How to make Beer Can Chicken on the grill – 6 Easy Steps

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Ever heard of beer can chicken? Also known as ‘beer butt chicken’ or ‘drunken chicken’, it is one of the best ways of cooking a whole chicken on the grill. The chicken turns out very tender, and it’s really easy to cook it this way. Read this article on how to make beer can chicken easily in a few simple steps.

What is beer can chicken?

Beer can chicken is, basically, when you insert an open beer can in the chickens butt, and then place it on the grill, can-down. The beer can and the two legs kinda form a ‘tripod’ for helping to stand the chicken in the grill.

By standing the chicken up in the grill, you get a really nice, even browning all around the bird.


Here is a list of what you’ll need to get started.

Dry Rub

Beer can chicken tastes great when you use a dry rub on the chicken skin. I use the following ingredients, and mix them together to form the dry-rub:

  • 3 spoons of Salt
  • 1 spoon of Pepper
  • 1 spoon of Dried Oregano
  • 1 spoon of Dried Rosemary
  • 3 spoons of Garlic Powder
  • 1 spoon of Cumin Powder
  • 1 spoon of Paprika
  • 1/2 spoon of Cayenne Pepper (if you like it spicy)

Aside from that all you need is:

  • A whole chicken, preferable as close to 5 lbs (2.4kg) as possible.
  • Some olive oil
  • A can of beer at room temperature. Drink a quarter of it first (never us a full can).
  • Optional: some people like to add things to the beer, like squeezed lemon, herbs, or left-over dry rub.

Step-by-step guide to cooking Beer Can Chicken

Step 1 – Preparing the chicken

  1. Open the beer can, drink a quarter of it, add any extras you want (squeezed lemon, herbs, left-over dry rub).
  2. Let the beer sit until its room temperature
  3. Mix all the ingredients of the dry rub together.
  4. Pour a tiny bit of olive oil on the chicken skin and rub the whole chicken with your hands until its coated in the oil. You want to use only just enough to cover the chicken lightly.
  5. Rub the dry tub into the Chicken skin evenly.
  6. Put the can on the tray, and shove the chicken onto the beer can, with the can going in it’s butt. Push the can all the way in, until the legs of the chicken touch the tray when it’s standing.

Step 2 -Preparing your grill

You need to be cooking it on indirect heat. If you’re using a charcoal or wood grill, move the fuel to a split configuration so you’re left with a big enough area in the middle to stand up the chicken. If you’re using a multi-burner gas grill, then light up the outside burners and close the lid.

split fire

Light the grill and get it to approximately 300-350 degrees Fahrenheit (150-1175 Celcius).

Step 3 – Standing the chicken and cooking it

If you’ve got a big grill with a lot of height between the grate and the lid, then you can stand the chicken on the grate. If there’s not enough room though, and you’re using a Charcoal Grill, you can just remove the grate and stand the chicken up on the charcoal tray.

I have an aluminum baking tray i use for meat, which I also use for standing the chicken in. That way it catches all of juices from the chicken as it’s grilling, and I can pour that over the chick to glaze it once it’s done. You can also use a disposable aluminum foil tray if you want.

Cooking times

At 300-350 degrees Fahrenheit (150-1175 Celcius), the chicken should take somewhere between 75-90 minutes for 3.5 to 5-pound chicken. If you have a meat thermometer, the interal temperature of the chicken should read 165 F  (75 C) in the breast, and 185 F (85 C) in the thigh.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can stab a sharp knife into the thickest part of the chicken, and check there’s no running blood when you pull the knife out.

Step 4 – Taking it off the can

Warning: The chicken, the can, and the beer will all be VERY hot at this point, so you need to be extremely careful!

I usually use 2 pairs of tongs for this. One for gripping the chicken, and one for gripping the can. Alternatively, use kitchen rag or an oven glove to hold the can. Wiggle the chicken and the can until the chicken comes. Be delicate with this though, so the chicken stays in tact, and so you don’t spill any of the boiling-hot beer.

Step 5 – Carve it up

Using a carving knife, and carve thin slices of chicken, along with the whole wings and drumsticks.

carving beer can chicken

Step 6 – Let it rest

Resting is key to letting the meat soften and get even more tender. Leave it on a tray or plate, cover with aluminum foil, and let it rest for about 10 mins before serving.

Time to serve

If you have any juices left over in the tray, pour them over the served chicken. This goes really well with grilled veggies, like Asparagus, Zucchini or even grilled Corn on the cob. If you have a big enough grill you could grill these over direct heat in the same grill as the chicken.