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Black Cherry Soda Chicken

Black Cherry Soda Chicken recipe from Beer-Can Chicken by Steven Raichlen.

Poultry and cherries seem made for each other—a relationship appreciated by anyone who has enjoyed Persian duck with sour cherries or French canard aux cerises (duck with sour cherries). These gave me the idea for a beer-can chicken made with black cherry soda.

Black Cherry Soda Chicken recipe from Beer-Can Chicken by Steven Raichlen.

Black Cherry Soda Chicken

Steven Raichlen
Indirect Grilling
Green tea and sumac may seem like odd ingredients to pair with cherries, but the earthy flavor of the tea and tartness of the sumac balance the sweetness of the soda beautifully. Serve with a side of grilled broccoli rabe, thick slices of grilled red onion, and, of course, your favorite beer.
Black Cherry Barbecue Sauce
Makes About 2 Cups
A triple blast of fruit flavor here comes from black cherry soda, cherry preserves, and canned Bing cherries. The purist would start with fresh cherries. (You'd need to pit about a pound.) For the sake of si1nplicity, use the canned.
• 3/4 cup black cherry soda (reserved from Black Cherry Soda Chicken)
• 1 can Bing cherries (17 ounces), drained
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more as needed
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon sugar, or more as needed
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 cup dry red wine
• 1 tablespoon cornstarch
• Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
1) Put the cherry soda, cherries, cherry preserves, lemon juice, butter, sugar, cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons of wine in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and let the sauce simmer gently for 3 to 5 minutes.
2) Put the remaining 1 tablespoon wine and the cornstarch in a small bowl and stir to form a slurry (thick paste). Whisk this paste into the cherry sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil over high heat to thicken, about 1 minute.
3) Taste for seasoning, adding more sugar or lemon juice to adjust the sweetness and also adding salt and pepper if necessary; the sauce should be highly seasoned. Serve warm or at room temperature. The sauce can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week. Let return to room temperature or warm over medium heat before serving.
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings 2 -4 servings


  • 1-1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory or cherry), soaked for 30 minutes in water to cover, then drained
  • Vertical chicken roaster (optional)


For the rub:

  • 1 tablespoon dried green tea leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac, or 2 teaspoons lemon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion or shallot flakes
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea) 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (if using sumac; omit if using lemon pepper)

For chicken:

  • 1 can (12 ounces) black cherry soda 
  • 1 (3-1/2 to 4 pounds) chicken
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • Black Cherry Barbecue Sauce (recipe above)


  • Make the rub: Put the green tea, sumac, onion flakes, salt, and black pepper, if using, in a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind them to a fine powder.
  • Pop the tab off the black cherry soda can. Pour half of the soda (¾ 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. Set the soda can aside.
  • Remove and discard the fat just inside the chicken’s body and neck cavities. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of rub inside the body cavity and ½ 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 of rub and rub it all over the skin. Spoon the remaining rub into the soda through a hole in the top of the can. Don’t worry if the soda 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 beer 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.
    If cooking on a roaster: Fill it with the soda mixture and position the chicken on top, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Tuck the tips of the wings behind the chicken’s back.
  • 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 (175°F on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh, but not touching the bone), 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 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.
  • Present the bird to your guests. Let the chicken rest for 3 to 5 minutes, then carefully lift it off the support. Take care not to spill the hot soda or otherwise burn yourself. Halve, quarter, or carve the chicken and serve with the Black Cherry Barbecue Sauce.


Beer-Can Chicken by Steven Raichlen (© 2024). Published by Workman Publishing.Recipe reprinted with permission from Beer-Can Chicken by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, 2024). 
Keyword Beer-Can Chicken, Black cherry, black cherry soda, Black pepper, chicken, Green tea, Lemon pepper, Onion, Salt, Shallot, Soda, Steven Raichlen, Sumac, Summer, Vegetable oil

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