Grilled Beer Can Chicken

Note the disposable pie pan that acts as a heat shield to prevent flare-ups. Coals are moved to either side for indirect grilling. Cover the chicken with the vents fully open and grill for about 1 hour until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165 degrees F.

The art of grilling a whole chicken with a can of beer stuck up its butt originated in southeast Texas. It is pure genius, because the added moisture from the beer ensures the juiciest chicken you will ever have.

I spent a fair amount of time reviewing recipes, before I came up with this variation using many of the key spices based on my signature pulled pork rub. I use a 22″ Weber® kettle grill. If going this route, ensure that the bird you choose is small enough to fit under the domed lid, when closed. And don’t make your fire too hot. Slow and low is the way to go.

I can definitively say there isn’t a better bird. The skin will crisp to perfection due to the alcohol in the beer, and the infused flavor is simply amazing.

Rub Ingredients:

2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tbs. onion powder
2 tbs. smoked Spanish paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. thyme, ground in a mortar
1 tbs. ancho chili powder
2 tbs. packed brown sugar

For the Chicken:

1 whole fryer chicken with giblets removed
1 12-oz. can of beer
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, mashed
2 tbs canola oil
1/2 small potato or onion
Mesquite wood chips (about two handfuls) soaked in water for at least three hours
Disposable aluminum pie pan
Steel “beer can chicken” support trivet (available at many specialty cooking stores)
1/4 cup water


Prepare the dry rub ingredients in a small mixing bowl and set aside. You’ll use most of it for this recipe.

Thoroughly rinse the chicken in cold water, including the chest cavity. Pat dry and let stand to warm up in a baking dish so that it is not ice cold before you throw it on the grill. Rub 2 tbs. canola oil over the skin of the bird, ensuring it is completely coated. Next, apply the rub to the skin and chest cavity.

Prepare your grill with enough charcoal for a medium-hot fire. When ready to grill, divide and move the white-hot coals to either side of the coal grate, leaving the center clear for indirect heat.
Pop the can of beer and pour off or drink half (I wholeheartedly recommend drinking it.)  Add 1 clove crushed garlic and the juice of 1/2 lemon to the can.

Place the pie pan on the center of the grilling grate. Quickly place the can of beer in the support trivet and slide the bird’s cavity over the can ensuring it is seated evenly on the trivet. Place the bird and trivet on the pie pan in the center of the grilling grate. Place 1/2 onion or small potato in the neck opening to seal it off. Next add 1/4 cup water to the pie pan (this will help prevent flare-ups) and cover with the kettle cover (leave it vented half way.)  And here’s the challenge – if your bird is small enough, it will allow the cover to seat properly with just enough clearance for grilling. If not – well you’ve got a big ol’ mess because it’s either going to tip over, or you’ll have to proceed to Plan B and use your oven.

Grill covered for about 1 hour, adding mesquite chips to the coals after 1/2 hour, until the skin is crispy golden-brown and the internal temperature of the breast measures 165° F.
Carefully remove the bird with a long grilling fork (spear it under the breast bone) and transfer to a covered roaster pan. Let stand for ten minutes before serving.

Recipe cooking time shown is for a 22″ Weber® kettle grill. Your cooking time will vary. Experimentation is mandatory – on some grills the time will be closer to 1.5 hours at 375° F.

Ensure you wash your hands and disinfect your counter top after handling poultry.  Enjoy!

Marinated Italian Grilled Chicken Breasts

This is such an easy way to elevate plain-old chicken. The marinade infuses the meat and makes it super-juicy, even on the grill. Pair with garlic pasta, sliced on a salad or with grilled focaccia bread and provolone cheese.


4 skinned, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1/2 cup XV olive oil
3 tbs. balsamic vinegar
3 large cloves garlic, crushed, then minced
Cayenne pepper flakes to taste
Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Italian oregano, ground in a mortar

1/4 cup fresh-grated hard parmesan cheese


Thaw the chicken, if frozen. Place in a zip-lock storage bag. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl and pour over the chicken. Coat well and seal the bag tightly. Refrigerate for at least four hours, but best overnight.

Heat an outdoor charcoal grill with enough coals for a medium-hot fire. When the coals turn white, level them and put the chicken on the grate over direct heat. Baste with the marinade. Cook until slightly charred on one side, then flip over. Cook until juices run clear but do not over cook.

Remove from the grill, slice into 1/2″ strips and sprinkle with the grated parmesan while still hot. Serve with your choice of pasta or side dish.

Serves 4-6

Rajas de Chile Poblano – Chile Poblano Strips

This easy-to-prepare grilled topping can be used on many main course Mexican meals such as steak fajitas or pork carnitas.


6 chiles poblanos, washed
XV Olive oil
1 medium spanish onion, sliced into rings
salt to taste


Heat a charcoal grill with enough coal to produce a medium-hot fire. When the coals are white hot, place them to the side of the coal rack for indirect grilling.

