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Beer Can Chicken

Beer can chicken is a completely silly recipe that also happens to be seriously delicious.

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homemade beer can chicken recipe on a grill

Beer Can Chicken

While the origins of this unusual-yet-iconic dish are murky, everyone seems to generally agree that beer can chicken was created in the south at least a few decades ago. If it can be said that certain recipes have a collegiate vibe, then beer can chicken sits on top of the heap as the most summery, college-campus-y of all. You barbecue a whole chicken balanced on a partially-full can of beer. What could possibly be more novel or silly or...wait? Delicious? Yep, this beer can chicken recipe is both a silly AND completely delectable way to cook a whole chicken.

A super simple beer can chicken rub ensures that the outside is well-seasoned, while the beer lends a hint of flavor and (maybe) some moisture to the chicken meat. Juicy, tender and most of all easy, our beer can chicken recipe (aka “beer butt chicken”) is definitely the most fun you’ll ever have grilling a whole chicken.

a can of beer, a whole chicken and a bowl of spices

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Beer Can Chicken Seasoning

A really great whole chicken, grilled to juicy perfection over indirect heat—which is what you’ll need to use BTW, and we’ll explain more about that later—doesn’t need a whole lot of help to be delicious. With charred skin and a bit of smoke from the grill, it’ll be rich and savory no matter what. So we like to keep our beer can chicken seasoning pretty darn basic—a quick raid of the spice rack is all you’ll need to whip up this rub. Just mix together:

  • Kosher salt

  • Brown sugar

  • Paprika

  • Black pepper

  • Garlic powder

kosher salt, brown sugar, paprika, black pepper and garlic powder mixed together in a bowl

What Is the Best Beer for Beer Can Chicken?

The best beer for beer can chicken is the kind of beer that you’d like to sip while you watch the grill. Imagine a hot day, breeze blowing but plenty of ambient heat from that coal fire (or gas grill)—what’s in your hand? For us, it’s a lager every time. All-American, mass-produced lagers are the gold standard for beer can chicken—stuff like a can of Miller, or a Budwieser—but you don’t need to feel married to any one brand. If you can find Stella in a can, or a Montucky Cold Snack or even a good old PBR. Whatever you’d actually like to drink about half of before popping your chicken on the grill is the right choice.

a whole raw chicken on parchment paper rubbed with spices

How to Make Beer Can Chicken

Your process for making beer can chicken will be slightly different if you’re using a gas grill than if you have a charcoal grill, but you can make it on either! The main thing to know is that you want to cook the chicken over indirect heat. On a gas grill, indirect heat is going to be achieved by turning off the burners directly below the bird. On a charcoal grill, you’ll create an area of indirect heat by pushing the coals (after they’re hot) to one side.

  1. Crack open a beer. Drink some of it. Is this not the best first step of a recipe ever??

  2. Mix up the beer can chicken seasoning rub!

  3. Season the whole chicken inside and out with the spice blend.

  4. Beer can the chicken! Working carefully, slip the half-empty beer can into the cavity of the bird until about two inches of the can is left out of the chicken.

  5. Set the can and chicken on one side of the grill. If using a gas grill, turn off the burners directly under the chicken. Cover grill and allow to cook until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 on the thickest part of the breast, about 90 minutes. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

raw chicken on a beer can on a grill

What Temperature Should Beer Can Chicken Be Cooked To?

Your whole grilled chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken thigh reads 165°F. Depending on the size of your chicken and the type of grill you use, this means that your beer can chicken cook time will vary a bit. We recommend starting to check the temp at an hour and 15 minutes, and then keep checking regularly until you see that 165°F. Also, when you’re checking the internal temperature, make sure that you’re not touching the bone.

What to Serve With Beer Can Chicken

Beer can chicken is a classic summer BBQ recipe and is best paired with other classic summer fare! It’s a total no-brainer. While the grill is on, cook up some Grilled corn on the cob. Make up some of our favorite summer salads, like Potato salad and Macaroni Salad. Make sure to set out a big bowl of Chips and Salsa to complete this backyard party. Everyone’s happy when you put out a plate of Rice Crispy Treats or Classic Fudgy Brownies. A pie or two would also earn some accolades, like our Peach Pie or a classic Apple Pie!

