What Is The Beer Can Chicken Method And How Do You Execute It On A Grill?

Imagine adding a twist to your usual grilling routine that not only infuses your chicken with delicious flavors but also keeps it incredibly moist and tender. That’s where the beer can chicken method comes in. This unique cooking technique involves placing a whole chicken over an open can of beer on the grill, allowing the beer to steam and infuse the meat with its flavors. The result? A mouthwatering, juicy chicken that will have your taste buds dancing with excitement.

In this article, we’ll explore what exactly the beer can chicken method is and walk you through the steps to execute it perfectly on your grill. Get ready to take your grilling game to a whole new level!

What is Beer Can Chicken Method?


The beer can chicken method, also known as beer butt chicken or beer in the rear chicken, is a popular grilling technique where a whole chicken is cooked vertically with an open can of beer inserted into its cavity. The beer can helps to keep the chicken moist while imparting a subtle flavor, resulting in juicy and flavorful meat with crispy skin.


The origin of the beer can chicken method is not entirely clear, but it is believed to have originated in the United States, particularly in the southern states where outdoor cooking and grilling are deeply rooted in tradition. It is said to have gained popularity in the late 20th century and has since become a staple in backyard barbecues and cookouts.

Preparing the Chicken

Selecting the Chicken

When selecting a chicken for the beer can chicken method, it is important to choose a fresh, high-quality bird. Look for a plump and well-shaped chicken with firm and elastic skin. It is recommended to go for a roasting chicken, around 4-5 pounds in weight, as it will cook evenly and yield tender meat.

Brining the Chicken

Brining the chicken before grilling can greatly enhance its flavor and juiciness. To brine the chicken, prepare a brine solution by dissolving salt and sugar in water. You can experiment with various herbs, spices, and aromatics to infuse additional flavors into the brine. Submerge the chicken in the brine solution, refrigerate for 4-6 hours, and then rinse the chicken thoroughly before proceeding with the beer can chicken method.

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Choosing the Beer

Type of Beer

When choosing a beer for the beer can chicken method, it is best to opt for a light-bodied beer with mild flavors. Pale lagers, pilsners, or light ales work well as they don’t overpower the natural flavors of the chicken. The beer will keep the chicken moist during the cooking process without actually permeating the meat with a strong beer taste.

Flavor Enhancements

While the beer itself imparts a subtle flavor to the chicken, you can enhance it further by adding additional flavors. A variety of herbs, spices, and seasonings can be added to the beer can before inserting it into the chicken. Some popular options include garlic cloves, lemon slices, onion wedges, rosemary sprigs, and various dry rubs or marinades.

Spices and Seasonings

Dry Rubs

Dry rubs are a great way to add flavor to the chicken before grilling. You can create your own dry rub using a combination of herbs, spices, salt, and pepper. Popular dry rub ingredients include paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried herbs like thyme or oregano, and brown sugar for a touch of sweetness. Massage the dry rub onto the chicken, ensuring it is evenly coated, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.


Marinades are another option for adding flavor to the chicken. A marinade typically consists of an acidic liquid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, combined with oil and various seasonings. You can experiment with different flavor profiles, such as Mediterranean, Asian, or Mexican, by using ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, garlic, honey, herbs, and spices. Marinate the chicken in the mixture for a few hours or overnight for maximum flavor infusion.

Setting Up the Grill

Direct or Indirect Heat

Before grilling the beer can chicken, it is important to decide whether you want to cook it using direct or indirect heat. Direct heat means placing the chicken directly over the flame or heat source, while indirect heat involves placing the chicken away from the heat source with the grill lid closed.

Direct heat cooking will result in crispy skin, but you need to monitor the heat and adjust accordingly to avoid burning. Indirect heat is a more forgiving method as it allows for slower and more even cooking, but the skin may not be as crispy.

