Food & Drink

Beer-Can Chicken Recipe from The Barbecue! Bible

This iconic beer-can chicken recipe makes some of the most moist, succulent, flavorful barbecued chicken ever tasted. The secret? Inserting an open can of beer into the cavity of the bird and cooking it upright on the grill. The bird makes a great conversation piece. The recipe was inspired by the Bryce Boar Blazers, a barbecue team from Texas that attended the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest—it went on to become an American classic.

Beer-Can Chicken

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Beer-Can Chicken

Print Recipe


  • 1 large whole chicken (4 to 5 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons Memphis Rub or your favorite dry barbecue rub
  • 1 can (12 ounces) beer
  • Special Equipment: 1 1/2 cups mesquite chips or chunks, soaked in cold water to cover for 1 hour and drained



Remove and discard the fat just inside the body cavities of the chicken. Remove the package of giblets and set aside for another use. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water, then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the rub inside the body and neck cavities, then rub another 1 tablespoon of rub all over the skin of the bird. If you wish, rub another 1/2 tablespoon of the mixture between the flesh and skin. Cover and refrigerate the chicken while you preheat the grill.


Set up the grill for indirect grilling and place a drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips in the smoker box and preheat the grill to high; when smoke appears, reduce the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to medium.


Pop the tab on the beer can. Using a “church key”–style can opener, make 2 or 3 holes in the top of the can. Pour out half of the beer, then spoon the remaining dry rub through the holes into the beer. Holding the chicken upright, with the opening of the body cavity facing down, insert the beer can into the cavity.


When ready to cook, if using charcoal, toss half the wood chips on the coals. Brush and oil the grill grate. Stand the chicken up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan. Spread out the legs to form a sort of tripod to support the bird (the beer can will be the third “leg”).


Cover the grill and cook the chicken until fall-off-the-bone tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side and toss the remaining wood chips on the fire after 1 hour.


Using tongs, transfer the bird to a cutting board or platter, holding a large metal spatula underneath the beer can for support. (Place the board or platter right next to the bird to make the move shorter and be careful not to spill the hot beer.) Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before removing it from the beer can and carving it. (Toss the beer can out along with the carcass.)

More about The Barbecue! Bible:

The Barbecue! BibleRedesigned inside and out for its 10th anniversary, The Barbecue! Bible now includes full-color photographs illustrating food preparation, grilling techniques, ingredients, and of course those irresistible finished dishes. A new section has been added with answers to the most frequently asked grilling questions, plus Steven’s proven tips, quick solutions to common mistakes, and more.

And then there’s the literal meat of the book: more than 500 of the very best barbecue recipes, inventive, delicious, unexpected, easy-to-make, and guaranteed to capture great grill flavors from around the world. Add in the full-color, and it’s a true treasure.


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