Beer can chicken, or cola chicken, is an easy but super effective barbecue go-to for the warmer months, yielding succulent, moist, flavorful meat with almost no effort. Having just upgraded our grilling setup to a smoker-grill combo, I have been thinking about doing a take on cola chicken lately, and also meditating on smoking a duck. That’s when the epiphany happened. Why not do both at the same time? One could use the charcoal side of the grill* to kiss the meat with smoke and indirect heat at the same time that the cola coats it from the inside out with sticky sweetness. If you want to take this duck in the direction of China, rub it inside and out with some Chinese five spice; if you want something a little more southern, use a Cajun rub.
If you don’t have a charcoal grill, you can still use wood chunks or pellets to impart smokiness to the duck while it cooks.
1 whole duck (about 5 lbs)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 (16 oz) cola can (or beer if you prefer)
Remove the giblets from the cavity of the duck (save for a later use), then rinse it and pat it dry with paper towels inside and out. Trim off the lose skin around the neck to just below the nub where the spine begins. Using a sharp paring knife, carefully and lightly pierce the duck’s skin (but not the meat) all over, to allow the fat to render out while cooking. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper, both on the skin and in the cavity. Refrigerate overnight, uncovered, on a sheet pan (optional).
When you’re ready to cook, rinse and wipe dry the can of cola. Open and pour out 2/3 of the cola. Poke extra holes in the top with a can opener, then spray the can evenly with cooking spray. Gently lower the duck onto the can, tail-first, so that the can enters the cavity. The duck should be able to sit straight up with the tail and ends of the drumsticks resting on your sheet tray or cutting board.
Set up your grill for indirect heat at 350F with a drip pan underneath the duck to catch excess fat. Set the duck onto the grill, sitting up on the can, and close the lid. Cook, maintaining a temperature of 350F, until the duck has reached an internal temperature of 185 when a meat thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh and leg without touching the bone (about 2 hours).
Lift the duck off the can, discard the can, and let the duck rest for 10 minutes or so on a clean cutting board, lightly tented with aluminum foil, before carving up and serving.