More Recipes To Give Your Grill Some Action

While the grill is on, might as well try some more great recipes over the open flame! Here’s some more from our vault:

homemade beer can chicken recipe on a grill

A Silly Recipe That’s Seriously Good. Who Knew?

We hope you adore this easy beer can chicken recipe as much as we do. It’s true blue backyard fun. If you make it, let us know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Beer Can Chicken

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  10 min
  • Cook Time:  1 hr 30 min
  • Calories: 455

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablepsoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablepsoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablepsoon garlic powder
  • 1 (4-5 pound) whole chicken
  • 1 (12-ounce) can lager beer

Method

On The Grill

  1. Preheat the grill on medium (350°F-375°F). If using charcoal, arrange the coals on one side of the grill.

  2. In a small bowl combine the salt, sugar, paprika, pepper, and garlic powder.

  3. Season the chicken inside and out with the spice blend. Pour out (or drink) half of the beer and secure the chicken cavity over the beer can, pressing down until only 2-inches of the can is showing at the bottom.

  4. Set the chicken-topped can (right side up) on one side of the grill. Turn off the burners directly under the chicken. (If using a charcoal grill, avoid placing the chicken directly over the hot coals. Cover the grill. Cook until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F on the thickest part of the thigh, about 90 minutes.

  5. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.

In the Oven

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the lower ⅓ of the oven.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the salt, brown sugar, paprika, pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. Season the chicken inside and out with the spice blend. Pour out (or drink) half of the beer and secure the chicken cavity over the beer can, pressing down until only 2-inches of the can is showing at the bottom.
  4. Set the chicken-topped can (right side up) into a cast iron skillet or baking dish. Roast the chicken 15 minutes per pound, or until internal temperature taken at the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer, and the juices run clear.
  5. Begin checking for doneness when 20 minutes remain.
  6. Remove the skillet from the oven, carefully lay the chicken flat, breast side up, on the skillet or in baking dish and remove the beer can.
  7. Turn on the broiler and return the chicken to the oven. Broil until the skin is browned and crispy, 5-8 minutes.
    Transfer the chicken to a cutting board; let rest for 10 minutes. Carve and serve.

Note: Serve with your favorite sauces. We suggest buttermilk ranch, chimichurri or romesco.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories455
  • Protein62 g
  • Carbohydrates5 g
  • Total Fat19 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol240 mg
  • sodium2122 mg
  • Total Sugars3 g

Beer Can Chicken

Questions & Reviews

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  • Laureen

    I am trying it in the over tonight and setting the temp on 350. I used Weber grill can Chicken rub in my chicken. Will see how it comes out. Also will put in the broiler for 10 mins after I bake it for 75 mins.

    can't wait to hear how it turns out!

  • Laura

    How would I cook one in the oven?

    We haven't tested this in the oven yet but it is on our list to do! If you try it, we would recommend baking it on 350 for probably from 60 - 75 minutes. Make sure the juices run clear and internal temperature is 165 before taking out of the oven. Good luck!

  • Anne

    Love the chicken. Cooked in the oven. It was juicy and tender. Flavor was excellent.
    Very easy. It was raining today so next time I'll do it on the grill!

    Thanks Anne, so happy you loved it!

  • Ann

    Awesome rub! We make beer can chicken a lot but this is the first time the flavor of the rub really came through. The brown sugar especially give the chicken a beautiful crispy skin. I had a 3.5# chicken and mine was done on the charcoal grill in 60 minutes. Added applewood for smoking.

    Thanks Ann! Glad you enjoyed it! The addition of applewood sounds delicious!

  • Alexandra

    OMG. This was the best! And so simple! I have a charcoal barbecue and it only took an hour to cook an insanely delicious, tender chicken that was beautifully crisp on the outside. Thank you!