Beer Can Chicken

Sometimes a cooking method sounds crazy, but there is a reason behind the madness.  Beer can chicken is a great example of this.

In February, while visiting a friend in Colorado, I first came across this unique way of cooking a chicken.  We were skiing with some friends, and after a long day on the slopes, one of our friends put together a “beer can chicken.”  It seemed strange.  I had never seen this technique before, and I was certainly skeptical, but the end result was incredibly moist and flavorful—a great end to a long day of skiing.

A beer can chicken is a chicken that is cooked while sitting on a beer can—I know, creative name.  The beer in the can turns into steam that both cooks the bird and keeps it incredibly juicy.  I’m sure some flavor from the beer is transferred to the chicken, but you do not need to worry about the roasted chicken tasting of lager.  The main purpose of the beer is to keep the meat moist.

Last week, my husband, Brandon, and I tried our hands at making our own beer can chicken.  We He rubbed the chicken down with a mixture of spices, garlic, and lemon, and plopped carefully set the chicken on top of a half-full (Brandon was all too happy to “prepare the beer” by “removing” a few ounces from the can) beer can.

With it being grilling season, this recipe would be delicious barbecued, but we were too lazy to prepare our charcoal grill and roasted the chicken in the oven (see note below).  Before placing the chicken in the oven, we threw some oiled carrots and quartered onions into the bottom of the pan.  Before serving, I toasted up some bread with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and when we took the chicken out of the oven, we set the chicken on the “croutons” and let them absorb the bird’s juices (this might be my favorite part of cooking a whole chicken).  Yum.

The end result, in Brandon’s words, was the “best chicken we’ve ever made.”  

Spice Rubbed Beer Can Chicken

Adapted from


  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) chicken
  • 1 can beer
  1. Heat a gas or charcoal grill with a lid big enough to accommodate the bird. Put a drip pan below the grates.
  2. Mix the first 9 ingredients together until they are well blended.  Rub it all over the chicken, inside and out.

    Rubbing down the chicken

  3. Open the beer and take a big swig or just pour out a couple of ounces. Sit the chicken on the beer can so the legs are at the bottom and the wings are at the top.

    On the can

    Stand the beer can on the grates over the drip pan*. Put the cover on and cook over indirect heat until the juices run clear, about 1 hour. (If using charcoal, push the coals to 1 side so the chicken is not over direct heat.)

*Note: This chicken can also be cooked in a 350 degrees F oven. Just stand the beer can in a shallow roasting pan and cook about 1 hour or until juices run clear.

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