Beer-can Chicken Recipe

Jackson Ortega-Scheiner Smoking Leave a Comment

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Dr. BBQ,

We are entering a cook-off amateur division in August. We will be cooking on a Weber smoker and Weber kettle, using your championship ribs and chicken recipe. We will cook both ribs and chicken in the smoker. Suggestions on procedures, i.e. ribs on top rack chicken on bottom? Timing? We will be cooking baby backs rather than St. Louis ribs. Also when doing beer-can chicken without beer can on a Weber smoker, do I need the cake pan? It seems I could put beer and onion in the water pan. Do I need to cook at 350°F? Can I cook longer at 250°F and get better results? Should I use cake pan and cook it on my Weber kettle? Thanks for your “diagnosis,”


Hi Buck,

I’d rather not have the chicken or ribs dripping on the other if you can help it. I’d cook the chicken on the kettle. I also like to cook chicken a little hotter so that works out too. Good Luck in your cook-off. Same with the beer -an chicken without the beer can, I’d do it on the kettle with the cake pan underneath. I’d rather have the liquid right under the chicken instead of in the smoker’s water pan. I’ve included that recipe here for the readers who aren’t familiar with it.


Beer Can Chicken (Without the Beer Can)

(From Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Cookbook)

Beer can chicken under many names has become very popular over the last few years. I can see the appeal. The presentation is great. Standing the chickens up increases the grill capacity and many guys just can’t resist the urge to cook with beer. I have a couple problems with the actual cooking technique and the theory about what happens during the cooking though. The basic recipe is this. You drink half the beer, you add some seasonings to the beer, you sit the chicken on the beer can and put it on the grill. The theory goes that the beer steams and swirls inside the chicken thus creating the juiciest chicken known to man. Bull. First off, anytime I’ve done this when I take it apart the beer can is still half full. Not much steaming could have occurred. Of course the beer wouldn’t ever reach a temp capable of steaming on a slow grill anyway so there was never any chance of it happening. Here’s the other problem. When you stick the beer in the chicken the whole cavity is full. Even if some steaming and swirling did occur, it would be happening inside the beer can, not inside the chicken. Now I believe that the beer can inside the chicken helps it cook without drying out because of the conductivity and I know that cooking the chicken standing up seems to keep it from getting dry, but the swirling and steaming thing just ain’t happening. So here’s my theory on how to get some steaming and swirling to happen. I like to use those wire racks that go up in the chicken. They have some that are just cone shaped and others that are made to hold a can. Both work fine, just skip using the can. Place the rack in a round cake pan and then sit the chicken on the rack. You can buy disposable cake pans if you like, or just get a couple that you use exclusively on the grill. Now pour most of a beer in the pan, add some chopped onion, garlic, herbs and spices. Cook at a temp hot enough to simmer the liquid and you are now infusing your chicken with the steaming swirling beer. You’re welcome.

2 frying chickens 3-4 lbs. each

2 beers

1 medium onion chopped fine

4 cloves of garlic crushed

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 teaspoon marjoram

Big Time Barbecue Rub or your favorite rub

(You will need two upright chicken racks and two round cake pans.)


Prepare the grill indirect at 350 degrees using cherry wood for flavor. Rub the chickens liberally with the barbecue rub. Place the chickens on their racks. Pour beer in each of the cake pans to about halfway up. Reserve the remaining beer for refilling the pans if needed as the chickens cook. Now add half the onion, garlic and herbs to each cake pan. Place the pans on the grill and place the chickens on the racks in the pans. Cook until the thighs reach an internal temp of 180° and the breast reaches an internal temp of 160 degrees. This should take about 1-1/2 hours. Remove the chickens and the racks to a cookie sheet leaving the pans on the grill. Remove them later and discard the juices. Tent the chickens loosely with foil and let them rest for 15 minutes. Remove from the racks, carve and serve.

Serves 4-8


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