A damn fine beer-can chicken recipe

beer can chicken recipe reicpe

If you need an amusing diversion, try imagining how beer can chicken came to be. Picture four or five guys–each about nine beers deep–standing around and staring at a raw whole chicken. After a long, profound silence, one of these heroes whispers, “let’s put a beer up its butt,” and humanity takes a bold step forward.

By the grace of sweet Providence, using a beer can is actually a decent way to grill chicken. Though there’s some debate over how beer influences moisture and flavor, the vertical setup at least helps the meat cook evenly. Plus, cooking a chicken with beer is just plain fun. If you’d like to give it a whirl, check out the beer can chicken recipe below.


  • 1 whole chicken (3 to 5 pounds)
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • your dry rub of choice
  • 1 12-oz can of beer


  1. Preheat your gas grill to about 350 degrees or start the coals in your charcoal grill
  2. Remove giblets from a thawed chicken. Discard them or set them aside for gravy if you wish.
  3. Rinse the inside and outside of the chicken thoroughly with cold water, then pat the whole thing dry with paper towels.
  4. Rub a light coat of vegetable oil on the chicken’s inside and outside, then do the same with your salt, pepper, and dry rub. Which dry rub you use depends on your personal preference. Some guys use a spicy mixture of chili powder, paprika, and brown sugar, while others go for an herb rub of sage, rosemary, and thyme.
  5. We don’t recommend grilling while drunk, but you shouldn’t exactly be sober, either. It’s un-American. So crack open a can of room temperature beer and take a few healthy pulls. Drink a quarter to a half of the beer (who are we kidding, drink half) and poke a few holes in the top of the can.
  6. NOTE: Technically you don’t have to use a beer can, but c’mon–who wants to eat “Diet 7-Up can chicken”?
  7. Set your beer on a flat surface, then gently lower the chicken onto the beer can to create a tripod effect. Balance may be an issue, which is why smaller birds are generally better for beer can chicken
  8. Once you get your grill to medium-high heat, it’s time to get cooking. You should be able to close the top of the grill–another reason why a smaller bird is best. If you’re using a charcoal grill, wait until the coals are an ashy grey color and make sure they aren’t directly beneath the cooking area. Direct heat will cook the chicken unevenly.
  9. NOTE: For help stabilizing your chicken, consider placing a disposable aluminum pan beneath the can or use a special cooking rack.
  10. As you might have learned in our prime rib article, there’s no precise, fool-proof cooking time for meat. Generally speaking, you should cook the chicken somewhere between 1 and 1.5 hours. Start checking the internal temperature after 45 minutes, then keep checking every 15 minutes after that. The chicken should be ready once the thick part of the breast (white meat) reaches 160-165 degrees and the thigh (dark meat) reaches 175-180 degrees
  11. Remove the bird from the grill very carefully. This is somewhat easier if you have your chicken on an aluminum pan. If you’re taking the bird straight from the grill, enlist the help of one or two folks with grilling mitts, tongs, and spatulas.
  12. After you take the bird off the grill, let it sit atop its beer can throne for another 15 minutes or so.
  13. You know what to do. Start carving and enjoy. It should serve about four.

In addition to being a marvel of human endeavor, beer can chicken is fun, easy, and delicious. The next time you’re drinking beers with a few buddies and a raw whole chicken, consider shoving a beer can up the chicken’s keister and tossing it on the grill. It’s bound to be a hit.