Beer Can Chicken

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Beer can chicken is a fun and easy recipe that will delight your family with a punch of flavor.

cooked beer can chicken in a cast iron pan
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cooked beer can chicken in a cast iron pan

Easy Beer Can Chicken

Beer can chicken is a relatively new addition to the backyard bbq recipe book. Its fun, easy, and eye-catching presentation makes it a statement piece at your next backyard cookout. 

The idea behind the beer can chicken is that the beer inside the body cavity helps steam the meat from the inside, providing flavor, and moisture, and shortening the cooking time. Additionally, as the bird sits vertically, much more of the skin is exposed to the heat, creating more delicious crispy skin than traditional chicken roasting methods. 

It’s believed that beer can chicken was developed across the south in the late-1980s and early 1990s, possibly originating in Louisiana and Texas. Texas BBQer Wayne Whitworth built a bbq for the Presidential retreat at Camp David and is rumored to have given the President a copy of his “beer can” chicken recipe in the early 1990s.

Regardless of where it came from, beer can chicken is an easy, delicious, and fun way to smoke chicken for your next picnic, potluck, or backyard cookout. This is a recipe that flies off your guest’s plates. 

cooked beer can chicken in a cast iron pan

How to Make Beer Can Chicken

To make this recipe, you’ll need:

  • One whole chicken – Naturally, this recipe calls for a whole chicken. For 3-4 people a young fryer should be sufficient meat, for a slightly larger crowd you might consider a whole roaster chicken. ‘Young fryers’ are 2 ½ – 4 ½ pounds and roughly 7 weeks old, while ‘whole roasters’ weighs 5lbs or more and are 8-12 weeks old. I used a young fryer for this recipe. 
  • Beer – I used a classic American lager for this recipe, but really any beer you like could render interesting flavors. The pairing of your beer flavor profile and seasoning is an important part of getting this recipe right, so be careful of using bold beer flavors AND bold seasonings.
  • Chicken rub – Traditional chicken flavors like thyme, sage, savory, garlic powder, salt, and pepper are a great combination for this easy beer can of chicken. You can also try a host of delicious pre-made chicken rubs. For this cook, I used Dizzy Pig’s Peruvian-ish seasoning. It’s all-natural, gluten and MSG-free, and contains no tree nuts or sesame seeds. (It’s available here).
  • Salt and Pepper – Salt and pepper are indispensable seasonings for any savory meal. Even if your chicken rub has some salt in it, it’s very hard to oversalt a whole chicken.
  • Lemon – I like to include some aromatics in my beer can. For this recipe, I use a couple of slices of lemon. 

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, we will use the following method: 

  • Prepare your chicken. Remove your chicken from the packaging, rinse with cold water, and pat dry with a paper towel. Check the body cavity for a package with the giblets or the neck. Discard these parts, unless you’re planning to make chicken stock. 
  • Prepare your beer can.  Open your can of beer and pour ¼ to ½ of the can into a cup. Using a sharp knife, kitchen shears, or a can cutter, carefully cut open the top of your can. Once the top has been cut open, I put 2-3 slices of lemon and a couple of cloves of garlic in the can, and a dash or two of your chicken rub.
  • Set up the chicken for cooking.  There are beer-can chicken holders available, but for this cook I didn’t use any special equipment, just using an 8” cast iron skillet. Place the opened can of beer in the middle of the cast iron skillet, then gently place the chicken over the can in the large cavity opening. The bird should sit upright over the can. Once the chicken is in place, spray with cooking oil, and then season the chicken with your rub of choice. 
  • Cook your chicken. I cooked my chicken on our Kamado-style grill, heated to 400o F, with a few chunks of oak added to the charcoal for some smoke flavor to the chicken. Approximately every 20-30 minutes, I spritzed the chicken with a mixture of the leftover beer with some water added to thin it out. The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165o F. 
  • Rest and enjoy your chicken hot. Allow your chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes to keep the meat moist. Remove from the cast iron skillet after the rest, and carve your chicken into individual cuts. Enjoy hot, or cold at a picnic or backyard BBQ.
cooked beer can chicken in a cast iron pan

Tips and Tricks to Perfect Beer Can Chicken & FAQs

Any beer will do. Don’t have classic American lager? Pilsner, IPA, and wheat beers are classic choices for this application. Regular 12oz beers or “tallboy” 16oz cans can be used. Fruity beers and sours also bring great flavors to beer can chickens. You can even use darker, sweeter beers like Dunkel or porter for a more malty, dark winter flavor. Besure to use a sweeter rub that will pair better with the darker, maltier beers. 

