Beer can chicken

Beer can chicken

I first heard of this crazy method of grilling a chicken about 12 years ago. It sounded funny and looked even funnier. You shove a beer can up the cavity of a chicken, stand it up on the grill grates and let it cook standing up at attention.

The technique is actually pretty ingenious. Standing it up promotes even cooking and browning while the steam created by the evaporating beer keeps the meat juicy and helps cook a bit faster. If you add aromatics, such as garlic, herbs, citrus to the beer, it will also impart some flavor. I have no idea where this technique originated but kudos to the person that came up with this.

These days, beer can chicken is pretty common. There are many variations on the original recipe and cookbooks devoted to this specific method of cooking a chicken. You can vary the liquid in the can, the rub or marinade for the chicken. I've even heard of using this technique for the cooking of other birds. I assume the standard 12 ounce can would have to be substituted for, however. There are now devices and stands, such as this one, that allow you to keep the bird better situated while cooking. Tipping over can be common with this technique - it's definitely happened to me.

I think the most important thing to remember with the beer can chicken technique is that you have to use indirect heat. If you are using charcoal, once the coals are lit, put piles of coals on the sides and situate the chicken in-between where there are no coals. I suggest putting a disposable foil pan underneath to catch the drippings. For a gas grill, after preheating, turn the burner(s) directly below the chicken off. That way, the chicken will cook evenly and brown evenly and you will be spared of crazy flare-ups. Also, remove any large chunks of fat that are usually attached to the skin right at the cavity opening.


Ingredients: 3.5-4 lb chicken, 12 oz can of beer, 1 TB kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 2 cloves garlic, bay leaves

  1. Preheat grill or set up charcoal grill for indirect grilling.
  2. Combine salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, thyme to create a dry rub and apply all over the chicken as well as inside the cavity.
  3. Open the can of beer and take a couple of gulps. 
  4. Add the garlic cloves and a few bay leaves to the beer.
  5. Set the chicken on the can of beer by sliding the chicken cavity over the beer. Or use a beer can chicken holder.
  6. Set the chicken upright on the grill with indirect heat. If you are not using a holder, double check the legs to make sure the chicken is standing securely.
  7. Close the lid and cook the chicken until the internal temperature registers 180°. This could take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on the size of the chicken and the heat of your grill. I usually allow about an hour.
  8. When the chicken is done, remove carefully and allow to rest about 10 minutes.
  9. Carefully remove the beer can.
  10. Carve the bird up however you do it and eat!