Beer Can Smoked Chicken

Beer can smoked chicken

The Spruce Eats / Loren Runion

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 4 hrs
Total: 4 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 1 chicken
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
456 Calories
23g Fat
6g Carbs
47g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 456
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 23g 30%
Saturated Fat 6g 32%
Cholesterol 152mg 51%
Sodium 974mg 42%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 47g
Vitamin C 1mg 7%
Calcium 42mg 3%
Iron 3mg 14%
Potassium 459mg 10%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This smoked version of the classic beer can chicken recipe takes the temperature down for low and slow cooking. The advantage is that the light steam will marinate and moisten the chicken while it slowly roasts to perfection in a smoky environment.

After a little prep, you'll just need to check the chicken periodically to ensure the smoker is at the right temperature and that the chicken doesn't overcook. It's a fun smoked chicken dish to make on a lazy day. The rub adds a savory flavor, and the smoker gives a delicious smokiness. For even more flavor, the beer can mixture of apple cider vinegar, onion, and garlic infuses the meat nicely.

Serve your smoked beer can chicken with grilled veggies, mashed or roasted potatoes, or oven fries. The leftovers make a flavorful filling for a sandwich, burrito, or tacos.

"This smoker recipe produces a flavorful bird with really moist meat in a mostly hands-off way: set it, check it, done. Removing the entire beer top can be challenging, and I prefer to open the can and add a few extra holes because it’s easier and equally effective." —Colleen Graham

Smoked Beer Can Chicken
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 teaspoons mild chili powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds, giblets removed

  • 1 can beer, lager or German-style preferred

  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Preheat a smoker to 225 to 250 F.

    Ingredients for smoked beer can chicken gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Loren Runion

  2. Combine the chili powder, salt, and onion powder and then rub all over the chicken.

    Seasoning rubbed all over a whole chicken

    The Spruce Eats / Loren Runion

  3. Open the beer and pour out (or better yet, drink) half of the can. Use a can opener to cut off the top of the beer can. Add the chopped onion, vinegar, and garlic to the beer can.

    Onion, vinegar, and garlic with beer in a beer can

    The Spruce Eats / Loren Runion

  4. Working over a tray, carefully place the chicken cavity over the beer can, ensuring it almost completely covers the can. Transfer to the middle of the smoker rack and ensure it stands up properly. Smoke for about 3 to 4 hours, or until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches between 165 and 170 F on an instant-read thermometer.

    Chicken on top of a can of beer in a smoker

    The Spruce Eats / Loren Runion

  5. Once cooked, remove from the heat and place onto a cutting board. Loosely tent the chicken with aluminum foil and let rest for 7 to 10 minutes before removing the can and carving the chicken.

    Aluminum foil on top of a chicken

    The Spruce Eats / Loren Runion


  • The recipe cooks a four-pound chicken at the recommended smoker temperature in about 3 to 4 hours. If you have a larger chicken, the time will be longer (maybe an hour or two).
  • If you're unsure if the smoker's thermometer is accurate, place a grill or oven thermometer on the smoker rack and check the cooking temperature periodically.
  • The best beers for beer can chicken are not too hoppy, sour, or dark. A lager is always a good choice, as are malty and German-style beers. Try a smoked beer for a boost of flavor.
  • It's easy to double or triple this recipe if a few chickens fit in your smoker.

How to Remove the Beer Can From the Chicken

To get the beer can out of the chicken, carefully move the chicken onto a cutting board or sturdy tray by holding the chicken with tongs and sliding a spatula under the can (it will still be hot after resting). Transport it to the sink and set the chicken close to the edge of the board and sink. Use tongs to pull the can out of the chicken, letting the can fall into the sink. This entire process is easiest with a second person but can be done alone if you're very careful.

Recipe Variation

  • If you're looking for a different type of flavor for your beer can chicken, try using wine, soda, or broth in place of the beer. It is strongly recommended to use a metal can because it will hold up to the grill's heat. Canned wine is now readily available, and any liquid can be transferred to an empty, clean can.

Do You Have to Cut the Can for Beer Can Chicken?

It's not necessary to remove the entire top of the can; it's a personal preference. Some people prefer to just pop the can open and others poke a few extra holes in the top to let more steam escape as well. With small enough pieces, the veggies can fit into the main hole. If you do cut the entire top off, be careful not to cut yourself or spill the beer; some aluminum cans are flimsy and may dent or collapse with a standard can opener. Metal snips are another option people use to cut the beer can below the lip; you may have to reduce the contents so it's no more than half full.

Can You Smoke Beer Can Chicken on a Gas Grill?

If you don't have a smoker, you can use the seasoning in this recipe and cook beer can chicken on the grill. The time will be different, and you can impart a little extra smoke flavor into the chicken using wood chips in a smoker box. Follow the cooking directions in the classic beer can chicken recipe.