Place the washed poblano chilies on the grill in the center and roast until the skins just turn black. Rotate each and char the other side. Remove and place them in a bowl covered with a towel. The skins will sweat and peel off within 15 minutes.

While the chilies are resting, place the onion slabs over the coals and brush lightly with olive oil. Cook until slightly charred. Again, turn once when roasting. Remove from the grill and place in a serving dish with the rings separated.

Remove the stems and seeds from the chilies. Gently work the blistered skin off the chilies. Cut them into 1/2″ strips and mix with the grilled onion. Salt to taste and serve.

Serving Size 4

Flatiron Grilled Beef Roast

If you’ve never taken the time to slow roast beef on the grill over wood coals, you must try this recipe. The aromatic crust adds a great contrast to the perfectly roasted meat. Slow and low are key to success!


6 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
4 tbs. mild paprika
3 tbs. packed brown sugar
2 tbs. pure chimayo chili powder
1 tbs. white pepper
1 tbs. celery salt
1 tbs. ground cumin, toasted from whole seed
1 tbs. dry Mexican oregano leaf
1 tbs. fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (I grow and make my own)
1 tsp. ground mustard

1 beef tri-tip or sirloin tip roast (2-3 pounds)


Combine all of the dry rub ingredients and mix well.

Cut 6 small, equally-spaced slits on each side of the roast with a sharp paring knife. The slits should be only 1/8-1/4″ across. Insert the raw garlic into the slits, ensuring that the garlic closes the cut so juices don’t escape.

Apply the dry rub ingredients thoroughly over the roast. Seal the roast in an airtight plastic bag and marinade overnight in your fridge.

When ready to grill, soak 2 cups of hickory or mesquite wood chips in water for at least 1 hour. Prepare a rectangular drip tray of aluminum foil the size of the roast. Light a medium-sized pile of charcoal on the grill and wait until it turns white-hot. Divide the coals to the sides of the grill for indirect heating. Place the aluminum foil drip tray in the center on the coal rack.

Place the roast on the grilling grate in the center (aligned with the drip tray) and cover, cooking for 1 to 1.5 hours, turning only once halfway through the cooking process.
Stoke coals as needed to maintain a consistent, medium-low fire. Soaked wood chips may be added to the coals in batches – but take care not to lift the cover too often.

The roast is done when the internal temperature at the thickest part reads:
145-150° for medium rare
160° for medium

Remove from grill, let stand in a covered warming tray for 10 minutes before slicing.

Mike’s Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas

Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas | Culinary Compost Recipes

No other dish comes close to the excitement and flair of a hot skillet of fajitas served for hungry guests. The aroma, sizzle and spice create a memorable experience that is perfect for just about any occasion – indoors or out. Fajitas are an Americanized version of Mexican flank steak (faja meaning “belt”.) Texans would probably like to lay claim to the fajita, but history gives credit to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border in the late 1930s or early 1940s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as skirt steak.

The fajita is truly Tex-Mex cuisine (a blending of Texas cowboy and Mexican panchero foods). The Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is arracheras, and its American counterpart is fajitas. Today, the term fajita has completely lost its original meaning and has come to describe just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The only true fajitas, however, are made from skirt steak — and with that bit of history, enjoy the recipe. I’ve tweaked and niggled it for over ten years.



2 pounds skirt, flank or sirloin steak
1 huge spanish or red onion, cut in thin wedges
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 large green bell pepper or poblano, cut in strips (if using poblanos, you must remove the tough, outer skin)
1/4 cup washed fresh cilantro leaves (more for garnish, if desired)
Juice of one fresh lime
1 large ripe tomato
Kosher salt, to taste

Mike’s fajita rub
1 tsp. liquid smoke
Juice of 3 fresh limes (a very effective natural tenderizer)
4 cloves mashed garlic
1/4 cup XV olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

Wood charcoal (please, gas grills just don’t do this recipe justice.)
Mesquite wood chips
12×12″ aluminum foil square



Aggressively pierce the flank steak with a needle tenderizer on both sides, sprinkle generously with rub (working it in with your fingers) and place in large ziplock bag. Mix the marinade ingredients well in a bowl and add to the bag. DO NOT SLICE UP THE STEAK AT THIS POINT. YOU WILL DO THIS AFTER YOU GRILL IT. Coat well, remove the air and place the sealed bag in the fridge for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. Rotate occasionally.

Prepare your mesquite chips for the grill by either soaking them in water for a couple hours OR by placing them dry in a wrapped aluminum foil packet with several holes punched in the side. Either method works well. If you cannot find mesquite chips you can also use hickory.

When ready to grill, cut up your vegetables and set aside so you don’t have to rush everything at once.

