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Beer Can Chicken

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 1 hr 30 min
  • Calories: 596
homemade beer can chicken recipe on a grill

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

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 totally 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

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 so pair it with other classic summer fare! It’s a total no-brainer.

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: 596

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp Brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • 1 Tbsp Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic powder
  • 1 (4-5 lb) Whole chicken
  • 1 (12 oz)can Lager beer

Method

  1. Preheat the grill on high heat. If using charcoal, only have coals on one side of the grill.
  2. In a small bowl combine the salt, brown sugar, paprika, pepper and garlic powder.
  3. Pat the chicken dry inside and out. Season chicken inside and out with prepared spice blend. Pour out or drink half of the beer and set the chicken over the beer can until only 2 inches of the can is showing.
  4. Set the can (right side up) topped with the 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 thigh, about 90 minutes. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
  5. Serve with some of our favorite sauces like buttermilk ranch, chimichurri or romesco.