This week, Popeye’s Chicken announced a limited-time promotion that got everyone’s attention: beer can chicken. For those unfamiliar with this Southern roasting technique, it involves cracking open a can of beer, drinking half of it, shoving the can up the rear of a whole chicken, and then standing it up on a covered grill to cook. The theory is that the beer steams the inside while the outside gets good and crispy; it also looks pretty damn hilarious.
Understandably, the news (and advert above) caused ripples of excitement in the Twitterverse. That is, until people cottoned onto the fact that this chicken is not cooked with beer at all. “It’s not about the beer. It’s about the flavor,” Popeyes CMO Hector Munoz told USA Today, flavor which is imparted by beer-free marinade spices. Which is pretty much like adding artificial chicken and duck flavor to a turkey and calling it a turducken.
Not only is there no beer (or can for that matter) involved in Popeyes new offering, but the chicken is fried rather than grilled, making this seem like even more of an empty marketing gimmick than the average fast food promotion. And some people are calling Popeyes out on it.
— Arseinclarse (@Arseinclarse) September 23, 2014
— Booze News (@booze_news) September 24, 2014
While we can understand people’s exasperation at what is essentially false advertising, it turns out that beer can chicken may not be all it’s cracked up to be. According to a 2012 HuffPo post by Craig Goldwyn, the beer does not ever reach boiling point during this roasting method, and adds neither flavor nor moisture. Impaling a bird on a can of beer doesn’t assist the cooking process at all other than to evenly expose the outside of the chicken to heat. “Beer Butt Bird remains a gimmick and a waste of good beer,” writes Goldwyn, who covers the science of barbecuing and grilling on amazingribs.com.
But still, if you’re going to serve something called beer can chicken, there better be some beer in there somewhere—even if it’s in a cup on the side.