Delicious from the crispy skin to the juicy inside of the chicken, this smoked beer can chicken is one of my favorite chicken recipes on a grill, and you won’t believe how easy it is to make!

Close up of smoked beer can chicken, showing crispy spice rubbed skin.

What is Smoked Beer Can Chicken

A smoked beer can chicken isn’t just incredibly tasty; it’s also science! The benefit of cooking chicken upright on top of a beer and then cooking it is that the steam coming off the beer gets trapped in the cavity of the chicken, flavoring it with the sweet and hoppy notes that make it so delicious inside and out. That trapped moisture also ensures that the meat will be plump and juicy. Combined with the barbeque spice rub I’m using for this recipe, each bite will erupt with layers of taste: crispy, seasoned skin followed by perfectly cooked, beer-infused meat.

While you can cook beer can chicken, also referred to as beer butt chicken, on a stove or in an oven, we’ll be using a Traeger pellet smoker. The smoky flavor adds another ripple of flavor to delight your palate, with notes of oak or hickory punching through the spices and beer.

Why You’ll Love Smoked Beer Can Chicken

One of the best things about smoked beer can chicken is how delicious it is, with crispy skin, juicy meat, and smoky flavor. Unlike our grilled spatchcock chicken, this recipe picks up the smoked flavor of pellets (see which we recommend for the best flavor below). The second-best thing about it is how much fun it is to add beer to your cooking process.

But we’d be remiss not to mention that, when you stick the entire chicken on top of the can of beer, it kind of looks like it’s sitting on a chair. We’ve never been able to look at a perfectly roasted chicken sitting on its little beer chair without giggling. It’s truly one of life’s little gifts. However, if you want a simply recipe for a whole bird not precariously roosted atop a can, try this smoked whole chicken.

Moreover, our easy beer can chicken recipe will make you feel like a pro pitmaster, even if it’s your first time making it. Once the initial prep work is complete and the chicken is perched on the grill, there’s no fussing or turning. You can sit back and take in the mouth-watering aromas from the tasty bird until the end of the cook.

Ingredients for smoked beer can chicken on a board.

Ingredients

  • One whole chicken, thawed
  • Oil – we use canola oil for this recipe
  • BBQ spice rub – you can use your favorite barbecue spice blend for this. We used GirlsCanGrill Chicken Blend
  • Salt – we always use kosher salt
  • Beer – use whatever beer you like and have on hand in an aluminum can.

A close up of a smoked chicken on a beer can with spice rubbed crisp skin from the smoking process.

How to Prepare Smoked Beer Can Chicken

Prep the Beer Can Chicken  

  • Remove the gizzards and anything else from inside the chicken’s cavity and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Make sure to thoroughly dry the chicken and make sure the cavity is dry as well. 
  • Rub the whole chicken with the oil, making sure to cover the entire surface of the skin.
  • Season liberally all over, inside the cavity, and under the skin, with the salt and BBQ spice rub. 
  • Pour a little of the beer into a high-sided baking dish or disposable pan. 
  • Place the beer can in the middle of the baking dish. This dish also acts as the drip pan while the chicken is cooking.  
  • Carefully, nestle the chicken over the opened can of beer, holding the body and chicken legs to steady it as you fit the cavity of the bird over the top of the can. 
  • Using the beer can as a sort of “seat” for the chicken, fold the legs out in front of the body to stand the chicken on its own. You can also use an upright chicken stand for this, which is handy but not mandatory.
  • Fold the wing tips back behind the breasts by bending the wings backward and then turning the wing tips to secure them behind the breast. 
Raw chicken, rubbed with barbecue spices, standing atop a beer can on a tray on the grill grates ready to be smoked.
Smoked the chicken. The pan helps collect the juices and beer that overflows while cooking.

Prep the Smoker

  • Prep your pellet grill for 375 to 400 degrees F according to your manufacturer’s directions, allowing it to run in the smoke setting to preheat for 15 minutes.

Smoke the Beer Can Chicken 

  • Carefully place the pan with the chicken on the grill grate and gently close the grate, making sure the chicken doesn’t fall over.
  • Smoke until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 175 degrees F in the thickest part of the thighs and 165 in the breast with a meat thermometer, and the juices run clear. All in all, it takes about 1 and a half hours to smoke a medium-sized chicken at 375F. 
  • Remove the chicken from the grill grates with care and set the pan on a wire rack. Allow the chicken to cool for 10 minutes before removing the beer can. Be cautious to carefully lift the bird off the beer can, as it will remain hot. 
Chicken smoking on a beer can on a red and white tray on grill grates.

GirlCarnivore Expert Tips:

  • To add depth to the chicken, add oak or hickory wood chips in a smoker box, tub, or foil packet for more flavor. Or add 2 large wood chunks to the back corners of your pellet smoker to add more authentic smoke flavor.
  • We love Jack Daniel’s Charcoal Pellets for charcoal grilled flavor when using our Traeger smoker.

How to Serve Beer Can Chicken

Carefully remove the chicken from atop the beer can and place on a cutting board before carving. Carve the juicy chicken into portions to serve. To carve a chicken, remove the legs, and then the thighs at the joints. They will come off easily. Then remove the wings. Finally, slice the breast from the bone on either side. Slice the breast into thin strips against the grain to serve.

