How to make Steven Raichlen’s Cola-Can Chicken – Daily Democrat

If you can cook chicken with beer, why not with soda? Take Venezuela, where pot roast braised in Coke is a treasured dish, says grilling expert Steven Raichlen, author of the new “Beer-Can Chicken: Foolproof Recipes for the Crispiest, Crackliest, Smokiest, Most Succulent Birds You’ve Ever Tasted (Revised).”

Even though it’s not seen in many restaurant kitchens, Coke, Pepsi and other colas have flavors that add “complex interplay of sweet, tart, spicy and aromatic flavors” that are a welcome addition to many marinades, bastes and barbecue sauces,” Raichlen says.

He recommends serving this with buttery Texas toast and a favorite side of cooked greens.

Cola-Can Chicken

Serves 2 to 4


"Beer-Can Chicken: Foolproof Recipes for the Crispiest, Crackliest, Smokiest, Most Succulent Birds You've Ever Tasted (Revised)" by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, $24.99) gives a refreshed look to the 2002 original. (Courtesy Workman Publishing).
(Workman Publishing, $24.99)

1 tablespoon mild chili powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 can (12 ounces) cola

1 chicken (3½ to 4 pounds)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Cola Barbecue Sauce (see recipe)

1½ cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory), soaked for 30 minutes in water to cover, then drained

Vertical chicken roaster (optional)


Make the rub: Put the chili powder, salt, brown sugar, black pepper, cumin, garlic powder and cayenne pepper in a small bowl and stir to mix.

Pop the tab off the soda can. Pour half the cola (3/4 cup) into a measuring cup and set aside for the sauce. If cooking the chicken on the can, using a church key-style can opener, make 2 additional holes in its top.

Remove and discard the fat just inside the chicken’s body and neck cavities. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the rub inside the body cavity and 1/2 teaspoon inside the neck cavity of the chicken. Drizzle the oil over the outside of the bird and rub or brush it all over the skin. Sprinkle the outside of the bird with 1 tablespoon rub and rub it all over the skin. Spoon the remaining rub through a hole in the top of the can. Don’t worry if the cola foams up. This is normal.

If cooking on a can: Hold the bird upright, with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom, and lower it onto the can so the can fits into the  cavity. Pull the chicken legs forward to form a sort of tripod, so the bird stands upright. The rear leg of the tripod is the can. Tuck the tips of the wings behind the chicken’s back. (If cooking on a roaster: Fill it with the flavored cola and add the remaining rub. Position the chicken on top, following the manufacturer’s instructions.)

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and heat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.

When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals. Stand the chicken up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the chicken until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (about 175 degrees on a meat thermometer when inserted in the thickest part of a thigh but not touching the bone), 1¼ to 1½ hours. If using a charcoal grill, you may need to add fresh coals after 1 hour. if the chicken skin starts to brown too much, loosely tent the bird with aluminum foil.

If cooking on a can: Using tongs, hold the bird by the can and carefully transfer it in an upright position to a platter. If cooking on a roaster: Use grill gloves to remove the bird from the grill while it’s still on the vertical roaster.

Let the chicken rest for 3 to 5 minutes, then carefully lift it off the support. Take care not to spill the hot cola or otherwise burn yourself. Halve, quarter or carve the chicken and serve with the barbecue sauce.

— Excerpted from “Beer-Can Chicken: Foolproof Recipes for the Crispiest, Crackliest, Smokiest, Most Succulent Birds You’ve Ever Tasted (Revised)” by Steven Raichlen, photos by Randazzo & Blau. Workman Publishing © 2024.

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