Planning a get-together to kick off grilling season? My Beer Can Chicken is juicy, tender and full of smoky flavor. The bird stays super moist from the steam created from sitting perched atop an open beer can. You want the bird to sit squarely on the can so smaller birds, about 3 pounds,  tend to work best. I use the actual beer cans for grilling my chickens but you can use a vertical chicken roaster that is far more stable than trying to keep the birds balanced on a can. If you don't want to use beer--you can use a can of lemonade---the carbonated fizzy kind of lemonade works best and the Shandy or Arnold Palmer varieties work well also. The recipe starts with the rub; make mine or use your own favorite rub. This BBQ rub recipe is great on ribs, too.



1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds)

1 large can beer per chicken

1 tablespoon vegetable oil per chicken

2 tablespoons unslated butter, room temperature


2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 cup paprika

2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon celery salt

1/4 teaspoon chipotle pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl or zip top bag.


Mix all rub ingredients together in a bowl or zip top bag. Will keep in a cool place for up to two months.

Add 1/2 tablespoon of rub to the butter and mix together well.

For the chicken: Trim excess skin or fat from each bird. Remove and do whatever the heck you want with any "giblets" or packages you get with a whole bird. Wash and rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry. A

Rub the bird with one tablespoon vegetable oil. This helps the skin crisp and holds the rub.

Spoon a tablespoon of the rub mixture into the cavity of the bird and rub it in well. Gently separate the skin from the flesh and rub the butter mixture onto the bird without tearing the skin. Rub another tablespoon of the rub mixture onto the skin of the bird. Do not cover but refrigerate for at least two hours and up to 24 hours before grilling.  Remove the chicken from the fridge one hour before grilling to take the chill off.


Light the grill. Once the coals are medium heat, push them around the edges of the grill leaving the center open. I always put a grill pan in the middle. Since we're cooking LOW & SLOW, you may need to have extra coals available if you are using charcoal. I keep mine in a chimney style charcoal starter. If you are using gas, it is easy to keep the temperature consistent. Keep a mister or water bottle on hand to shoot down any hot spots that flare up.

Open the beer and pour out about 1 cup. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice to it and put in a mister to occasionally mist the bird while cooking, if you like.

Push the chicken down onto the beer can and place on the grill. Push the bird down onto the can so the legs help prop it up sort of like a camera tripod. I use a leave-in digital meat thermometer when I cook any kind of meat but especially chicken. That is the best way to get a perfect bird. Follow the directions for the type of thermometer you have. 

Close the lid and try to resist peaking but you will want to monitor the heat and the temperature carefully in case of flare-ups because there is sugar in the rub which can cause it to burn if you have the heat too high. Don't rush the process. The birds will take about 1 1/2 -2 hours to cook depending on size and heat. 

The perfect internal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees. I cook mine to 160 degrees then remove it from the heat and allow it to rest, uncovered,  for at least 15 minutes before carving. It will "carry over cook" up to 165 degrees  during the resting time. 

Serve with my Chimichurri- it is  soooo good! Get the recipe...

TIP: Be food safe when cooking and grilling outdoors! Go to the USDA's "Ask Karen" website for more information on recommended safe cooking temperatures for meat and poultry and learn more about grilling from BBQ Pitmaster and Memphis in May champion Chris Lilly. Read more...

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