We’ve all giggled at memes and or at our own chicken when you shove a beer can up its bum. There are many recipes out there for Beer Can chicken, also known as beer-in-the-butt chicken or beer butt chicken, that range from as easy as just the can to brining, rubbed and roasting.
Ours is an American classic that makes a juicy, fall-off-the-bone whole chicken.
It uses a classic American beverage (beer) and couples it with America’s favorite meat (chicken) using America’s favorite cooking method (grilling). Despite the simplicity of this cooking concept people tend to mess it up quite frequently. Below is a foolproof way to prepare zesty Beer Can Chicken every time.
How Does Beer Can Chicken Work?
The concept is fairly simple. The beer evaporates during the cooking process to keep the meat moist and also infuse it with flavor, whatever flavor the beer carries.
Grilling is a great method for chicken, but commonly ends up being dry or chewy. The problem is that chicken needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° through and through. The exterior tends to cook faster than the interior which results in uneven cooking.
Introducing moisture into the air of a hot grill assists in keep the chicken juicy, but let the outside develop a nice bark or crust booming with spices.
Beer Can Chicken Spice Rub
You can really use any any spice rub you like from just salt and pepper to a premade or rub, or opt for my homemade version.
It makes a satly, sweet and just barely spicy crust that caramelizes over the chicken helps to crisp up the skin. I don’t like crispy skin and juicy chicken… said no one ever.
Here is what you’ll need to whip up a batch… and I promise you already have it in your pantry. Make a double or even triple batch, as this spice blend also tastes great on pork, cuts of chicken and even steaks.
- Coarse Kosher salt- please use a coarse sea salt or Kosher salt, it gives the best pure salt flavor without being too salty.
- Brown Sugar- white sugar can be used, as can dark brown sugar.
- Smoked Paprika– gives a mild heat with smoky essence.
- Black pepper- Omit if you don’t want a pepper element.
- Garlic Powder & Onion Powder- These are used to give onion and garlic flavor since fresh ingredients would otherwise burn for this length of time on the grill. Make sure they are less than 6 months old for the best flavor profile.
If you want a little more kick, consider adding chili powder or crushed red pepper flakes to the spice blend.
You’ll also need a beer and a whole roasting chicken. Light beer works great for a mild flavor, as does Narragansett beer, known as the official beer of Jaws the movie, because it’s salty. A larger chicken is best because the beer can needs to fit into the cavity and it won’t with a small one.
How to Make Beer Can Chicken
After deciding on a spice blend, all you need is your favorite beer and a chicken. I do suggest using a lager and not something over flavorful. It might sound bland, but I like a light beer so the flavors don’t overpower anything else.
- Prepare your grill- either charcoal grill or gas grill. Heat to medium high heat and clean the grates.
- Unwrap and clean the chicken. Cut off any excess fat or chicken skin and remove giblets. Pat dry with paper towels really well so the skin is totally dry. Set the chicken on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet or roasting pan. Using a disposable one is also nice for easy clean up. This helps you get the chicken from point A to point B easily and also prevents it from falling through on the grill and the need for a drip pan. Check to make sure the sheet you use fits on the grill with the lid closed.
- Mix together the spice blend in a small bowl and then, starting at the neck, gently loosen skin from breast down to the drum sticks with your fingers. Massage the dry rub underneath and on the outside of the chicken so it gets flavor from both directions. Some folks use olive oil, but I find that even after patting dry, there is still plenty of liquid to make a paste from the seasoning to help it stick. It also makes a better bark instead of just sliding off while cooking.
- Open a can of beer and take 2-3 big swigs (about 1/3 of the can). Using a can opener make an additional opening on the opposite side of the can so it can evaporate well.
- Take the beer can and shove it into the chicken cavity. The chicken will be sitting up with the beer can sitting on the aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Tuck in the ends of the wings (flappers). The chicken will look like it is dancing with its arms behind its head. You can also use a contraption to help it stand up, like this silly Chicken on a Motorcycle.
- Place the entire baking sheet with the chicken onto the grill over indirect heat (meaning turn off heat on one side and place the chicken on the opposite side of the grill). Close the lid and keep closed, peeking to make sure it is still upright every 30 minutes. You might get a few flare-ups if the fat drips onto the flames, but hopefully the baking sheet will catch most of it while allowing the chicken to stay standing upright through the whole cooking process.
- Cook for 90-120 minutes. Check to make sure the internal temperature is 160°F using a meat thermometer at the thickest part of the thigh. Allow the chicken to rest for another 10-15 minutes, which should also raise the internal temperature to 165°. Cooking times vary depending on the grill and size.
- Carve and serve with barbeque sauce.
BBQ Sauce Options
Cola BBQ Sauce is optional, but highly recommended. It is simple and you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen. Syrup in the cola breaks down for a sticky, spicy and sweet glaze.
I serve mine on the side and just dip pieces of chicken. Liquid Smoke gives the sauce a charcoal grilled flavor even if you baked it in the oven.
Leftovers & Freezing
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave, oven or even in an aluminum pan on the grill again. The latter two are the best bets for even heating and preventing the chicken being rubbery.
Beer can chicken is also excellent for using in any recipe that calls for shredded chicken. You can also shred it and freeze in a plastic bag, just make sure to get out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.
More easy chicken recipes:
- Chicken Fried Bacon
- Blackened Chicken
- Chicken Brine
- Grilled Chicken Sandwiches
- Chicken Thigh Recipes
- Crockpot Chicken Recipes
Tools for making Beer Can Chicken:
Grilled Chicken Stand – You don’t really need to have this, but it does help stabilize your chicken.
Beer Can Chicken Recipe
- Prepare the grill. Make sure you have plenty of propane or charcoal. You will have this baby on there for 2 hours so plan accordingly. Heat grill to high heat. You might need to remove the top rack so the chicken will have enough room to sit upright with the lid closed.
- Clean the chicken by removing any excess fat or skin and removing the giblets. Pat dry with a paper towel. Set on a foil lined baking sheet (check to make sure it fits on the grill).
- In a small bowl combine the salt, sugar, paprika, pepper, onion power and garlic powder.
- Starting at the neck, gently loosen skin from breast down to the drum sticks with your fingers. Massage spice mixture underneath skin over then over the outside of the skin.
- Open the beer and take 2-3 big swigs (about 1/3 of the can). Using a can opener make an additional opening on the opposite side of the can from the pop top.
- Take the beer can and shove it up the body cavity. The chicken will be sitting up with the beer can sitting on the aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Tuck in the ends of the wings (flappers). The chicken will look like it is dancing with its arms behind its head.
- Place the entire baking sheet with chicken onto the grill over indirect heat. Close. Keep closed, peeking to make sure it is still upright every 30 minutes. You might get a few flare-ups if the fat drips onto the flames, but hopefully the baking sheet will catch most of it while allowing the chicken to stay standing upright through the whole cooking process.
- If you are making Cola BBQ Sauce, start it up now.
- Remove the chicken at 2 hours and allow to stand for 10 minutes before carving. The chicken should have an internal temperature of 160°F. Carry over cooking while resting will bring it to 165°F.
- Serve with Cola BBQ Sauce or your favorite BBQ sauce.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings!