There aren’t many barbecue show stoppers better than this beautiful BBQ beer can chicken recipe.
One of the best things about this recipe is that there’s so much room for you to experiment and play with once you’ve mastered the core recipe.
As well as the ingredients you list below you will also need your choice of wood chips (for the purposes of this chicken, this would ideally be hickory or cherry).
Be sure to soak the chips for around an hour prior to smoking, OR if you really want to take things up a notch… Soak them in beer.
A few tips for this recipe:
Get a holder
Despite what everyone says, propping up the chicken for on the grill isn’t easy. You’re effectively trying to form a tripod out of the beer can and the chicken’s two legs, and then hope that holds in the grill for well over an hour.
Purists might be up in arms over me suggesting such a thing, but there’s no harm in pulling in a little outside help with this. I recommend getting a beer can chicken holder, like this one on Amazon. It makes the whole thing much easier and lets you get on with, you know, actually cooking the chicken.
Decide on a good BBQ chicken rub
A lot of people have a go-to chicken rub, so start thinking about what you would like for yours. While you can easily buy one from your local store or online, where’s the fun in that?
I recommend making your own. It’s quick and easy, and gives you so much control over the flavors and spice levels of your rub.
If you don’t know where to start, try my smoked chicken BBQ rub. It’s packed with paprika, thyme, chili powder, and cayenne to give a really well-rounded rub… with a bit of a kick.
Learn how to use indirect grilling
If you’re new to grilling, you might have seen the term ‘indirect grilling’ bandied about. It’s a technique that’s key to cooking large cuts of meat, like whole chicken, so it’s important to understand it before taking on this recipe.
Find out more about the technique here on my post about indirect grilling on a charcoal grill.
BBQ Beer Can Chicken
- 1 can of beer
- 1 whole chicken roughly 3-4 pounds
- 2 tbsp BBQ rub of your choice
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- Open the can of beer and pierce two more additional holes in the top of the can. Set the can to one side.
- If not done already, prepare the chicken by removing the giblets and body cavity. Discard them entirely. Rinse the chicken thoroughly inside and out under cold running water. Drain and blot dry.
- Apply the BBQ rub inside the body and neck cavities.
- Drizzle the oil lightly over the outside of the chicken. Apply more of the BBQ rub on the outside, trying to cover all of the skin. Leave a teaspoon of the BBQ rub leftover.
- Put the remaining BBQ rub into the beer through the top of the can. It may foam up a bit.
- Time to place the bird on top of the can. Hold the bird upright with the body cavity opening at the bottom. Lower carefully onto the beer so that the entire body of the can fills the cavity.
- Once the can is in place, leverage the legs of the bird so that it can stand independently with the legs and can forming a kind of tripod.
- Fill it with the beer mixture and position the chicken on top, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Set up your grill for indirect grilling at a medium heat. If using a gas grill, put your wood chips in a smoker box and preheat at a high heat until you see smoke start to come from the box. Then reduce heat to medium.
- If you are using a charcoal grill, wait for the grill to preheat before tossing your wood chips on the coals.
- In either case, also use a drip pan to catch run off from the chicken. Because the cavity is facing downwards, this could get a little bit messy.
- When ready, stand the chicken up on your grill’s grates in the center.
- Cover the grill and cook the chicken. Target internal temperature should be around 180F/80C, which can take around one-and-a-half hours. We want the skin of the chicken to turn golden brown and look crisp.
- Warning: If you are using a charcoal grill then you will need to replenish your coals around the hour mark.
- Once cooked, use tongs to remove the chicken from the grill and carefully transfer to a surface. Try to keep the chicken in its upright position. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before removing it from the can. Be careful not to spill any leftover beer on yourself.
- Carve your chicken according to your preference and serve.