Beer Can Chicken

VideoGrillChickenGrilled Chicken

What's Beer Can Chicken, you ask?! A whole chicken cooked upright with a can of beer as its base. The reward? Tender, falling-off-the-bone chicken that's moist on the inside, crispy on the outside.

Photography Credit: October Creative and 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.

VIDEO! How to Make 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.

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Updated August 17, 2020 : We added a new video to this recipe to help you make the best Beer Can Chicken ever. No changes to the recipe. Enjoy!

Beer Can Chicken Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Oven Instructions: 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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107 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Rolf

    I use a vertical rack designed for the beer can. But I do the following. I brine the chicken over night in a 50/50 mix of apple cider and bottled spring water. (our well water is not good for this). For a large chicken in a tall pot, it only takes a little over half a gallon of liquid to cover the chicken. I add 1/4 cup salt, 3/8 cup brown sugar, and some Italian herbs…mix well and place in chicken.
    The next day, rinse chicken well then dry with paper towels. Coat with olive oil, Italian herbs and a good dry rub. Place on the vertical roaster (without the beer can), in a roasting pan with a low grate in the bottom. Pour 1 bottle of strong beer into the roasting pan.
    In the gas BBQ I use a small metal wood smoking container with apple wood chips. Fire up the two side burners and close it up. Come back in 1hr and 50 min. for a 6 lb chicken. Remove and let rest for 15 minutes covered with foil.
    Carve and enjoy.

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Ben

    What temp should I maintain on the charcoal grill? I don’t want to get it to hot , thanks!

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Keith S

    I have been making beer can chickens for years and was looking for variations, this is a great recipe and thank you for sharing. I have previously marinated the chicken overnight in a freezer bag with a 40/60 mix of beer and buttermilk with my spices added to the marinade. Then I roasted it on the beer can WOW This was probably the best chicken I have had.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Martin L

    Cans insides are lined with a bpa film, outsides are either labelled with plastic, shrink sleeved, or ink and varnish coating. Heated and eaten it must be a great way to foster cancer.

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Debra

    Question about the (Weber charcoal) grill. Should the vents on top and bottom be open?
    All the way, half way?
    Thanks!

    Show Replies (1)
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