How to make Smoked Beer Can Chicken

Learn an easy way how to make smoked beer can chicken

Have you ever tried Smoked Beer Can Chicken? Well, you’ve heard of beer can chicken, right? You know, the chicken recipe when you shove a full can of beer up a chicken’s backside and grill it? Well, if you have a smoker, a few tools like a beer can chicken stand and a meat thermometer, some dry rub and premade marinade, it’s super easy to make.

First, you need a smoker. You can use a Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker. (You can read my smoker review here.) This was my go to smoker for Smoked Beer Can Chicken until we finally wore it out a couple of years ago.

Then after doing some research, my husband took the plunge and bought a Kamado Joe Grill – his new obsession! While I find it’s not as easy to use as an electric smoker, making a smoked beer can chicken recipe, as well as steaks, ribs, and just about anything else in a Kamado Joe is even better!

Masterbuilt 20070115 Bluetooth Smart Digital Electric Smoker, 40-InchMasterbuilt 20070115 Bluetooth Smart Digital Electric Smoker, 40-InchKamado Joe KJ23RH Classic Joe Grill, 18Kamado Joe KJ23RH Classic Joe Grill, 18

Well, what if you’re gluten free or don’t drink beer? These days, there are plenty of gluten free beers on the market to use in your Smoked Beer Can Chicken recipe.

There’s also hard cider, which is naturally gluten free. Or you can use apple, pear or pineapple juice if you don’t imbibe in alcoholic beverages. Just empty out a soda can and fill it with cider or juice and the marinade as per the Smoked Beer Can Chicken recipe below.

What equipment you need to make a Smoked Beer Can Chicken recipe

Assuming you have a smoker or grill to make your Smoked Beer Can Chicken recipe, what other equipment do you need? (It goes without saying that you have grilling and smoker supplies like wood pellets or chips, briquettes, etc. for your smoker, too.)

While you can simply use a beer can and perch your chicken on top, it’s so much easier to make a smoked beer can chicken recipe with a beer can chicken stand. I have two so I can make more than one smoked beer can chicken at a time.

The first one is a Steven Raichlen Stainless-Steel Beer Can Chicken Rack with Drip Pan, which is pretty simple. The second one that I like for making Smoked Beer Can Chicken is a KitchenAid BBQ Vertical Chicken Roaster. It’s a bit wider that the Raichlen beer can chicken stand and less likely that the chicken will fall over. However, if you have a small smoker or grill, you may want to go with the Raichlen beer can chicken stand, which is smaller and much cheaper.

You’ll also need a good digital cooking thermometer that you can run outside the smoker so you’ll know when your smoked beer can chicken is done.

I love the remote wireless digital thermometers, because you don't have to go outside and check the grill to see if you've reached your ideal temp.

Barbecuing meat tongs and heat resistant gloves are essential, too. Yes, you can use regular oven mitts, but they’ll get all greasy. Then the grease will soak through and you’ll burn yourself – ouch!

I bought two pairs of silicon heat resistant gloves for our pig roast and they worked out great for turning the pig and lifting the entire pig off the grill when it was done. My husband uses them all the time for grilling on his Kamado Joe.

Seasoning rub and marinade for your Smoked Beer Can Chicken

You can use a store bought chicken or pork barbecue rub or make your own with salt, pepper, and whatever other spices you like. I’m sure you can find several good beer can chicken rub recipes in your favorite cookbooks. My favorite barbecuing cookbook is the Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook. In fact, the method I use to cook Smoked Beer Can Chicken is from that cookbook!

Make Smoked Beer Can Chicken recipe from the Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from the PitmastersLegends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from the Pitmasters

You can look online or in cookbooks for beer can chicken marinade recipes. Or you can use store bought marinades that are made just for chicken. However, a store bought or home made vinaigrette salad dressing would work just as well for your Smoked Beer Can Chicken and probably a few bucks cheaper.

You can make your own marinade with olive oil, vinegar, fresh herbs from the garden, or whatever you find in your spice rack. Some other seasoning ideas to add to your beer can chicken marinade are minced garlic, fresh minced ginger, and seasoning salt. Seasoned olive oils and vinegars, as well as a dash of lemon juice, would be delicious, too.

Making smoked beer can chicken is easier than you think. You can do it in an electric or gas smoker or in a grill that you can smoke in like a Green Egg or Kamodo Joe. Smoked beer can chicken tastes great and is worth the little bit of effort!

Making smoky “cheater stock” from Smoked Beer Can Chicken

Whatever you do, don’t forget to save the chicken carcass and skin to make stock. There’s nothing better than using smoky chicken stock in soup and other recipes.

Here’s how homemade “cheater” stock in your slow cooker:

  1. After roasting your Smoked Beer Can Chicken, take the carcass or bones and place them in your slow cooker.  Cover with water.
  2. Add some herbs to the water – thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, etc. Dried or fresh will work.
  3. Add some crushed garlic cloves. Cut up an onion, a couple of carrots, parsnips, and some stocks of celery and add them all to the slow cooker.
  4. Cover and cook on low overnight or for 8 to 10 hours.
  5. Remove large pieces from the slow cooker and strain the liquid into freezer food storage containers. Freezer and label with date. Pour liquid into a couple of ice cube trays. Freeze and store cubes in ziplock freezer bags to use when you just need a little stock in your cooking.
Learn an easy way how to make smoked beer can chicken

Smoked Beer Can Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 (3 1/2 pound) whole chicken
  • 1/4 cup dry rub of your choice
  • 1 can beer - can also use gluten free beer, hard cider or fruit juice
  • 3 cups marinade

Directions

  1. Remove the giblets and rinse the chicken cavity.
  2. Season the chicken inside and out with the rub. Press the rub on to the skin, too. Allow to sit for at least an hour in the refrigerator.
  3. Open the beer and empty half of it into the smoker’s drip pan.
  4. Refill the can to the top with the marinade.
  5. Shove the can into the chicken cavity, and place the chicken on to beer can roaster if you’re using one.
  6. Set up your smoker for indirect heat. Use wood chips, chunks or logs to set up a good level of smoke. (Electric smokers use pellets. I chose Jack Daniels Wood Pellets, but you can use hickory, apple, mesquite or other woods that go well with chicken.) Maintain a smoker temperature of between 225 and 275 degrees F. (I set my smoker for 250 degrees.)
  7. Set the chicken on the grill on the beer can base, and cook for three hours. If you don’t use a dripping pan full of beer and water to “steam” the chicken, baste with more marinade every hour.
  8. When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (about three to four hours), test for doneness by inserting a knife tip into the thickest part of the thigh. If the juices run clear, the chicken is done to medium. Note: the FDA recommends cooking to 185 degrees F. Many people find this overcooks and dries out the chicken, so use your best judgment.
  9. Remove the chicken and let sit for 20 minutes to let the juices “set.” Slice and serve.
Prep Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 3 Hours
Total Time: 4 Hours 10 Minutes
Servings: Serves 4 to 6
  • Serving size: 1/2 pound per person

Originally posted on August 6, 2012. Updated with new pictures.
Photo credit: Adobe Stock

3 thoughts on “How to make Smoked Beer Can Chicken

  1. Jody Humphrey

    Beer is better / but I have used 1/2 can of soda with some rub mixed in couldn’t tell a difference just keeps bird moist

    Reply
  2. Toni | BoulderLocavore.com

    I have always wanted to try this but guess I need to find GF beer in a can! You may recall I attended Steven Raichlen’s BBQU last year and learned so much. We did not do a beer can bird (though of the over 40 recipes over three days I may have forgotten). If it weren’t snowing I’d go seek some GF beer!

    Reply

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