What is Beer can Chicken?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Also known as Beer in the Butt Chicken, Beer Can Chicken is a process that involves using not only the beer as one of the ingredients in the recipe, but also making use of the beer can itself to position the whole chicken for the cooking process. Beer Can Chicken usually prepared on a covered grill, but can also be cooked in an oven. The chicken recipe yields poultry that is thoroughly cooked to the bone, is crisp on the outside, but is plump and juicy on the inside.

Beer can chicken allows the chicken to be flavored by beer throughout the cooking process.
Beer can chicken allows the chicken to be flavored by beer throughout the cooking process.

To begin the cooking method, it is necessary to assemble all the ingredients. Beer Can Chicken is a very straightforward recipe that calls for a whole chicken that has been plucked, washed, and dried. For seasonings, a mixture of herbs and spices to create a rub is all that is needed. Vegetable oil serves as the medium to help the rub adhere to the surface of the chicken. To top off the list of ingredients, one twelve-ounce can of beer is required.

Any type of beer can be used to make beer can chicken.
Any type of beer can be used to make beer can chicken.

Along with the ingredients for Beer Can Chicken, it is usually recommended to soak two cups of wood chips in water for an hour or so before the cooking begins. These chips will be placed in the grill along with the charcoal and doused with a portion of the beer as part of the preparation process.

To achieve the best results with Beer Can Chicken, it is advisable to remove the fat located in the cavities of the chicken. A small amount of the herbs and spices should be deposited in the neck and body cavities. Apply most of the remainder of the rub to the exterior of the chicken after applying the vegetable oil.

The beer and beer can both play a role in the actual cooking process. A portion of the beer is poured over the mixture of charcoal and chips. The remaining beer remains in the can. The last of the herbs and spices are added to the beer residing in the can. As a final step, the open beer can is inserted into the body cavity of the chicken.

Placement of the chicken on the grill is very important. The legs of the chicken, coupled with the protruding beer can, form a type of tripod that allows the chicken to remain in an upright position. Once the chicken is in place, the charcoal is lit and the grill is covered. Generally, the Beer Can Chicken is fully cooked in ninety minutes, although the chicken should be checked periodically to ensure the meat is not turning brown too quickly.

The presence of the beer in the Beer Can Chicken helps to add another level of flavor to the finished product. The beer also helps to maintain the moisture of the meat while still allowing the skin to cook to a crisp golden brown. For people who have come to love Beer Can Chicken, there is no other way to grill chicken.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I'm not much of a beer drinker myself, so when I first heard about beer can chicken, I thought it had to be a joke. Surely it would taste like a chicken that had been soaked in cheap beer all night. My neighbor helped change my opinion on that at his 4th of July cookout, though.

He used a special beer can chicken rub and a beer can chicken rack. I think it took about an hour for that bird to get completely done, but it wasn't an especially large chicken. He had several lined up across the grill. He used a really good brand of beer, too. I think it was an Irish brew. The final result was fantastic, and didn't really taste like beer at all.


I have seen beer can chicken racks that help steady the bird while it sits on the grill. There's a round space in the middle that holds the can of beer in place while the legs of the rack sit on the grate. I've tried cooking beer can chicken without a holder before and it can be a challenge to keep it vertical on the grill.

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