This beer can chicken is a whole chicken that is coated in homemade BBQ spice rub, then placed on top of a beer can and grilled to smoky and tender perfection. A unique way to eat chicken that always gets rave reviews!
Grilling a whole chicken is simple with this beer can chicken recipe. This dish has just a handful of ingredients, and produces perfectly juicy and tender chicken each and every time.
Ingredients for this recipe
This recipe just has a handful of ingredients including a whole chicken (remove the giblets!), olive oil, salt, BBQ rub and a can of beer.
How do you make beer can chicken?
Start by brushing a whole chicken with olive oil, then covering the inside and outside of the chicken with BBQ rub. Open a can of beer and pour approximately 1/4 of the liquid out. Carefully set the chicken upright on top of the can. Be sure to push the chicken down to create a tripod effect with the legs of the chicken and the beer can to keep everything stable. Cook the chicken over indirect heat on the grill for 60-90 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees F. Garnish with fresh herbs, then serve and enjoy.
Tips for the perfect chicken
- I prefer to use my homemade BBQ rub for this recipe. It takes just minutes to put together and can be used on all types of meat and seafood. If you want to save a little time, you can purchase pre-made rub instead.
- Look for an organic chicken, I find that they have a better flavor than conventionally raised chickens.
- Poke a few holes in the top of the beer can so that the flavor of the beer can fully permeate the chicken.
- Beer can chicken leftovers will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Serve your chicken with mashed potatoes or a rice pilaf, with a side of grilled veggies such as zucchini or asparagus.
Indirect heat on the grill
This beer can chicken needs to be grilled over indirect heat so that it doesn’t burn before the inside cooks through. To create this effect with a charcoal grill, arrange the charcoal on just one side of the grill, and place a drip pan on the other side. Cook the chicken on the drip pan side. For a gas grill, preheat all the burners, then turn half the burners off before you add the chicken. Place the chicken on the side of the grill where the burners are not lit. You can also place a drip pan on the burners that are not lit. Another method is to build a ring of coals along the outer edge of the grill, then place the chicken in the center where there are no coals.
Chicken is ready to eat when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees F. The chicken should not be pink inside, and the juices should run clear. I use a digital thermometer with a remote so that I can monitor the progress of the chicken as it cooks. Place the probe in the thickest part of the breast or in the bottom of the thigh.
I recommend using a lager or a lighter colored ale for this recipe. The flavors are mild enough to enhance the taste of the chicken without being overpowering.
The beer should be room temperature for beer can chicken. A cold beer will just slow down the cooking process!
You are aiming for a grill temperature of somewhere between 325 degrees and 375 degrees F for beer can chicken. The cooking time can vary a bit depending on where in this temperature range your grill ends up being.
Beer can chicken flavor variations
This chicken is fabulous as-is, but it’s easy to change up the flavors to customize the dish to your tastes.
- Mexican: Mix together 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika,1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Finish the cooked chicken with a drizzle of lime juice and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.
- Cajun: Drizzle the chicken with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Coat the chicken in 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
- Italian: Stir together 1 teaspoon garlic powder, with 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
Everyone adores this beer can chicken – it’s simple to make, yet full of flavor!
More grilling recipes to try
- Grilled Eggplant
- BBQ Chicken
- Grilled Pineapple
- Garlic Butter Grilled Lobster Tails
- Asparagus Foil Packets
Beer Can Chicken Video
Beer Can Chicken
- 4 lb whole chicken
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup BBQ rub homemade or store bought
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 can beer
- fresh herbs for garnish optional
- Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat. Set up the grill for indirect cooking as described above in the post text. You want the grill temperature to be between 325 and 375 degrees F.
- Brush the olive oil all over the chicken. Coat the outside and inside cavity of the chicken with the BBQ spice mix and salt.
- Open the can of beer and pour out 1/4 of the beer. Poke a few holes in the top of the can.
- Slide the chicken down on top of the beer can until the legs touch the ground to create a tripod with the chicken legs and can.
- Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken breast or thigh.
- Place the chicken on the grill on the side that does not contain the coals or flame.
- Cover the grill. Cook the chicken for 60-90 minutes or until the thermometer reads 165 degrees F.
- Carefully remove the chicken and beer can from the grill.
- Let the chicken rest for 5-7 minutes, then serve, garnished with fresh herbs if desired.
- I prefer to use my homemade BBQ rub for this recipe. It takes just minutes to put together and can be used on all types of meat and seafood. If you want to save a little time, you can purchase pre-made rub.
- Look for an organic chicken. I find that they often have a better flavor than conventionally raised chickens.