Beer Can Chicken

June 23, 2014
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Placing a beer can into the cavity of your dry-rubbed chicken may look silly, but it may be the most flavorful and juiciest chicken you've ever made. —Cara Nicoletti

What You'll Need
  • 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fennel, ground and toasted
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 4-pound chicken, giblets removed
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 12-ounce can of beer -- drink or pour out half (lager or ales work nicely, but feel free to experiment with other beers you like)
  1. To make spice rub simply whisk together all of your dry ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined.
  2. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and rub it all over with softened butter or olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle dry rub all over the chicken in an even layer (you may have a little left over, save it for rubbing on other meats).
  4. Drink or spill out half of your beer, drop garlic cloves in can, and place the can inside of the chicken cavity, so that that chicken is sitting on top of it, using its legs as support.
  5. Grilling directions: Prepare your grill so that one side is hotter than the other (if you have a charcoal grill, place more coals on one side of the grill than the other. If you have a gas grill, only turn burners on on one side). The internal temperature of the grill should be 300-350F.
  6. Place the chicken, perched on its beer can throne, on the cool side of the grill. Close the grill lid and leave the chicken to cook for 1 hour — resist the urge to open the lid and check. Just leave it alone!
  7. After an hour, check on the chicken and make sure your coals don’t need refreshing, or that the temperature hasn't dropped below 300. The chicken will probably need about 30 to 40 more minutes, but insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken thigh to check the temperature. Continue cooking for 30 to 40 more minutes, checking every 10 minutes or so, until the temperature reaches 160° F.
  8. Removing the chicken from the grill can be tricky -- the beer is hot and the chicken is hot -- so be careful. Put on some oven mitts and place a cutting board next to the grill. Slide a large metal spatula under the beer can, grab the top of the chicken with a pair of tongs, and carefully transfer it onto the cutting board. Let chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving and serving.
  9. Oven directions: Heat your oven to 350° F. Place your seasoned chicken, balanced on its beer can, in a roasting pan, and place the roasting pan on the lower rack of your oven. Cook until a thermometer reaches 160° F, about 1 1/2 hours.
  10. Lift chicken off of beer can using tongs, and transfer to a cutting board. Allow the chicken to rest 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jo Supko
    Jo Supko
  • Danee Kaplan
    Danee Kaplan
  • AG
  • Susan W
    Susan W
  • Alex Gabriel
    Alex Gabriel
Cara Nicoletti is a butcher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Cara started working in restaurants when she moved to New York in 2004, and was a baker and pastry chef for several years before following in her grandfather and great-grandfathers' footsteps and becoming a butcher. She is the writer behind the literary recipe blog,, and author of Voracious, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2015. She is currently a whole-animal butcher and sausage-making teacher at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg.

