When looking around the world of backyard barbequing, you will encounter some of the strangest recipes and tricks imaginable. One of the popular ones that are whispered about around the internet is beer can chicken but can using a beer can for cooking chicken over an open flame really be safe?
The simple answer is no; beer can chicken has the risk of being undercooked, leaking toxic fumes into the chicken, and causing a burst of steam when you least expect it. Because beer cans are not meant to withstand open flames, the paint and the pressure can harm anyone nearby.
You must remember this as many people make the mistake of assuming these are all just myths or one-off stories. But the world of beer can chicken, and its methods can cause many issues if you aren’t prepared or experienced with using liquids on a fire.
Is It Safe To Cook With An Aluminum Can?
Generally speaking, if you have aluminum cookware, you can be assured that something will be quick to heat up and that you can safely eat the food. If you have a completely untreated aluminum can with no paint, it may be safe to use in a fire or just over a gas grill.
However, we recommend checking if the can has been treated on the inside and has no print on it, as the ink will release toxic fumes. Beer cans also have plastic balls, helping to release and control their nitrogen.
Avoid using soda cans as well, as they don’t hold up on an open flame. That’s because of the thin design that makes it impossible to hold up over hot flames structurally.
As you put the chicken on the can, it bends and will melt as the coals and fire start heating the chicken to the temperature that makes it safe.
Is Aluminum Toxic When Cooking?
When using coals for cooking, aluminum does not reach a high enough temperature to become toxic, with the metals resisting the heat and staying chemically stable. Thicker aluminum stays safe for much longer, usually used as tongs and barbecue accessories to help you cook.
In addition, aluminum will easily melt with some hotter fires that people like to make, which means it is unsafe to use at all times.
We have seen many people make the mistake of creating a fire that could forge iron and then try to use aluminum implements with the fire.
Aluminum has a lower melting point than most commonly used modern metals and is generally only used in its pure form. This means that the fire you are using cannot be so hot that it is nearly impossible to approach; with beer can chicken, the fire needs to be on the colder side.
Is There Beer In Beer Can Chicken?
The most commonly recommended way of making beer can chicken is by simply opening a can of beer and then stuffing it into the back of a whole chicken. The idea is that the beer will start boiling and soaking into the chicken, giving it delicious and rich flavors as the beer helps cook the chicken.
Using an empty can of beer would be pointless, and other tools are meant to be used in such a way, usually offering much better support overall. As such, beer should be present in beer can chicken, which is where the name of the recipes comes from since using soda cans would not be useful.
Further, the beer you are using will also play a part in the taste, or so the recipes claim, with many people worldwide having their own recommendations.
We recommend using your beer as a marinade overnight rather than as a stuffing to create a much richer and more flavorful taste for your chicken.
What Makes Beer Can Chicken Unsafe?
Several things make beer can chicken fundamentally unsafe to eat and use, which we will cover on their own. Overall, using beer can chicken is a good idea with a few fundamental cooking laws that make it unsafe and a bad idea to do regularly.
The main thing is the massive risk of getting salmonella with any piece of chicken with a good crusty outer layer. We recommend using safer cooking methods rather than risking something that creates shortcuts to deliver a meal that could have been just as good with proper methods.
Lowered Internal Temperature
This is the biggest issue with beer can chicken; because the beer is in a can, its temperature does not reach a high enough level to cook the chicken on the inside. Some reports state that a beer’s internal temperature can chicken 47 degrees Fahrenheit, colder than the surface.
This means the outside of the chicken becomes crisp and delicious, but the inside stays raw as the beer absorbs all the heat. Further, the beer cannot be heated to a high enough temperature to cook the chicken without burning the outside or even melting the can.
Build-Up Of Steam
Steam is one of the most dangerous things in the world, and you will need to be hyper-aware of it once you start cooking on open flames. Beer can cause a high-pressure build-up of steam to be released when you start testing the chicken or even a small explosion.
We have seen several people trying the beer can chicken method with burn marks on them after the chicken exploded off the barbecue. As the chicken cooks, it contracts around the can, sealing it with beer boiling; this creates a high-pressure situation that ends in tragedy.
Toxic Paint Fumes
This is the most dangerous and often the most silent danger of the beer can chicken method, the fumes that will come off the beer can. The paint on a beer can will be environmentally non-toxic, but when heated with fire will become toxic as it infuses with the meat of the chicken.
No paint used in the printing process of any can is meant to be consumed by humans, and when heated up inside a chicken and eaten will cause sicknesses and illnesses. Many US beer companies now state that it is unsafe to use their cans for beer can chicken.
Melted Internal Plastics
Many beer companies have internal plastics or plastic liners in their beer cans to help trap nitrogen and keep the beer flavor pure. When heated, this plastic naturally melts, and with a chicken around the entire can, all of these fumes and plastics have only one place to go.
This is why beer can chicken seems like a good idea in theory but is only a shortcut used by those unwilling to marinate their chicken correctly.
While it may taste fine initially, long-term cancer and illnesses caused by plastic and paint fumes can easily trace back to lazy cooking.
Beer can chicken, an idea that may work in an actual survival situation but should be avoided whenever possible. Instead, we recommend using a proper standing cooker and marinating the chicken overnight to get a meal that is both crispy and not filled with paint fumes and plastic fumes inside the chicken.
Remember that when the cooking method seems too easy, it usually has several downsides to consider!
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