Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dry Brined Beer Can Chicken

I have talked about brining poultry and pork but one thing I haven't written about much is dry brining.

Dry brining is just what it says, brining without liquid. The salt in the rub induces the pores of the meat to open up and draws out liquid that mixes with the seasonings of the rub. After a while, the seasonings and liquid are pulled back into the meat. With dry brining, you need to give it the full length of recommended time, don't short change it. Otherwise the moisture might not be reabsorbed and the meat can be dry.

I recently experimented with dry brining using a recipe for Dry Brined Beer Can Chicken from the 2013 Southern Living book All Fired Up.

reprinted with permission from All Fired Up by Troy Black and Southern Living, Oxmoor House 2013

It took 24 hours to brine the two birds but the wait was worth it.  (click the link below for recipe)

Dry Brined Beer Can Chicken

by reprinted with permission from All Fired Up by Troy Black and Southern Living, Oxmoor House 2013
Prep Time: 30 min + 24 hours for dry brining
Cook Time: 2 hours

Ingredients (8 servings)
  • 1⁄4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. pimentón (sweet smoked Spanish paprika)
  • 11⁄2 tsp. dried marjoram or oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 3 bay leaves, finely crumbled
  • 2 (31⁄2- to 4-lb.) whole chickens
  • 1 large oven bag
  • 2 (12-oz.) cans brown ale
  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle skin and cavities of chickens with salt mixture. Place chickens in oven bag; twist end of bag, and close with tie. Chill 24 hours.
  2. Light 1 side of grill, heating to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat; leave other side unlit. Reserve 1⁄2 cup beer from each can for another use. Place each chicken upright onto a beer can, fitting into cavity. Pull legs forward to form a tripod, allowing chickens to stand upright.
  3. Place chickens upright on unlit side of grill. Grill, covered with grill lid, 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes or until golden and a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 170°. Let stand 10 minutes. Carefully remove chickens from cans; cut into quarters.
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I followed the recipe as written except I did one of the birds spatchcocked  instead of beer can to see how the same recipe tasted with a different technique.  I did these on the Big Green Egg, "raised direct" meaning the grill grate is up higher than usual which gives more of a buffer between the hot coals below and takes more advantage of the reflective heat from the closed grill lid.  [Note:  You don't have to do this for the beer can chicken on a regular grill, I was doing this for the spatchcocked bird.]

To raise the grid up like that, I used two fire rings instead of just one.  I know not everyone has an extra Egg fire ring sitting around.  Instead you can can used a couple of fire bricks like Kristy of Necessary Indulgences shows on her Big Green Egg in this picture.

Where's my beer can in the picture?   I used a beer can throne instead.  This one is from Craycort designed specifically to fit their insert system. 

They both got a nice color.

Not surprisingly, the spatchcock bird cooked about 30 minutes quicker.

Both tasted excellent.  The dry brine not only infused flavor to the birds and doubled as a rub, it gives an appealing texture to the crispy skin.  This chicken needs to be on your grill this summer.

This comes from All Fired Up from the folks at Southern Living.  I recently received a review copy of  and I am impressed.  

All Fired Up - Smokin' Hot BBQ Secrets from the South's Best Pitmasters
by Troy Black and Southern Living, Oxmoor House 2013

The Authors
Brought to you by the editors of Southern Living and Troy Black. Troy Black is a championship winning competitive BBQ cook and is currently the face of the Sam's Club National BBQ Tour, the richest competition series on the BBQ competition circuit. You might have seen him on The Food Network, The Travel Channel, Fox and Friends, The CBS Early Show, or many other media outlets.

The Book
All Fired Up is a full size, 288 page softcover book. The cover is reinforced, tougher than a paperback. The book makes a visual impact as soon as you pick it up because the entire thing is in color, not just the pictures.

Before the recipes kick in, Troy gives a primer for grilling and bbq, including demonstrative photos on things like
  • Set ups for gas grills, charcoal grills, and smokers
  • Troy's top 10 bbq tools
  • using charcoal
  • direct and indirect cooking tips
  • how to use wood
All Fired Up is also laced with tips, stories, and nuggets of wisdom from some of the South's best pitmasters.

The Recipes:
After the tips, the book dives into the 175 recipes which are categorized into typical BBQ book structure
  • Sauced and slathered
  • Authentic BBQ
  • Beef It Up
  • Pit Out
  • Hot Chix
  • Fresh Catch
  • Special Extras
Just thumbing through the recipes, I immediately seized on recipes that I wanted to try. The titles, photos and recipes just kept pulling me in with each turn of the page. The recipes range from traditional bbq pork, ribs, chicken and brisket to great grilled fare like Vietnamese BBQ tacos, sweet ginger chicken thighs, and pork tenderloin sliders with spicy pickles.