We love this smoked chicken slathered with our homemade Alabama white sauce and a crisp pickle. But you can also serve it with:

Storage & Reheating

To store smoked beer can chicken, put the leftovers in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag no more than two hours after cooking. Store the leftovers in the refrigerator for no more than four days before eating.

To enjoy your refrigerated leftovers at a later time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the chicken in an oven-safe dish and bake for approximately 25 minutes. Remove it from the oven, let it cool for 5-10 minutes, and enjoy!

Cooked chicken nestled atop a beer can on a serving platter with alabama white sauce.

FAQs

What kind of beer do you use for beer can chicken?

While the most classic beer can chicken recipes will call for more of a light beer such as a lager (for example, Budweiser or Busch), you can experiment to find the best beer for your tastes.

Whichever beer you prefer to drink will most likely work. Whether it’s a fancy beer or a domestic draft, as long as it’s in a can. For those who love fruity flavors, a sour beer makes an amazing beer choice for beer can chicken.

Can you make beer can chicken without alcohol?

Since you won’t be using the actual beer other than to keep the chicken juicy, and the majority of the alcohol that touches anything evaporates during the cooking process for a Traeger beer can chicken, rendering the finished dish practically non-alcoholic.

However, you can absolutely substitute sodas such as root beer or mix up your own alternatives. The important thing is finding a liquid with a nice flavor to pair with the tender chicken that will evaporate enough to keep the meat moist.

Can you smoke beer can chicken on a gas grill?

While this recipe calls for smoking the chicken on a Traeger grill or any pellet smoker, you can also grill chicken on a gas or charcoal grill. Just add an aluminum smoking box or packet of smoking wood chips to get those extra flavors from smoking if you’re using gas.

If you’re grilling over charcoal, add a hickory wood chunk directly to the coals before you start smoking the bird. Make sure to cook the chicken over indirect heat on either of these grills to avoid flare-ups and cook evenly.

You can even put it on a roasting pan and stick it in the oven; the only difference is that you’ll miss out on the smoky flavor.

Smoked chicken with golden brown skin standing atop a beer can.

MORE EASY smoked CHICKEN RECIPES

If you enjoyed this smoked beer can chicken, or any other recipe on Girl Carnivore as much as I do, let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to share it with friends and family! Your feedback is what keeps me motivated to keep sharing the best meat recipes on the web!

Smoked Beer Can Chicken

5 from 17 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Resting Time: 15 minutes
Total: 2 hours
Servings: 6
When it comes to juicy smoked meat, it doesn't get any better than this beer can chicken recipe! Quick, simple, and loaded with flavor, it's one of our easy go to chicken recipes!
  • Traeger Pellet Grill

Ingredients  

  • 5 lbs whole chicken
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 4 tbsp BBQ spice rub
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • 12 oz beer in a can

Instructions 

Prep the Beer Can Chicken

  • Remove the gizzards and anything else from inside the chickens cavity and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Make sure to thoroughly dry the chicken and make sure the cavity is dry as well.
  • Rub the whole chicken with the oil.
  • Season liberally all over, inside the cavity and under the skin, with the salt and the BBQ spice rub.
  • Pour a little of the beer into a high sided baking dish.
  • Place the beer can in the middle of the baking dish.
  • Carefully, nestle the chicken over the beer can, holding the body and legs to steady it.
  • Fold the legs out in front of the body to stand the chicken on its own, using the beer car and legs.
  • Fold the wing tips back behind the breasts by bending the wings backwards and then turning the wing tips to secure them behind the breast.

Prep the Smoker

  • Prep grill for 375 to 400 degrees F according to your manufacturers directions.
  • Add oak or hickory wood chips in a smoker box, tub or foil packet for more flavor.
  • Smoke the Beer Can Chicken
  • Carefully place the pan with the chicken on the grill grate and gently close, making sure the chicken doesn’t fall over.
  • Smoke the chicken until it reaches 175 degrees F at in the thickest part of the thighs and 165 in the breast, about 1 ½ hours.

Rest

  • Carefully, remove the chicken from the grill grates and set the pan on a wire rack. Allow the chicken to cool 10 minutes before removing the beer can. The beer can will still be hot, so use caution.

Serve

  • Rest the chicken on a cutting board once the beer can is removed and discarded.
  • Carve the chicken into portions to serve.

Notes

We love this recipe served with our Alabama white sauce
To make life easy, you can invest in an upright chicken roaster, which supports the chicken over the can. However, we found it wasn’t a requirement to stand the chicken up. 
Remember to use an instant read digital thermometer inserted into the chicken breast and thighs to temp chicken to guarantee it’s cooked through to an internal temp of 165 F (white meat) and 175F dark meat. 
You can use your favorite poultry seasoning for this recipe. We used GirlsCanGrill Chicken Rub and love the balanced flavors. 
 

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 464kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 1293mg | Potassium: 377mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 324IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: barbeque
Author: Kita Roberts

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Well, Hey, Y’all.

Kita is a multi-talented individual, boasting numerous accomplishments such as being an award-winning recipe developer, world-traveled professional photographer, and journalist. As the lead creative force behind Girl Carnivore®, she is widely recognized as an authority on all things meat. Kita’s impressive expertise has been honed through extensive education with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Certified Angus Beef, as well as through attending butchery demos and visiting ranchers and farmers from coast to coast, allowing her to better learn and understand American foodways.

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