When it comes time to stuff the turkey this year, there’s only way to go: beer.
Beer-can chicken is an undisputably manly dish, and a staple at our dinner table in the summertime. You shove a can full of beer up inside a whole animal and let it cook to perfection on the grill — the skin gets brown and crispy and the inside stays juicy and amazingly flavorful. After an hour or so, you have a beautiful and impressive piece of meat that is as pleasing to the taste buds as it is to the eyes. This year, we’re planning to cook our turkey the same way, but on a larger scale (uh, can).
To support a turkey, you’re going to need something a little more substantial than a can of beer. In Steven Raichlen’s “Beer-Can Chicken” book, he uses a Foster’s “oil can” when cooking a turkey. We prefer something even sturdier: a 29-ounce can of fruit cocktail, emptied and refilled with beer, of course. It has a much stronger base and it is impossible for the weight of the bird to crush the can.
Luckily, there’s no need to bust into our stash of craft beer for this, either. We use PBR. It may not be the classiest beer, but it is full of flavor and the price is right. This recipe calls for a six-pack of tallboys. You will need one can for the recipe and five to prepare you for the in-laws.
Beer-Can Thanksgiving Turkey
Whole fresh turkey, 10-16 pounds
Your favorite all-purpose rub
29-ounce can of fruit cocktail, emptied and label removed
½ large, white onion
1 stick of butter
6-pack of PBR tallboy cans
Additional tools: Big Green Egg or smoker, meat thermometer, large spatula
Method: Remove the giblets, rinse the bird inside and out, and pat it dry with paper towels. Liberally rub the turkey inside and out with olive oil and barbecue rub. While you’re rubbing the inside of the bird, treat the bottom like a crocodile’s mouth and wedge it open enough so the can will fit. You may end up breaking some ribs — that’s cool. Let the bird sit out at room temperature for at least an half hour.
Open a PBR and pour the contents into the emptied fruit can. Add a tablespoon of rub to the beer (be careful — it may fizz up, so add the rub in increments). Add the onion to the can as well.
Light your smoker or Big Green Egg and bring it up to 325ºF. Place a drip pan under where you intend to place the turkey (to catch the fat drippings) and then place the can full of beer directly over the drip pan. Place the turkey on top of the can and close the lid.
Conventional wisdom says that a turkey cooked at 325º will require about 20 minutes of cooking time per pound. Therefore, the 14-pounder we cooked should have taken roughly 4 hours and 30 minutes. But the birds always finish early (ours took about 3 hours and 45 minutes).
About an hour before the bird is expected to be finished, melt the butter and brush it all over the skin.
Once the turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165ºF, carefully remove the bird from the smoker, using a spatula under the can and another utensil (like a fork) to stabilize the top. Allow the bird to sit for a half hour on the can.
Carefully remove the bird from the can and let it rest another half hour. Slice it up and dig in.