Chicken/ Grilling/ Main Dish/ Recipe

Beer Can Chicken

April 9, 2016 (Last Updated: October 18, 2020)

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The best way to BBQ a whole chicken, Beer Can Chicken on the grill! This chicken is moist and super delicious and the entire chicken is cooked over a can of beer. 

Chicken, garlic, fresh herbs lemons and beer on a cutting board.

My grilling trend continues. This time with a whole chicken and a can of beer – Beer Can Chicken!  We raise our own chickens and do all the butchering. We leave most of the birds whole, simply because it is easier.

Cooking a whole chicken isn’t a bad thing though. I get a super moist and delicious chicken with just a little work. We usually have leftovers so I get more than one meal!

A whole cooked chicken on a plate with fresh herbs.

I have a nifty stand that I use that fits a beer can. The chicken then fits over the top of the can. I’ve done this before without the stand and have been  successful, but you do risk having your chicken fall over while cooking.

The stand helps balance the chicken. If you don’t have a stand, you need to carefully balance the bird. You don’t want it tipping over while it’s cooking. These stands can be bought just about anyplace that sells BBQ supplies.

Beer Can Chicken on the grill.

What can I substitute for beer in beer can chicken?

I have also made this chicken without beer. Sounds crazy since its name is beer can chicken. What you need is a clean aluminum can filled half way with a liquid.

I have used  white wine, and even water. The liquid helps keep the chicken moist! It does add a bit of flavor too, but if you are using water, the flavor can be added with herbs and, lemons, garlic and onions!

There are so many options! Just make your own favorite version.

Sliced chicken on a plate with a green salad.

How do I make beer can chicken?

The method is simple. Salt and pepper the inside of your chicken.  Take a beer can and empty it half way.  Add two cloves of garlic, 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, or herbs of your choice. I like the taste of fresh lemon so I put half a lemon inside the cavity of the chicken.

Then place the chicken over the beer can. The can simply slides into the cavity of the bird. Salt and pepper outside of chicken and put the whole thing on the grill for about an 1 1/2 hours!

The most difficult part of making this chicken is knowing when it is done. I have an old propane grill with three burners running the length of the grill.

I preheat my grill so it is hot and then once my chicken is on, I turn off the middle burner and turn the other two burners to medium. You want an indirect heat. Depending on your grill, turn off at least one burner and move the chicken so it isn’t directly over a flame. That will help avoid flare-ups.

How long do I cook a whole chicken on the grill?

  • Cooking time is usually 1 1/2 hours.
  • I look for three things when I think my bird is done. First, I wiggle a leg….a chicken leg that is! A done chicken has a lot of give to it. It feels like I could just pop the leg right off.
  • Second, I use a thermometer. This method is by far the most reliable. However, I don’t want to keep poking my chicken a bunch of times until it is close to being done. That’s why I do the leg wiggle first.
  • You want at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If I get that, I slip the chicken onto a plate or a baking sheet. Your chicken needs to rest for at least 10 minutes. I loosely wrap foil over the chicken to help keep the temperature.
  • My final test is looking at the drippings coming off the chicken. You will have drippings, but if there is any pink in the drippings, your bird needs to go back on the grill.

Variations to Beer Can Chicken

I like to vary my flavors. Some options include:

  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Beer or White Wine
  • Jalapenos or other chili peppers

What to serve with BBQ Chicken?

If you aren’t using a whole chicken, you might like this BBQ Chicken Recipe.

Any leftover chicken can be used in this chicken pasta bake, chicken wraps or chicken salad. 


Don’t forget to PIN!

Sliced chicken on a plate with a green salad.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below or snap a picture and tag me on Instagram @beyondthechickencoop

If you loved this recipe you’ll LOVE all the others in this category. Check out all my main dish recipes here!

Sliced chicken breasts on a plate with a salad.

Beer Can Chicken

Whole chicken cooked on the BBQ over a can of beer.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6 people
Calories 277 kcal


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1/2 can of beer
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt
  • pepper


  • sprinkle salt and pepper inside bird cavity.
  • Open and empty the beer can half way.
  • Put garlic cloves inside can. If cloves are too large, they can be cut to fit inside can.
  • Add fresh thyme inside can.
  • Place can in a beer can chicken stand.
  • Place lemon half inside cavity of chicken.
  • Slide chicken cavity over beer can. 
  • Place on a preheated gas grill on indirect heat. I turn off the middle burner on my grill and leave the two side burners on medium heat. Close lid to grill.
  • Check and rotate every 30 minutes.
  • Cook for about 1 1/2 hours until an internal meat thermometer registers 165 degrees.
  • Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. I cover mine loosely with aluminum foil to help keep the chicken warm.
  • Slice and serve.


Substitute thyme for your favorite herbs.


Calories: 277kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 23gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 89mgPotassium: 252mgVitamin A: 210IUVitamin C: 8.2mgCalcium: 21mgIron: 1.3mg
Keyword Beer Can Chicken, Chicken cooked with a can of beer, How to cook a whole chicken on the grill
Tried this recipe?Leave a comment and let me know what you think.


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  • Reply
    April 13, 2016 at 8:57 am

    This is something I’ve been wanting to try for years, but somehow it always seemed so intimidating. I am drooling here…

    • Reply
      April 13, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      Super easy to make! Just go for it….and go ahead and drool!

  • Reply
    April 12, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    I heard about beer can chicken, saw it for the first time. My husband would love this.

  • Reply
    April 12, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    My husband has alwayssss wanted to try this! And yet every summer we somehow always forget! Too fun!

    • Reply
      April 12, 2016 at 7:07 pm

      This is the summer to try it! Why wait for summer…try it this weekend! 🙂

  • Reply
    Shashi @ RunninSrilankan
    April 12, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Kathy, your bird is gorgeous! And from a grill – wow! I’ve heard of beer can chicken from an oven – but your version inspires me to experiment with my grill more – and thanks for the tip about the wiggle amount of the chicken leg as a measure of it’s doneness!

    • Reply
      April 12, 2016 at 7:06 pm

      I’ve certainly done beer can chicken on the grill, but I’ve never heard of it in the oven! How crazy is that?

  • Reply
    GiGi Eats
    April 12, 2016 at 11:01 am

    YES!! Loveeee getting my chicken nice and drunk!

    • Reply
      April 12, 2016 at 7:08 pm

      Ha! It certainly adds a ton of flavor!

  • Reply
    Nicole @ Young, Broke and Hungry
    April 12, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Props to you for raising your own chickens and butchering them. I bet the meat is a thousand times better.

    • Reply
      April 12, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      Homegrown birds are great, but the best part for me is knowing where our meat has come from and how it was handled.

  • Reply
    Kim | Low Carb Maven
    April 12, 2016 at 8:39 am

    5 stars
    Talk about mindful eating… raising and butchering your own birds. I like how you guys live with ties to nature…. I love beer can chicken and haven’t made it in aaaaages. You have made me hungry for it. Thanks for sharing a great recipe and grill-on!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    April 12, 2016 at 7:00 am

    5 stars
    A friend of mine used to make these all the time and I had never tried hers or made it myself, but I love chicken done every which way and I absolutely need to try this! Looks and sounds like it would be so moist and delicious!

    • Reply
      April 12, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      Give it a try…It will be another chicken dish you are going to love!

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