Let the Grillin' Begin: Beer Can Chicken

beer can chicken.jpg
Photo by Mike McCune
The weather's heating up, and I don't know about you guys, but I plan on taking full advantage of the small window of outdoor bliss here in Houston -- the time before the temperatures rise to the point of no return and the sun torches every living thing in its path as the ground becomes molten lava (real life account of a Texas summer from the view of a Northeastener). With the weather nearing perfection, it's about time to start grilling. And what better way to kick off the season than with chicken and beer?

Friends, I bring you the Finest Grilled Poultry in All the Land. The Cream of the Crop. The King of It All. The Full Monty: The Beer Can Chicken.

Look at him (above). He's so damn cute. And he's delicious. I'm gonna rub him all up and down with spices, stick a beer can in his ass and eat the hell out of him! Then I'm gonna drink all the rest of the beer from the case that I purchase. And I can't wait. America!

This method is ingenious. The beer can works as a steamer, adding moisture to the chicken as it cooks away on the grill. And the yeast and malt in the beer keep the meat juicy and tender while the skin crisps.

Ahh beer butt chicken - how I love you so. There are plenty of ways to doctor this baby up, but here's how I do it:

You'll need

  • 1 whole chicken (3½ -4 lbs)
  • 1 can beer (I used Heineken)
  • 1 lemon, for zesting
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Smoked paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Cumin
  • Black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 onion


    Remove giblets, rinse chicken and pat dry.

    Combine 1 tbsp each of lemon zest, cayenne pepper & paprika with 1 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin & black pepper and 2 tsp kosher salt. Rub all over chicken, including under the skin and inside the cavity.

    Open the beer can and pour out (or take) a swig to let a few ounces out. Using the point of a beer bottle opener, pierce 2 more holes into the beer can and sit chicken on top of the entire can so that the legs are on the bottom. Plug the top of the chicken with an onion to seal in the juices.

    Heat a gas or charcoal grill, placing a drip can below the grates. Place chicken on grill balanced by the beer can. Cover and cook over indirect heat until the juices run clear, about 1-1½ hours. If using a charcoal grill, move the coals to the side so chicken is not on top of direct heat.

    Remove chicken from grill, cover with foil and let sit (still on beer can) for 10 minutes before carving.

    Enjoy the most tender, juicy chicken off a grill.

    How do you spice your beer can chicken? What's your favorite type of beer to use? Prefer to smoke it instead? Drop us a comment and let us know.

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    Scott Ferry
    Scott Ferry

    I smoke mine as well.  I use Dr. Pepper, and also inject the chicken with a mixture of apple juice, Dr. Pepper, cider vinegar, salt and sugar.  Has always been a big hit.


    My Carribean take on this: One can of red stripe, drink half the beer add coconut milk to fill up the can. Prepare the chicken in the following, get some real Jerk marinade from Jamaica, no the crap Lawrey's seasoning Jerk flavor will NOT work. Add to the the juice of an orange, a lime, and lemon, add 2 tbsp of ginger, and as much minced garlic as you can take, and if you're feeling spicy finel mince a seeded scoth bonnet pepper mix this all with the jerk marinade, liberally apply to your chicken. For added flavor add wood chips to your fire. Serve with rice and pidgeon peas..  The best chicken ever.


    Wait, what?  You don't grill year 'round?  Why ever not?


    Your choice of beer is fowl! (Hehehe).

    I use Tecate. Maybe next time I will try Shiner Bock like Terry Alexander.

    Terry Alexander
    Terry Alexander

    Your method and prep is spot on. The only thing I do differently is add some of my spice mixture, garlic cloves and some of the onion into my beer can. My rule of thumb is to use hearty beer. Shiner Bock is my go to. No light. I do prefer smoking over grilling, when available, simply because of the added smokey flavor. TA

    Scott Moore Jr.
    Scott Moore Jr.

    Love a beer can chicken.  Looks wonderful.  When time allows I like to brine the chicken for 6 - 8 hours before seasoning and cooking.


     What type of jerk marinade do you use? I have tried the wet Grace brand that comes in a jar, but it is not as good as what I have had in Jamaica..

    Brooke Viggiano
    Brooke Viggiano

    I've been wanting to try it with Shiner! Will next time.


    I'll look when I get home and post that. I know mine does come from Jamaica, though not sure of the brand, though it's not grace -- however their rice and pidgeon peas in an envelope is quite good.

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