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What Is Drunken Chicken?

Tequila can be used to create a Latin American-style drunken chicken.
A chicken.
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  • Written By: Caitlynn Lowe
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2014
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Drunken chicken refers to chicken prepared and cooked with an alcoholic beverage. One of the most popular forms of drunken chicken, particularly in North America, is beer can chicken. Bourbon chicken is another type common to North America. Pollo borracho, typically found in Latin America, is prepared using white wine, tequila, or other comparable alcohols. Versions found in Chinese cuisine are usually prepared with Shaoxing wine or some other type of Chinese liquor.

While drunken chicken includes a range of chicken dishes prepared using different types of alcoholic beverages, not every chicken dish prepared with alcohol fits the term. Typically, a recipe for drunken chicken includes at least 1 cup (approximately 8 ounces or 237 milliliters) of alcohol, if not more. The chicken must be cooked in a way that allows the meat to thoroughly absorb the flavor of the alcohol. In many cases, a whole chicken is used, but some recipes only require pieces of chicken.

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Beer can chicken — also called beer butt chicken, chicken on a throne, and dancing chicken — is a type of drunken chicken especially common to North America. A whole chicken, typically prepared with salt and other seasonings, is placed over an opened, partially-filled can of beer. Keeping the can in an upright position, the cook must transfer the chicken and the beer to a grill, where the chicken slow cooks for an hour or longer. While the beer does not come into direct contact with the chicken meat, the heat warms the can and causes the liquid inside to evaporate. As the beer, now in gas form, fills the inside of the chicken, it permeates and flavors the meat.

Bourbon chicken, another North American version, uses bourbon whiskey as its key ingredient. The dish appears most often in Cajun, Chinese-American, and American barbecue cuisine. A whole chicken is cut into pieces and soaked in a marinade made of bourbon whiskey, soy sauce, brown sugar, and ginger. While it soaks, the meat absorbs the flavor of the whiskey. The prepared chicken can either be grilled, sauteed, or baked.

Pollo borracho is a Latin American version of drunken chicken found most often in Mexican, Argentine, and Chilean cuisines. The type of alcohol used to prepare the dish varies based on the country and the individual cook, but most recipes include tequila along with either white wine or sherry. Pieces of chicken simmer in the alcohol, thoroughly absorbing the flavor of the alcohol as they slowly cook. The chicken is usually cooked and served with olives, as well.

Chinese versions of drunken chicken are typically prepared with some type of Chinese rice wine. In addition to the wine, other alcohol, like sherry, as well as various spices and seasonings can be used. Some cooks prefer to use the wine by itself, however, especially if using aged, vintage Shaoxing wine. Regardless of the recipe, in this type of drunken chicken, pieces of chicken are soaked in a marinade made from the rice wine and cooked in a wok or deep skillet until done.

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