Beer Butt Chicken on the Grill: Smoky Perfection from a Can

David Dial | Spiced Blog

So you’ve mastered hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill, but if you really want to impress your friends and neighbors, then grill a can of beer. This Hickory Smoked Beer Can Chicken is an easy way to roast an entire chicken on the grill!

Beer Butt Chicken Photo

Have you ever tried grilling a can of beer?  Yup, a can of beer.  You can do it!  Ok, well, maybe not literally, but Beer Can Chicken on the Grill is an incredibly easy way to roast an entire chicken on the grill. 

It sounds rather odd, but the beer actually provides a source of liquid that simmers the entire time the chicken is roasting.  The result is a roasted chicken with beautifully golden skin and surprisingly moist meat (even the breasts…which can easily dry out on the grill)! 

The entire process takes only about 1.5 hours, with the chicken roasting for the majority (1-1 1/4 hours) of that time.  So Beer Can Chicken is entirely doable as a weeknight meal! 

(Tip: The beer provides moisture, but I’ve found that the roasted chicken does not actually taste like beer.  Nevertheless, you could easily substitute a can of lemonade for the beer if you aren’t a fan of beer.)

Beer Butt Chicken Picture

Here’s a couple key tips that will really help out when making Beer Can Chicken on the Grill:

  • Rub-a-dub-dub:  Don’t forget to use a dry rub all over the outside of the chicken skin.  You can even lift up the skin over the chicken breasts to apply the rub directly on the meat.
  • Props to you: You don’t actually need any special props or grill equipment to make Beer Can Chicken.  Sure, they sell stuff that might work, but you can put the entire chicken on the grill sitting upright with the can of beer directly on the grill grates.  Then simply pull the 2 chicken legs forward to create a tripod of sorts.
  • Temp it up: If you don’t already own a probe thermometer, then this is certainly a good investment (it’s great for grilling, meatloaf, turkeys, roasts, etc.).  The best and easiest way to avoid undercooked poultry is a probe thermometer. For chicken, just insert the probe on the inner part of the thigh nearest the breast.  The tip of the probe should be in the center of the meat, but make sure it isn’t touching any bones or else you will get an inaccurate temperature reading.  This Beer Can Chicken is done when the probe temperature hits 170-175°F.
  • Chunks, not chips: If possible, use lump charcoal rather than charcoal briquettes.  Lump charcoal is all natural (so it doesn’t contain any additives like briquettes), and it also burns more consistently for a longer amount of time.  The same advice goes for wood chunks rather than wood chips.  The chunks are just larger pieces of wood, but they will burn for longer and don’t need to be soaked first.   I find that the larger chunks produce a better smoked flavor.
Beer Butt Chicken Image

This chicken is so juicy and flavorful that I often eat it plain, but it also tastes great over salads or in quesadillas, too. If you have any chicken left over, consider using it in Stephie’s Chicken Lasagna Recipe. It’s perfect for doing double duty!

Beer Butt Chicken Recipe

    6 Servings


poultry rub:
  • 2 tablespoons Paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon Black Pepper
  • 1/3 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon Oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dried Thyme
  • Lemon Zest, from one lemon, about 1 tablespoon
  • 1 Whole Chicken, about 3 pounds
  • 1 12 oz bottle or can Light Beer, or lemonade
  • hickory wood chips or chunks


  1. Preheat grill to 350°F.  (If using charcoal, allow the grill to stabilize at 350°F before adding the chicken.)
  2. If using hickory chips, allow them to soak in a large bowl of water for about 15-20 minutes.  If using the larger hickory chunks, you don’t need to soak them.  (Most large home improvement stores sell both the chips and chunks.)
  3. In a small bowl, add all of the Poultry Rub ingredients and mix until well combined.
  4. Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Generously apply the spice rub all over the outside of the chicken.  Carefully lift up the skin covering the breasts and apply rub directly to the breast meat. 
  5. Open beer can and drink (or pour out) about 1/3 can.  Insert can with remaining beer into the cavity of the chicken.  The chicken should slide most of the way over the can, and the can will then provide a stable surface for balancing the chicken.
  6. Place entire chicken upright on the 350 degree grill.  Use the can + the two legs to create a “tripod.”
  7. Roast the chicken with the lid on the grill until a probe thermometer inserted between the thigh and breast registers 170-175°F (about 1-1 1/4 hours).
  8. Remove chicken and discard beer can and any remaining beer.  Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes prior to carving.


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David Dial

About David

David is bringing up the guy quotient here on Food Fanatic, representing all things Grilling in a big way. On his own site, Spiced, David covers every kind of culinary adventure.