beer-Can Chicken" is his fourth barbecue cookbook in a series, which combined have more than a million copies in print.

For safety, remove half the contents of a can of beer before placing it and the bird on the grill. This avoids any risk of the can exploding. As a further safeguard, the recipes call for making additional holes in the lid of the can with a church key-style bottle opener. Do not use glass bottles.

Raichlen also provides nonalcoholic recipes made with lemonade, peach nectar or iced tea -- even some outrageous versions using root beer and black cherry soda. There are endless variations of liquids and seasonings you can use. If you get bored with chicken, the author offers recipes for game hens, duck, tuna, mahimahi, mussels, clams, steak and sausages, as well as a host of side dishes. Granted, it's all a little gimmicky, but the author's can-do (excuse the pun) approach to grilling is a guarantee for success.

Dark beer imparts a rich, sweet, malty flavor in the following recipe for Beer-Can Barbecue Sauce.

Dark Beer BBQ Sauce

1 tablespoon butter
1 slice bacon, minced
1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
1 cup dark beer
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar, or more to taste
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 to 3 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and onion and cook until both are a deep golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. If the onion starts to burn, reduce the heat.

Add the beer and boil until reduced by half. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, mustard, lemon juice, hot sauce, liquid smoke and 1/2 cup water. Let the sauce simmer until mellow, thick and richly flavored, about 10 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste; the sauce should be highly seasoned.

Let the sauce cool to room temperature before serving. The sauce can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week. Let return to room temperature before serving. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per 2 tablespoon serving: 50 calories, 1 g total fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 1 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate.

Rating Scale: StarStarStarStar Best in its class / StarStarStar Highly recommended / StarStar Recommended / Star Not recommended

Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor who teaches and writes about food and nutrition. Contact her at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813; or e-mail her at:

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