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Beer-Can Chicken Recipe: Steven Raichlen and the Easiest Bird on the Grill

May 31st, 2010 · 7 Comments

Beer Can Chicken


I’ve written about Steven Raichlen, a Miami chef and author of several must-have cookbooks many times. He’s got it together on the grill, for sure – The Barbecue! Bible is on my reference shelf and one of the books I always give newlyweds or new homeowners as a housewarming gift.

The recipe for Beer Can Chicken, (also called Beer-Butt Chicken) inspired a whole book by Raichlen – Beer-Can Chicken: And 74 Other Offbeat Recipes for the Grill – and he covers this porno-method of cooking a whole, moist chicken on a grill with the most thorough recipe I’ve ever read.

Here’s the basic recipe, and the basic rub that goes with it.

Hats off to Raichlen for an all-purpose rub that any cook can make – storebought rubs are crazy expensive for what you get – make your own in bulk, or make a bunch and give it to the host of the next cook-out you attend. And by all means: Buy Raichlen’s books if you grill even a little – one of the best investments you’ll make as a cook.

Steven Raichlen’s Beer-Can Chicken

  • 1 can (12 ounces) beer – see Note
  • 1 chicken (31/2 to 4 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons All-Purpose Barbecue Rub (recipe link below) or your favorite commercial rub
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil


You’ll also need: 2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory or cherry), soaked for 1 hour in water and/or beer to cover, then drained.

Pop the tab off the beer can. Pour half of the beer (3/4 cup) over the soaking wood chips or chunks, or reserve for another use. If cooking the chicken on the can, using a church key-style can opener, make 2 additional holes in its top. Set the can of beer aside.

Remove the packet of giblets from the body cavity of the chicken and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the rub inside the body cavity and 1/2 teaspoon inside the neck cavity of the chicken. Drizzle the oil over the outside of the bird and rub or brush it all over the skin. Sprinkle the outside of the bird with 1 tablespoon of rub and rub it all over the skin. Spoon the remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons of rub into the beer through a hole in the top of the can. Don’t worry if the beer foams up: This is normal.

Hold the bird upright, with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom, and lower it onto the beer can so the can fits into the cavity. Pull the chicken legs forward to form a sort of tripod, so the bird stands upright. The rear leg of the tripod is the beer can.

Tuck the tips of the wings behind the chicken’s back. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.

When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals. Stand the chicken up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the chicken until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (about 180 degrees F. on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh, but not touching the bone), 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour. If the chicken skin starts to brown too much, loosely tent the bird with aluminum foil.

Using tongs, hold the bird by the can and carefully transfer it in an upright position to a platter.

Present the bird to your guests. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then carefully lift it off its support. Take care not to spill the hot beer or otherwise burn yourself. Halve, quarter, or carve the chicken and serve.

Each chicken serves 2 to 4 people.

Jan’s note: You can use soda in a can instead – and one of the best is ginger beer, a non-alcoholic, flavorful drink.

Steven Raichlen’s Basic Barbecue Rub Recipe

  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 3 tablespoons black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon hickory-smoked salt or more coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all (hands work best). Store in an airtight jar; will keep 6 months.

(Recipes from Steven Raichlen – Workman Publishing.)

Tags: Holiday cooking · Uncategorized

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 George P // May 31, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Beer can chicken is hard to beat, and after every time I try yet another “new” chicken recipe, I always find myself going back to a beer can version. My favorite, from Raichlen’s book is an Asian-style recipe with five spice powder and sesame oil.

  • 2 Jan Norris // May 31, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Raichlen’s got a blog you need to check out with dozens of recipes on it and great grill tips, etc…
    barbecuebible.com – bookmark it!

  • 3 JERRY KAHN // Jun 1, 2010 at 11:10 am

    HI JAN

  • 4 JERRY KAHN // Jun 1, 2010 at 11:11 am


  • 5 Jan Norris // Jun 1, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I’ve seen them, Jerry- I like them because you can roast a bigger hen on them than just on a can. And they keep the drippings in the pan, too – great for basting.

  • 6 Joe // Aug 7, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Been making Beer Can Chicken for about 4 years now. But it’s hit or miss on getting the skin crispy. It certainly is brown but rubbery. Tried olive oil and making sure the bird was dry. Any suggestions.

  • 7 Tom // Sep 21, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Joe, raise the temperature at the grate. I use 300f. Your outside thermometer will not read the grate temperature and is usually -50f low. Use vegetable oil and not butter. Canola has a high smoke point so I use it. It is nice that it is spray margines also.

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