I discovered the concept of beer can chicken soon after getting married. It looked very intriguing, so I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought a beer can roaster for less than $10. (If you don’t have one, I highly recommend it). Then I ventured to the grocery store for a whole chicken, some beer, and some spices. I got home and eagerly set the whole thing up, only to discover, mid-way through roasting the bird no less, that our oven was malfunctioning. I let it go the stated cook time, but it was still pretty raw inside. I threw the chicken out, pouted for a bit, and ordered a pizza for dinner. The next day our oven was fixed, so I made a second attempt, this time with success! Spicy, smoky, moist, tender success. On the can is a fantastic way to cook chicken, it leaves the lean breast meat, which is so prone to drying out, extremely moist and flavorful.
Steven Raichlen has an entire cookbook on birds on the can, and he definitely doesn’t stop with beer. It got me thinking of all the flavorful soft drinks out there that could be used for this method of roasting chicken. I naturally turned to my own childhood favorite, Dr Pepper (Texas bred and bottled!). I really don’t drink it anymore. As an adult, I don’t feel my waistline can afford the calories, nor am I confident my aging metabolism should consume that much sugar on a regular basis. So Diet Coke is my vice now, and even that I try to limit. But I still allow myself to occasionally cook with soda.
I spent a long time thinking of how a Dr Pepper can chicken should be seasoned. Dr Pepper tastes of cherry undertones, and some people even think Dr Pepper and Cherry Coke are the same thing (they’re not). But they have a point, so cherries became a focal theme. I also added a slight hint of vanilla, and some chipotle for some smokiness and heat.
The first time I made this it turned out pretty well, except that I put the glaze on too early and it was almost burned. Not quite, but pretty close. So I resolved to correct for that. I’ve made this dish twice in the past month. First for some friends, who absolutely raved over it. I applied the glaze later on in the cooking process and voila! The problem was solved. No almost burnt taste at all. True story, my friends’ life insurance salesman even stopped by that evening, and he tasted and loved the chicken too. So 1970’s, I love it!
One of said friends, a crackerjack cook himself, suggested I make a Dr Pepper barbecue sauce to accompany the chicken and tie all the flavors together. I thought it was a fantastic idea, so upon returning home, I made the dish yet again, this time with the sauce. And now the dish is perfect. Thank you Mosi! (And apologies for not getting any pictures of the barbecue sauce. I guess we were in a hurry to eat!)
1 whole 3-4 lb chicken
1 can DP, half poured out and reserved
1 tbs brown sugar
1 ½ tsp chipotle chili powder
2 tsp sweet paprika
Salt & black pepper
¼ cup pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
2 chipotle chiles in adobo
3 tsp honey
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 garlic clove
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place the DP can in a beer can roaster. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, chile powder and paprika. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. Then mix most of the rub onto all sides of the chicken. Put the rest of the rub in the opened can of DrPepper. Don’t worry if it fizzes.
In a small food processor, combine the cherries, chipotles in adobo, honey, vanilla extract, and garlic clove. Process until ground to a fine paste. Position the chicken over the can so that it is sitting upright. Fold the legs together to ensure even cooking.
Roast at 350 F for about 1 and a half hours, depending on the size of your chicken. Use a meat thermometer to ensure doneness, but to avoid overcooking. You want it to read 165 F when inserted in the middle of the breast. In the last 10 minutes of cooking (when the meat thermometer reads 155 F), brush the chicken all over with half of the glaze. You’ll use the other half in the barbecue sauce. Return to the oven and continue cooking. When done, remove from oven, CAREFULLY remove with tongs from the can, let rest for about ten minutes, then carve and serve!
DR PEPPER BARBECUE SAUCE:
½ cup ketchup
½ cup chili sauce
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chipotle chile powder
½ the cherry glaze
¾ cup DrPepper
Salt and black pepper
In a medium saucepan, combine the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down and continue to simmer for thirty minutes, until thickened. Shut off the heat and let come to room temperature. Serve alongside the chicken.