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Temperature Control

Regardless of the heat method you choose, temperature control is crucial for perfectly cooked beer can chicken. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (around 375-400°F) and make sure you have a reliable built-in or external thermometer to monitor the grill’s temperature. It’s a good idea to have both a grill thermometer and a meat thermometer to ensure accurate readings throughout the cooking process.

Grilling Techniques

Beer Can Placement

Once your grill is ready, it is time to insert the beer can into the chicken. Open a can of beer and drink or discard about half of it. Place the beer can on a sturdy surface and carefully lower the chicken cavity onto the can, allowing it to stand upright. The beer can will act as a support for the chicken while it cooks. Make sure the chicken is balanced and secure on the beer can before placing it on the grill.

Using a Chicken Roaster

Alternatively, you can use a chicken roaster specifically designed for beer can chicken. These roasters usually have a circular base to hold the beer can and arms to hold the chicken in place. Using a roaster helps stabilize the chicken and makes it easier to handle during grilling. Simply place the beer can in the roaster and position the chicken onto the arms, ensuring it is securely held in place.

Cooking Time and Temperature

Proper Internal Temperature

To ensure the beer can chicken is safe to eat, it is essential to cook it to the proper internal temperature. The USDA recommends cooking poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken, avoiding contact with bones, and make sure it reaches the recommended temperature before removing it from the grill.

Cooking Times for Different Chicken Sizes

The cooking time for beer can chicken will vary depending on the size of the chicken. As a general guideline, plan on approximately 15-20 minutes of cooking time per pound of chicken. For example, a 4-pound chicken will take approximately 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes to cook to the proper internal temperature. It is important to regularly check the temperature throughout the cooking process to avoid overcooking or undercooking the chicken.

Basting and Flipping

Basting with Sauce

Basting the chicken with sauce during the grilling process can add a flavorful glaze and help keep the chicken moist. You can choose to use a store-bought barbecue sauce or create your own. Brush the sauce onto the chicken every 20-30 minutes, starting about halfway through the estimated cooking time. Be mindful of the heat and flames when basting to prevent flare-ups.

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Flipping the Chicken

Flipping the beer can chicken during cooking can help ensure even browning and crispiness on all sides. Use long grilling tongs or oven mitts to carefully grip the chicken and gently rotate it on the grill, making sure it remains balanced on the beer can or roaster. Aim to flip the chicken once about halfway through the estimated cooking time.

Resting and Carving

Resting Period

After removing the beer can chicken from the grill, it is important to let it rest before carving. Resting allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more flavorful and tender chicken. Tent the chicken loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes. During this time, the internal temperature of the chicken may rise a few degrees, so take that into account when determining the cooking time.

Carving and Serving

To carve the beer can chicken, begin by removing the beer can or roaster from its cavity. Carefully carve the chicken into serving portions, such as thighs, drumsticks, wings, and breast meat. Serve the chicken on a platter, garnished with fresh herbs or lemon slices for an extra touch of presentation. This delicious and juicy beer can chicken is perfect for any backyard gathering or barbecue.

Tips and Tricks

Using Wood Chips for Smoky Flavor

If you want to add a smoky flavor to your beer can chicken, consider using wood chips on your grill. Soak a handful of wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes, then drain them and place them directly on the hot coals or in a smoker box for gas grills. The wood chips will produce flavorful smoke, infusing your chicken with a delicious smoky aroma.

Alternate Methods for Non-Alcoholic Option

If you prefer not to use beer in your beer can chicken, you can still achieve similar results using other alternative liquids. Non-alcoholic options like chicken or vegetable broth, apple juice, or even soda can be used in place of the beer. These liquids will still provide moisture and contribute to the overall flavor of the chicken. Just make sure to choose a liquid that complements the seasonings and spices you are using.

In conclusion, the beer can chicken method is a fun and flavorful way to cook a whole chicken on the grill. With proper preparation, a good choice of beer or alternative liquid, and the right grilling techniques, you can achieve juicy and tasty results every time. So next time you fire up the grill, give the beer can chicken method a try and impress your friends and family with this delicious backyard barbecue favorite. Happy grilling!