No special equipment is needed. While it is easier to keep the chicken upright with the beer can in the cavity with special equipment like a beer can chicken holder, you don’t really need one. I like to use a #6 or #8 cast iron pan, because they’re generally small enough to hold the chicken upright and are safe to use on a gas or charcoal grill or smoker. 

cooked beer can chicken in a cast iron pan

FAQs:

Is beer can chicken safe?

Yes. As the beer boils and creates steam inside the bird the alcohol disipates into the air. USDA food saftey experts report that it is safe to cook the chicken with an aluminum can. 

Can I substitute soda for beer?

Classic soda flavor profiles like lemon-line (Sprite, 7up) and darker flavors like Dr. Pepper work as a substitute. Use a spicy and sweet rub with the Dr. Pepper, and a more traditional lemon-sage-garlic rub with lemon-lime soda.

Is beer can chicken gluten-free?

Beer can chicken cooked with traditional beer is not gluten free, as many mass produced lagers contain gluten. You can use gluten-free beer to make this recipe gluten-free. 

How do I store this recipe?

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

cooked beer can chicken in a cast iron pan

What to serve with Easy Beer Can Chicken

Beer can chicken tastes great with traditional chicken dinner sides. Coleslaw is a delicious, fresh side.

In the summer I also like to serve it along side pasta salad or potato salad

In cooler weather, I like to pair easy beer can chicken with crispy roasted potatoes, garlic butter potatoes or cheesy ranch potato casserole

See more of our favorite easy side dishes below:

cooked beer can chicken in a cast iron pan

Beer Can Chicken Recipe

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cooked beer can chicken in a cast iron pan

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Beer Can Chicken

Easy beer can grilled chicken that is tender, juicy, and moist for perfect delicious chicken every time!
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine American
Keyword bbq chicken, beer chicken, grilled chicken, roasted chicken, whole chicken
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 1 chicken
Calories 101kcal
Author Courtney O’Dell

Ingredients

  • One whole roaster chicken
  • 1 can beer
  • 2 tablespoons chicken rub
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon for armoa

Instructions

  • Remove your chicken from the packaging and pat dry with a paper towel.  Check the body cavity for a package with the giblets or the neck.  Discard these parts, unless you’re planning to make chicken stock. 
  • Open your can of beer and pour ¼ to ½ of the can into a cup.
  • Using a sharp knife, kitchen shears, or a can cutter, carefully cut open the top of your can.  Once the top has been cut open, I put 2-3 slices of lemon and a couple of cloves of garlic in the can, and a dash or two of your chicken rub.
  • There are beer-can chicken holders available, but for this cook I didn’t use any special equipment, just using an 8” cast iron skillet. 
  • Place the opened can of beer in the middle of the cast iron skillet, then gently place the chicken over the can in the large cavity opening. The bird should sit upright over the can. 
  • Once the chicken is in place, spray with cooking oil, and then season the chicken with your rub of choice. 
  • I cooked my chicken on our Kamado-style grill, heated to 400o F, with a few chunks of oak added to the charcoal for some smoke flavor to the chicken. 
  • Approximately every 20-30 minutes, spritz the chicken with a mixture of the leftover beer with some water added to thin it out. 
  • The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165o F. 
  • Allow your chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes to keep the meat moist.
  • Remove from the cast iron skillet after the rest, and carve your chicken into individual cuts. 
  • Enjoy hot, or cold at a picnic or backyard BBQ!

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 101kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 96mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g

About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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