Making Beer Can Chicken Is Easy

This fun technique makes a flavorful bird

  • 01 of 08

    Make Beer Can Chicken

    beer can chicken
    Leah Maroney

    Beer can chicken may get a bad rap, but this somewhat cooky cooking technique actually creates a moist and flavorful bird with a dark mahogany exterior. The beer not only provides moisture but also flavors the meat, while the can itself acts as a stand to prop up the chicken and allow it to cook evenly on all sides. 

    The most basic beer can chicken recipe requires just a whole chicken and a can of beer. However, if you really want to add a lot of extra flavors, you can also include a good spice rub. It can be a basic mixture of salt and pepper or a more complex concoction of additional herbs and spices. You will also need a grill with enough headspace as well as a piece of onion to wedge into the neck to close up the bird and keep the moisture inside.

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  • 02 of 08

    Choose a Beer and Cooking Area

    beer can chicken
    Leah Maroney

    When it comes to the beer, taste preference is important. Some argue that stout is the only beer for beer can chicken while others favor any beer but stout, like a good, malty beer. Choose a beer that you like and think would be good with the chicken, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind when making your selection.

    First—and this may seem obvious—make sure that the beer you buy is in a can and not a bottle. Second, that can of beer also needs to fit inside the chicken; you don't want to be struggling with this over a live fire. Third, remember that the chicken will be standing up straight inside the grill with the grill top closed. So check to see that the space is tall enough.

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  • 03 of 08

    Prepare the Can

    beer can chicken
    Leah Maroney

    You need to do a little prep to the beer can before it is placed inside the chicken. Cutting off the top maximizes the flow of moisture from the beer to the bird. Most can openers can be used for this task.

    Next, pour out (or consume) some of the beer until the can is half full. Then add 1/2 cup of your poultry spice rub to the remaining beer in the can and give it a quick stir. The can is now ready.

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  • 04 of 08

    Rub the Chicken

    beer can chicken
    Leah Maroney

    The rest of the rub is used to season the chicken. Don't worry too much about getting it on the skin since the skin won't let flavor reach the meat; try to work your spice rub in under the skin as much as possible. Get it inside the chicken as well; the spice in the can adds flavor to the chicken but not in the same way as direct contact.

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  • 05 of 08

    Prepare Grill

    beer can chicken
    Leah Maroney

    You will be grilling your beer can chicken indirectly. This means that the fire will either be to one side or all around the chicken. If you have the ability to put the fire (either gas or charcoal) on two sides of the chicken then you won't have to worry about turning the bird during cooking. If the fire is on one side, you will need to rotate the chicken 180 degrees every 30 minutes while it cooks.

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  • 06 of 08

    Place the Chicken on the Can

    beer can chicken
    Leah Maroney

    Before you put the can in the chicken, you need to place it on the grill right where you want the bird to cook. Then you need to slowly and gently sit the chicken over the can. Try not to force it or put too much pressure on the bird to get into position.

    Now, wedge the piece of onion into the neck of the chicken to seal the top of the bird. This holds the moisture inside and is the real secret of beer can chicken.

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  • 07 of 08

    Cook the Chicken

    Close the lid on the grill. Try to maintain a temperature around 300 to 325 F during the cooking time. It should be cooked at a temperature several degrees above the boiling point of water; if not, then the liquid in the can won't do anything for the bird.

    A 5- to 6-pound bird should take about 2 to 3 hours to cook depending on the temperature. If you have built a fire that is only on one side, remember to rotate the bird every so often so each side is cooked evenly.

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  • 08 of 08

    Finish the Chicken

    Depending on how even the heat is, you shouldn't have much to do now but wait for the beer can chicken to cook. Time isn't important to chicken, the temperature is. When the bird reaches an internal temperature of 175 F it's ready to come off. Measure the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh, being careful not to touch the bone with your thermometer.

    Once removed from the grill, allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes. Lay the bird down and pull the can out, gripping it with a pair of tongs. Carve the chicken and serve.