Beer Can Chicken

GrillChickenGrilled Chicken

Tender, falling-off-the-bone, moist on the inside, crispy on the outside. That's what you get with beer can chicken (also known as beer butt chicken).

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or other vegetable oil
  • 1 opened, half-full can of beer, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt or sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon 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 Season the chicken, rub with oil: Remove neck and giblets from cavity of chicken, if the chicken came with them. Mix the salt, pepper, and thyme in a little bowl, and rub it all over the chicken. Rub the chicken all over with olive oil.

3 Lower chicken onto half-filled beer can: 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.

4 Grill on indirect heat: 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.

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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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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81 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Rick

    I use sprite with my chicken. The lemon/lime flavor adds to the chicken flavor. I have tried beer but the sprite is much better and so moist.

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  2. keith

    i looked up the recipe and you were the only one to tell me the grill has to be at 350. thank you and thanks for a great recipe.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Jill

    Made this for years. I use coca cola instead of beer. This is so easy and delicious. The easiest meat I have ever cooked.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Donna

    An hour and a half was way too long for us. Chicken was black and dry but we managed to salvage enough for our dinner. Made for a funny story! Tried it again for an hour and it was great!

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Dana

    Made it twice now. Both times was absolutely DELICIOUS! the rub is so good. Nothing was left but bones. I think we’re ready to try coke and a bbq rub! Do you have a bbq rub Elise?

    xxxxxyyyyy

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