Prepare the grill with real wood charcoal; when they turn white, throw on the mesquite chips. Sprinkle a little more fajita rub on each side of the steak. Grill until it is medium-rare, 7-10 minutes. YOU WILL FINISH COOKING THE STEAK IN THE PAN, so don’t worry if it’s a tad pink or even red. This is a good thing.

Remove the steak from the grill and set aside on a cutting board for FIVE MINUTES. This step is critical, as the juices of the steak will draw back into the meat. If you cut it immediately, it would dry out and be tough.

Restoke the charcoal, if necessary. Bring a large, well-seasoned cast-iron pan up to HIGH heat. There really is no substitute for cast-iron with this recipe. The intense heat will warp or burn the non-stick coating off all other pans. I also don’t like using the smaller fajita-style pans like restaurants use, as they are ridiculously small for a family-sized portion prepared in one easy batch. I prefer to place the pan directly on the outdoor charcoal grilling grate.

Add about two tbs. of olive oil to the pan and sear the onion and peppers until slightly blackened. Stir once and add the garlic.

Using a very sharp chef knife, quickly slice up the meat in 1/4″ strips at a bias, ensuring the cuts are perpendicular to the grain of the meat. Add to the pan and stir once. Top with chopped tomato and lightly salt. Add the cilantro leaves and drizzle with lime juice. Remove from heat immediately and serve on tortilla shells with guacamole and your choice of salsa.

Serves 4-6


Don’t fret if you didn’t get it right the first time. This recipe is a lot of work and requires split-second timing during the cooking process. Practice makes perfect and you will ascend to grilling guru status in no time!

Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas | Culinary Compost Recipes

Mike's Famous Guacamole | Culinary Compost

Preparing Roasted Poblano Peppers | Culinary Compost Recipes

Preparing the roasted poblano peppers.

Toasting Flour Tortillas over a Cast-Iron Comal | Culinary Compost

Toasting flour tortillas over a cast-iron comal.

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch | Culinary Compost

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch. The tough outer skin is unpalatable and should be removed before baking.


Fire Canyon Grilled Steak Chili

This recipe is not for the faint-of-heart. The rub on the steak is killer and adds a completely new dimension when thrown on the grill with the onions and jalapenos blackened over mesquite wood chips. An Indian Summer favorite.


3 lbs. sirloin steak
XV olive oil
2 huge spanish or yellow onions, quartered
6 jalapeno peppers, stemmed
1 bulb garlic (each clove peeled and minced)
3 cups beef stock
1 cup strong black coffee
1 32 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tbs. dried mexican oregano leaf
1 tbs. ground cayenne pepper
2 tbs. toasted cumin (ground in mortar from seed)
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Liquid Smoke, hickory or mesquite flavor
1/3 cup pure mild Chimayo chili powder
2 cups dried pinto beans (soaked overnight and rinsed)
2 tbs. masa harina (cornmeal) used as thickener.

Mike’s Fire Canyon rub

Mesquite wood chips for the grill


Wash and soak the dried pinto beans overnight in a covered bowl filled with water on your kitchen counter.

Soak the mesquite chips in water for at least 1 hour before grill time. If you’re in a hurry, you can also smoke them dried when ready to grill in a tinfoil packet punched with a few holes. Preheat your charcoal grill with enough coals to cook 3-4 steaks at the same time. My Weber® 22″ kettle grill is awesome for this purpose.

While the grill is preheating, brush the steaks lightly with olive oil and liberally sprinkle the rub on each side of the steak, being careful not to touch your eyes, or breath in the dust particles. Using a pair of food service gloves or a sheet of plastic wrap over your fingers, work the rub into the meat. Place aside on a plate.

On a separate cutting board, quarter the onions and brush with olive oil. Stem the jalapenos (leave them whole) and place in a serving bowl with the onions and mix until coated with the oil. Take care not to let the onions fall apart.

When ready to grill, throw the whole mesquite chips or enclosed tinfoil packet on the coals.

Place the onions and jalapenos on the grill using a pair of long tongs. Let the surfaces blacken. Rotate once and remove to a covered bowl. Place the steak on the grill and sear each side quickly to seal in the juices. You do not need to cook the steak all the way through. Just blacken the outsides a bit and leave the interior medium-rare.

Transfer the steak to a clean cutting board and let sit for five minutes. Heat a 5 qt. dutch oven with the beef stock, black coffee and canned whole tomatoes to a low simmer. Mash the tomatoes against the bottom of the pot with a large spoon or potato masher.

Slice the steak into 1/2″ chunks and add to the pot. Drain the beans in a colander and add to the pot.

Chop the blackened onion and jalapenos to the coarseness desired and add to pot. Add the dry spices, minced garlic, liquid smoke and simmer uncovered for 3-4 hours, until beans are tender, stirring occasionally.

Masa may be used as a thickener during the last 15 minutes.

Serve with skillet cornbread and butter.

Serves 4-6.