29 Reviews

dony June 25, 2022
I have been cooking chicken on the BBQ for 30 years, and have always been sometimes disappointed due to the flare-ups that regularly occur. My chick often comes out to be 'chicken noir'. But by using the beer can method, the chicken comes out perfect every time. I have a 4 burner BBQ so I light the 2 outside burners and place a small piece of dried cherry or apple wood on the burners. The 2 middle burners are turned off. The chicken goes in the middle. The cooking time is one hour. This combination gives a light smoking to the chicken and a perfectly cooked bird.
Jo S. July 24, 2020
FIVE STARS A wonderful choice in pandemic times. Your options are endless with the perfectly seasoned chicken, and the taste is so much better than the grocery store rotisserie.
Jo S. July 24, 2020
My family LOVES this recipe. The chicken is so juicy and tasty. First time I roasted a 7 lb. bird. The can was completely inside the cavity, and the bird remained standing. I had to adjust cooking time, but with my grill starting in the 400's and never going below 325, the extra 40 minutes to an hour wasn't bad. Yesterday I roasted two 4 lb. birds with the same heating variances in the grill (Char-Broil Infrared.) They were done in the specified time.
This time I threw together Pioneer Woman's salad dressing recipe for her cowboy chopped salad. I cut up one chicken and placed over iceberg lettuce along with cukes, tomatoes, and crunchy tortilla strips. The second chicken is chilling in the fridge, and we'll have a repeat dinner on the weekend.
Danee K. August 3, 2018
The spice mix is delicious on roasted cubed potatoes. Best potatoes I have ever eaten.
Rick September 17, 2015
And Sarah Palin can see glaciers growing from her house. Stick a chicken on a can of beer and stick one on it's butt right next to it and see if there is a difference. Anecdotal evidence suggesting that beer can cooking methods have anything to do with a good tasting chicken is just....well...anecdotal. Sure it taste good! Science has demonstrated over and over the "beer steam" is almost non-existent and has nothing to do with it. Sure it's fun but ...oh well...who believes science these days anyway?
Paula Q. September 17, 2015
Leslie, Cara yes..ABSOLUTELY it boils and steams on the grill as well!!! I've done both gas and charcoal. I have cooked this "Beer can up a chicken's butt" a GAZILLION times!!! One of my all time favorite things to cook. ANY and EVERY time I've cooked it...I never have 'leftovers'!! Your story (Cara's adventure) had me rolling on the floor laughing!! I can absolutely picture the 'play-by-play' and have a few great stories of this adventurous cooking!! I wanted to let you in on a really YUMMY 'add in' to this recipe... While chugging a portion of the beer and make space in the beer can...add just a little bit of the dry rub in there (watch to make sure not to add too much, cuz it will make the beer foam out)...but the special 'add in" is Liquid Smoke!!! You can get that from any grocery store.. in Hickory flavor and I think another flavor is Mesquite (Hickory is what I use). Just a tablespoon and *then some...depending on if someone wants a stronger smoky taste.* The 'tablespoon' gives it just a HINT of a smoky flavor..its not overpowering.
As for all these contraption's that all these people have invented...I still haven't bought one. It takes the fun out of trying to 'tripod' the legs and beer can JUUUST RIGHT to hold up to the 1.5hrs of cooking!! Plus there's satisfaction and can pat yourself on the back for achieving this FUN(and sometimes hysterical) feat!!!
The outcome is soooo delicious and the skin being crispy is phenomenal!
I look forward to the next "Beer can" adventure and look forward to reading more great stories from you, Cara and the Team!!
AG August 2, 2015
I use the Camp Chef Beer Can Chicken Holder from It's a twin holder and I just place a drip pan of marinating goodness underneath. For more info: Model: Camp Chef The Roost Beer Can Chicken Holder BCH2CC
Dan 9. September 30, 2014
Beer cans were never designed to survive cooking temperatures.
When you put a beer can in an oven or on a grill, you are super-heating paint on the outside and the plastic liner on the inside.
And where do the gases and vapors go? Into your food.
This is unsafe.
Rick July 23, 2014
Ummm...I wasn't looking for a reason:). I was just pointing out one of the many articles written by food scientists/engineers that debunk the claims of beer can chicken aficionados as being a superior way to roast a chicken. Take it or leave it as you wish. And BTW, on the rare occasion that I drink a beer it is a very good beer and certainly wouldn't be wasted on a chicken! Take Care :)
Nigel July 23, 2014
The best luck I've had for this is using tall, thin cans. Vortex, an IPA from an Astoria, Oregon, brewer does really nicely, and you can fully taste the particular hop used in the beer. There's your reason. Drink better beer!
Rick July 21, 2014
Yes, I've made many a beer can chicken with good results and of course they smell wonderful, it is a roasting chicken after all! :) The science just doesn't back up the anecdotal logic and no, the beer does not add moisture to the chicken. You start with a half can of beer and end up with a half can of beer but if you're enjoying yourself that's what matters! A beer brine/marinade and a spatchcocked chicken gives better and safer results. and upright roaster even better IMHO.
Susan W. July 21, 2014
Actually, I measured and there were less than 2 oz of beer left.
Susan W. July 21, 2014
My chicken was great. I think the beer can adds moisture during roasting. I could taste the beer, so it is not a wives tale. :) I will make this again.
Cara N. July 21, 2014
hooray! thanks for the update, Susan
Susan W. July 20, 2014
I have my spice rubbed chicken sitting on a can of Oregon microbrew humming away on my gas grill at 375°. It smells amazing. I roast a lot of chickens and this one smells especially good.
jadams July 20, 2014
Cara N. July 20, 2014
So exciting, Susan! Let me know how you like it!
Rick July 19, 2014
Use an upright roaster, ditch the can, ditch the beer. Seriously, beer can chicken is an urban legend.
Rick July 19, 2014
Read this before making your beer can chicken.

Debunking Beer Can Chicken: A Waste Of Good Beer
Beer can chicken is not a good way to cook chicken. Here's why, and how you can make better roast chicken.
jadams July 19, 2014
Okay I read it..I'll try my little steel holder the next time..and drink the beer..I will conquer.
Susan W. July 21, 2014
Have you tried it? I disagree with you.
jadams July 17, 2014
I made one the other day..mmm was not done after 2hours.that recipe stated@250 burner one.etc..what grill temperature do you use? Any comment helpful.
Cara N. July 17, 2014
Hi there, sorry to hear this! It's possible that maybe your coals died or your gas grill dropped too low in temperature. It roast in the oven at 350F, so your grill should be around this temp, too. Checking the coals/internal temp of the grill after 30-40 minutes as stated will remedy this. Not sure where you got 250F from, but that could be the reason it wasn't done in time.
jadams July 17, 2014
Thank you Mz.Cara..I will try it again..(it took 2.5 hours of slo cooking at low temp) the thigh was done at 165. But the breast was@150. I let it sit for wasn't bad.but yours looks so scrumptious...I now see the grill instructions for temp..LOL
Cara N. July 17, 2014
I hope it was still delicious--do let me know if you try again!
Alex G. July 13, 2014
I made beer can chicken several times, and then one day I was surfing around looking and found a website that analyzes this cooking process. What changed my mind is the notion that beer cans can have a plastic lining. Now I simply use the beer can holder and put the vertical bird on a cooking tray with beer in the tray.
cucina D. July 11, 2014
I must try this recipe soon! I would love to meet you on my next trip to NYC, I need some advise on butchering and purchasing meats :)
Jackie D. July 9, 2014
I Made this fantastic chicken for my very italian family, the kind that thinks that anything that,s not italian food is not even worth trying. they absolutely loved it!!! Giancarla
Cara N. July 21, 2014
My Italian family loves it too, Jackie! So happy to hear it was a hit!