If you’ve never made beer can chicken, you’re missing out. If you have, you know it is the quintessential grilling recipe. This dish delivers everything you need to impress a hungry crowd: beautiful presentation, very little effort for lots of reward, and juicy meat with a crispy exterior—if done correctly.
Since we’ve prepped hundreds of these boozy birds over the years, we have some pro tips to help you make the best one ever.
- Buy a church key opener. That’s the old-school bottle opener that will poke a triangular hole in your can. When you want numerous holes in the top of the can, you will be very glad you got one.
- Got wood? If you want it smoky, add a few soaked chunks of hickory and/or apple to the mix. But know that it will affect the texture of the skin. With too much smoke, the skin will get a little leathery. If you want crisp skin, skip the wood chips and go straight charcoal.
- Remove like a pro. Beer can chicken is impressive, but only if you don’t spill boiling beer all over yourself or the bird. When it’s done, have a plate or platter ready, then place a powerful grilling spatula under the can. Take a fork and hook it inside the chicken’s neck, poking a bit into the bones and meat of the back. Along with the spatula, this will give you leverage and control to get it onto a platter. Then, you can hold the top with the fork while you hold the platter with your other hand.
- Relax. This should be the juiciest chicken you’ve ever cooked, but only if you don’t cut into it right away. Follow the last step in the recipe and let the meat cool down a little bit. It will allow the meat fibers to relax and retain more of the juices so they end up in your mouth, not on the cutting board.
Beer Can Chicken
2 whole chickens
2 canned beers (player’s choice)
Your favorite barbecue rub
4 Tablespoons dijon mustard
Rinse the chickens, then pat them dry with paper towels. Rub each one with mustard, then place your fingers in between the skin and the meat to loosen, making sure to not pull it completely off. Distribute some of the mustard evenly under the skin and all over the outside as well. Liberally add BBQ rub, covering every spot the mustard has touched.
Light a fire in your kettle grill. Divide the coals evenly and place them as far on either side as possible, with a foil drip pan in the center, immediately below where the chickens will go. If you’re going to add wood chips, add them at this point.
Poke holes in the top of the cans using a church key opener. Remove half the beer from each can (we’re sure you can figure out what to do with it) and add a tablespoon of BBQ rub to each can. Place the chickens on the cans. Using the two drumsticks and the can as a tripod, carefully place the chickens on the grill.
Cook for one hour and 15 minutes (you may want to add more coals around the 45-minute mark if your fire is dying). Cook until the meat has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Carefully remove to a platter, and let the chickens relax for 10 minutes on the can, then remove from the can and place the chickens on a cutting board. Let them hang out for another 10 minutes, then slice and serve.