In addition to the Dry Brined Beer Can Chicken, I have tried several so other recipes, including using the General Purpose BBQ Rub on some split chickens that I smoked just to have on hand.  Very good.

Whiskey Marinated Pork Tenderloin – which Troy said was one of his favorites on the BBQ Central Radio Show last week.  Alexis picked this one out and we weren't disappointed.

Tip:  birch syrup is awful on pancakes but works better than maple syrup for meats, IMO.
Pineapple-Jalapeno Burgers – the cilantro-jalapeno cream and grilled pineapple kicked these burgers up.

There are tons of more recipes that I want to try but I think the next thing will be the Sorghum Beef Ribs, that recipe sounds fantastic.

The Photos:
The 400 photographs are drool worthy and impressive. The food styling and photography capture the spirit of these fantastic recipes, compelling you to want to try them. Photos of BBQ joints mixed in help set the mood, you can almost smell the smoke coming off of the pages. Overall, this has some of the best photos I have seen in the numerous BBQ cookbooks sitting on my shelf, except one.

All Fired Up is an exceptional book and can put you on the track for inspired grilling all summer long. Whether you only grill a handful of times a year or grill several times a week like I do, All Fired Up has something for you.

I give it 4 ½ stars and recommend it.

5 stars – an absolute resource, will refer to frequently
4+ stars – good cookbook with value added tips, photos, guides, and other content
3 stars – Good, average cookbook, glad to have it on my shelf
2 stars – a recipe collection if you don't have internet
1 star – would give it away to someone else to get rid of it, but only if I didn't like them very much

For Knoxville area folks, you can see Troy Black at the Sam's Club National BBQ Tour event on May 11th at the Sam's Club at Gallaher View and I-40.


  1. I'm curious which you thought was better. I am dubious in general of the beer can method. Only because I am not an experienced grill guy. But when I roast a chicken I like the oven environment to be as dry as possible. GREG

  2. I don't know much about wet or dry brining. I brined a pork roast once and everything seemed to go smoothly. But what I'm interested in is that cookbook. Anything from Southern Living catches my attention.

  3. Greg - I have a post coming up about the differences between beer can chicken and spatchcocked.

    Lea Ann - Yes, Southern Living doesn't lay many eggs. This one is a keeper.

  4. Great looking chicken, something I always shy away from and end up doing beef.

  5. Another great post, thanks! Quick question...the bricks to raise your grill, do they need to be fire bricks or will any bricks do?

  6. I've dry brined once.. but it was for only about two hours... still noticed a difference, though. The chicken looks amazing!
    Will definitely have to check out the All Fired Up cookbook too... it's been too long since I bought a new cookbook!

  7. Beer Can Chicken is one of our signature dishes. We invested in the Weber roaster accessory. We dry brine for only several hours and it works for us. It is so easy and tastes so good. The chicken them becomes many other meals. I will always wonder if it tastes better cooked on the BGE. I hope Ms. Goofy is reading this.

  8. I have subscribed to Southern Living magazine for 25 years and their recipes are always so good - will have to order up this book! I have not heard of dry brining and the just the word "spatchcocked" makes me laugh...are you sure that's what it's called? Sounds like something the Marquis de Sade would say/do! The sun is still out in Seattle, as is the mountain...but rain is just around the corner so might have to dust off the grill tonight!

  9. I dry brine my Thanksgiving bird, it's the only way to go.

  10. What a beautiful chicken, Chris! Love the skin color! In Colombia we marinade the chicken in beer and spices for 24 hours, but I would love to try your way!

  11. Mike - no regular bricks should not be used for one reason. The moisture content in the bricks varies and from what I have HEARD (don't have scientific stuff to prove it handy), they can "explode" when heated. So I wouldn't chance it.

  12. You have my mouth watering. The chicken looks amazing, I'll have to try the dry brining method. The pork also looks tasty. Great tip about the birch syrup. That burger - HAS ME DROOLING!

  13. I just brined pork chops for the first time and am ready to move on to chicken next! Those chickens look incredibly delicious! Dry brining seems easier and less messy.

  14. Now this is a brining method I can actual do! I think lol :) Never knew this was considered brining, I woulda thought it was just a rub. And I LOVE beer can chicken so I know I'd be all over this. That Whiskey pork tenderloin sounds amazing too. Love me some pork tenderloin!

  15. Love the recipe. Sorry I have not been a visitor lately but will be a regular visitor from now on. Had a blast being with you at MIM. Your blog is awesome!!

  16. Killer post! I love dry brined chicken...although I don't think mine turned out as well as yours. Also a big fan of spatchcocking ...I actually did a Turkey like that one year for Thanksgiving. Cheers!


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