Beer Can Chicken

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Is it just me, or is beer can chicken a boy thing? Look, I grew up with four younger brothers, and if you told them you were going to insert a half-drunk beer into the butt of a chicken and grill it, I think they would actually get interested in cooking.

Joking aside, this is a brilliant way to roast a chicken, on the grill or in the oven. Yes the chicken looks rather ridiculous on its beer can perch, covered with an herb rub and half-ready to salute you. But hear me out. While the chicken is dry roasting on the outside, the inside is being bathed with steamy beer, keeping the chicken meat wonderfully moist.

Beer Can Chicken

The result is tender, falling-off-the-bone meat, encased in salty, herby, crispy skin. What follows is a basic method for beer can chicken (also known as beer butt chicken for obvious reasons).

We’re using just some olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme on the chicken, which we believe brings out the best in the chicken’s flavor. You can easily experiment with your favorite spice rub, or even use wine or root beer instead of a standard beer.

Beer Can Chicken Recipe

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  • Cook time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

You can also roast a chicken this way in the oven. Just place it as directed on an open half-filled can of beer, sitting up, in a roasting pan on the lower rack of your oven. Roast at 350°F until done (about an hour fifteen to an hour and a half for a 4 lb chicken). For an alcohol-free version of this recipe, just fill a pint mason jar halfway with chicken stock and use it instead of the beer. You can also use an open can of baked beans (remove the label) instead of the beer. The chicken juices will run into and flavor the baked beans, which you can then use as a side dish for the chicken.

Ingredients

  • 1 4-pound whole chicken
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or other vegetable oil
  • 1 opened, half-full can of beer, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper

Method

1 Prepare your grill for indirect heat. If you are using charcoal, put the coals on one side of the grill, leaving another side free of coals. If you are using a gas grill, fire up only half of the burners.

2 Remove neck and giblets from cavity of chicken, if the chicken came with them. Rub the chicken all over with olive oil. Mix the salt, pepper, and thyme in a little bowl, then sprinkle it all over the chicken.

3 Make sure the beer can is open, and only half-filled with beer (drink the other half!) If you want, you can put a sprig of thyme (or another herb like rosemary or sage) in the beer can. Lower the chicken on to the open can, so that the chicken is sitting upright, with the can in its cavity. Place the chicken on the cool side of the grill, using the legs and beer can as a tripod to support the chicken on the grill and keep it stable.

4 Cover the grill and walk away. Do not even check the chicken for at least an hour. After an hour, check the chicken and refresh the coals if needed (if you are using a charcoal grill). Keep checking the chicken every 15 minutes or so, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160°F - 165°F. The total cooking time will vary depending on the size of your chicken, and the internal temperature of the grill. A 4 lb chicken will usually take around 1 1/2 hours. If you don't have a meat thermometer, a way to tell if the chicken is done is to poke it deeply with a knife (the thigh is a good place to do this), if the juices run clear, not pink, the chicken is done.

5 Carefully transfer the chicken to a tray or pan. I say "carefully" because the beer can, and the beer inside of it, is quite hot. One way to do this is to slide a metal spatula under the bottom of the beer can. Use tongs to hold the top of the chicken. Lift the chicken, beer can still inside, and move it to a tray. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes. Carefully lift the chicken off of the can. If it gets stuck, lay the chicken on its side, and pull out the can with tongs.

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Links:

Tuscan Beer Can Chicken from Family Style Food

Chipotle Beer Can Chicken from Phoo-D

Beer Can Pheasant from Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Beer Can Chicken from Sam Sifton of the New York Times

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Showing 4 of 110 Comments

  • Noris Rivera

    Hi there, I don’t have a grill, can this be done in the oven, and if so at what temp?

  • Spencer

    Ok call me stupid but even with a large chicken there’s no way a beer can is going up any part of it. What are you guys using, eagles?

  • Dan

    I love beer, but beer has little to do with why I love this method. The meat is scrumptiously moist, ALL of the skin is crisp and delectable and the chicken stock or baked bean variations sound every bit as good, and maybe better, as the beer can tradition (which I’ve used with good results several times). We’re going to try one of them tonight…thanks!

  • jimmy

    try ginger ale if you do not drink or have beer.

  • James Murray

    Hello to all. My son and myself have a cookoff team (Back Woods Kuntry Kookers) and we came up with a dry rub we use with Dr. Pepper injection on the chicken along with a Dr. Pepper can for those that can’t drink. Some of the best I’ve ever made but it work best if you can put it on a grill or smoker.

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