Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Spatchcocked Ginger Ale Chicken

This recipe for Ginger "Beer Can" Chicken was in this month's Southern Living (June 2015) and it looked good so I decided to give it a whirl.  I was intrigued by the ginger ale glaze.  It's a keeper. 

Ginger Ale Chicken, spatchcock chicken, kamado spatchcock, BGE spatchcock

I did it pretty much as written except for one major difference - I didn't stick anything up my chicken's butt.  I'll explain why later.  Instead I spatchcocked my bird and cooked it "raised direct" (elevated above the heat).  Spatchcocked chicken cooks faster (1 hour versus the 90 minutes the recipe called for) and more evenly because the backbone is removed and the bird is flattened out. 

The rub is salty and sweet finishing with the flavorful mild heat of ginger.  It also goes on rather heavily - don't forget to season the backside (or inside if you're going can style) too.

I loaded the Grill Dome kamado grill with lump and preheated it to 375°F.  The set up was "raised direct".   This gets you closer to the reflective heat of the dome to get a really nice and even browning. It also helps you keep from burning the bottom. You can achieve this many ways but basically you are just trying to raise your cooking grid another 3-4 inches.  Today I used the Grill Dome raised rack.

Confession - I was working on something else and my cooking temps crept up on me, getting to 400°F.  No problem, I shut the bottom vent slightly and slid a pizza pan under the bird to keep the backside from getting too done.  This is also a good way to catch your grease drippings if you start getting too much greasy smoke.

I thought the glaze was going to be a mistake.  It seemed way too thin for a long time but then it finally reduced as the recipe calls for.  Just make sure to keep it boiling, not just simmering.  This turned out to be a fantastic glaze and dipping sauce.  It is powerfully sweet and then spicy and tasted wonderful glazed onto this bird.

 chicken recipe Grill Dome, spatchcock BGE, butterfly chicken grill,

This one is definitely going into our rotation. The flavor of this rub/sauce combination makes the chicken come alive with flavor.  It would work great with drumsticks or wings for tailgating too - I know I'll be trying that.  I'd probably double the sauce if you are doing two birds like the recipe calls for, but I like having extra sauce for dipping.

Whether you go beer butt or not, whether you have a kettle, gas, kamado, or other should give this recipe a try this summer. 

So why don't I do beer can chicken?
In my opinion, beer can chicken is one of the very few things that doesn't translate well to a kamado grill.  It's not a defect, it's just that standing a chicken up in a kamado set up for indirect heat (not over the flames) puts the chicken breasts in the higher heat near the dome while the thighs are down where cooking temps can be up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit lower.

Hope you like these super fancy graphics from my Graphic Arts department.

So, why does the beer can chicken technique work okay for kettle grills and gas grills?  When you do indirect with those grills, your heat source is coming from below and the sides, so the thighs are getting the higher heat.  In that case, the thighs and breasts will be done about the same time as the white meat up top.

The kettle grill indirect set up on left heats from the side and below, so the thighs will cook and be done about the same time as the breasts further away from the heat.  The kamado indirect set up on the right has a heat deflector (black line) so it's getting more heat from the top down. which would cook your breasts before the thighs are done.

That doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't do beer can chicken on a kamado grill.  I've seen people do it and they like it.  But for my money, I prefer to flatten my whole chickens out so that they cook evenly whether I am direct grilling, raised direct grilling, or indirect grilling.  It's just my preference.

But you know my motto - cook what you want, how you want, on what you got.  Anyone that tells you that there is only one way to grill something is full of it.  That includes me. 

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  I have no affiliation with Southern Living.  We are proud to be sponsored by Grill Dome for our competition team and this blog. 


  1. Sounds delicious Chris and the color is great. I'm with you on the spatchcocking

  2. Spatchcocking is the way to roll! The ginger glaze sounds awesome. Question, is it possible to set up kamados for 2 zone grilling?

  3. For the record, I've never stuck a can up a chicken's butt either. And I have to admit, I feel a little old fashioned about that. However, I have spatchcocked many a chick and love that method. I'm intrigued with this glaze also because as a kid, Ginger Ale was a fun treat. And you bet, love those super fancy graphics. I'm blogging about my boss's baked beans soon, and she's in charge of the Marketing Department... maybe I could beg a good graphic out of the deal. :) have a great holiday Chris.

  4. What a beautiful looking bird - nicely done Chris!

  5. I'm a firm believer that the grilling world has been mostly fooled by the beer can chicken myth. I've done plenty of them myself to test this. it does work to cook a bird that way, and they're great. but it's no better than other methods, and spatchcocking is probably the best way.

    However! If you're doing multiple birds, it does allow 2-3 birds to be cooked in the grate space of one spatchcocked bird.