Tangy Root Beer Can Chicken

Sub out the beer bottle for a root beer can in this kid-friendly take on the clever chicken cooking technique. The complicated flavors of root beer (from the iconic sassafrass base to hints of molasses, licorice and clove) combine well with vinegar and Dijon mustard to render the chicken tangy, sweet and incredibly juicy.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 45 min
  • Prep: 10 min
  • Inactive: 15 min
  • Cook: 1 hr 20 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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Ingredients

2 teaspoons soy sauce

3 thick slices ginger

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

One 3- to 4-pound chicken, giblets removed

Two 12-ounce cans root beer

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 

Directions

  1. Combine 1 can of the root beer, the vinegar, molasses, mustard, soy sauce, ginger slices, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; adjust the heat and simmer until the mixture is syrupy and coats the back of a spoon, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the ginger and whisk in the lemon juice. Let cool to room temperature. (The glaze can be made a day ahead.)
  2. Preheat the grill. For gas grills (with 3 or more burners), turn all the burners to medium-high heat; after about 15 minutes turn off one of the middle burners and turn the remaining burners down to medium. For charcoal grills, bank one chimney starter full of lit and ashed over charcoal brickets to one side of the grill. Set up a drip pan on the other side to avoid flare-ups. 
  3. Meanwhile, pat the chicken dry inside and out with paper towels, then season inside and out with salt and pepper. 
  4. Pour out about a 1/4 cup of the root beer from the second can. Place the large opening of the chicken right over the can (the can should be well inside the cavity of the bird), making sure that the legs are positioned straight out. Tuck the wings behind the back of the chicken. Carefully place the chicken over the indirect-heat spot on the grill, balancing it on its two legs and the root beer can like a tripod. Cover the grill and cook until the chicken is golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F., 45 to 50 minutes with the grill heat maintained at around 350 degrees F. Uncover the grill and brush the chicken all over with about one-third of the root beer glaze. Cover and continue to cook until the chicken is nicely browned and registers 170 degrees F. at the thickest part of the thigh, 10 to 15 minutes more. 
  5. Carefully remove the chicken from the grill with the can still inside. Let chicken rest for about 15 minutes. With the chicken still on the can, use a pair of kitchen shears to cut down either side of the backbone and remove. Remove the chicken from the can and carve as desired. Serve with the remaining root beer glaze on the side. 
  6. Oven method: Position an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Put the chicken-on-a-can on a baking sheet, balancing on its two legs and the can like a tripod, and transfer to the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Roast until the chicken is golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F., 45 to 50 minutes. Brush the chicken all over with about one-third of the root beer glaze. Continue to roast until the chicken is nicely browned and registers 170 degrees F. at the thickest part of the thigh, 10 to 15 minutes more. 
  7. Carefully remove the chicken from the oven with the can still inside. Let chicken rest for about 15 minutes. With the chicken still on the can, use a pair of kitchen shears to cut down either side of the backbone and remove. Remove the chicken from the can and carve as desired. Serve with the remaining root beer glaze on the side.

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