How to Smoke Beer Can Chicken: Complete Process and Tips

Discover the tantalizing process of smoking beer can chicken, a flavorful twist on traditional BBQ that delivers juicy and smoky results every time.

Smoking a beer can chicken is a surefire way to elevate your BBQ game, infusing the meat with a smoky flavor that’s hard to resist.

This method involves placing a whole chicken onto a can of beer and smoking it to perfection.

The beer steams the chicken from the inside, making it incredibly tender, while the smoke imparts a unique flavor.

In this article, you’ll find a comprehensive guide on how to smoke beer can chicken, including the best choice of chicken, the ideal beer selection, the perfect smoking wood, and the precise cooking time and temperature.

Stick around to discover the secrets to mastering this BBQ classic.

Key takeaways:

  • Use a 4-5 pound whole chicken for balance of size and cooking time
  • Fill the beer can halfway to steam the chicken and add flavor
  • Apply a dry rub to the chicken’s skin and cavity for added flavor
  • Cook the chicken at low temperatures for several hours for tenderness and flavor
  • Check the internal temperature of the chicken to ensure it reaches 165°F

What Is Smoked Beer Can Chicken

Beer Can Chicken

Smoked Beer Can Chicken is essentially a whole chicken cooked upright on a grill or smoker with a partially-full can of beer nestled inside its cavity. This not only offers stability but also infuses the chicken meat with moisture and flavor throughout the cooking process.

A few key elements of the Smoked Beer Can Chicken include:

  • Using a whole chicken: A variety of sizes can work, but chickens weighing about 4-5 pounds usually offer the best balance of size and cooking time.
  • Partially full beer can: Typically, about half the can of beer is used. As the chicken cooks, the beer slowly steams into the meat, helping to keep it moist and adding subtle flavor.
  • Dry rub: Spices and herbs combine to create a dry rub that is applied to the chicken’s skin and cavity. This gives added flavor that complements the beer’s infusion.
  • Low and slow cooking: The beer can chicken is cooked at low temperatures over several hours in a grill or smoker. This slow cooking process helps keep the meat tender and juicy while allowing the smoke to permeate, imparting distinct flavor.
  • Upright cooking: Cooking the beer can chicken upright allows the skin to become crispy all the way around and also helps the smoke circulate better, resulting in a tastier bird.
  • Internal temperature check: The chicken should be cooked until the internal temperature reaches 165 °F (74 °C) checked in the thickest part of the thigh.

Remember, the essence of smoked beer can chicken is in the balance of flavors and textures achieved through the precise blend of smoking, infused beer steam, and the rub’s seasoning.

Why Smoked Beer Can Chicken Is Delicious

Beer Can Chicken smoked

Smoked beer can chicken inherently holds a range of palate-pleasing flavors and textures. First, the contents of the beer can steam the chicken from the inside, resulting in a tender and juicy piece of meat. As the beer heats up, the alcohol evaporates, and this vapor mingles with the chicken. The effect infuses the bird with a distinctive beer flavor that works harmoniously with the chicken’s natural flavor profile.

The addition of smoke in the cooking process helps impart a more distinct and complex flavor, enhancing the overall taste of the chicken. Using aromatic wood chips in your smoker can add a subtle hint of hickory, mesquite, or apple, among others, as smoke grips the exterior of the chicken.

To ensure optimal taste, a dry rub comprising your chosen herbs and spices is typically applied before smoking. This combination helps you achieve that crispy, spice-infused skin that is a hallmark of this dish. It is packed with flavor on the outside while managing to keep the meat juicy and succulent inside. Finally, cooking it in the gentle heat of the smoker, rather than a fierce open flame, ensures the bird is evenly cooked and retains its juices.

These aspects together – inner steam, the flavors from the smoke, a savory rub, and slow, even cooking – create a mouth-watering result that is characteristic of smoked beer can chicken. The aromatics of the beer combining with the robust flavors from the smoke makes it a dish that is difficult to resist.

Key Recipe for Smoked Beer Can Chicken

Chicken preparation for smoking

Creating the perfect smoked beer can chicken involves a blend of savory dry rub, choice beer, and slow cooking on the grill. Here’s the shorthand of what you’ll need.

Firstly, for the dry rub, you’ll need a combination of brown sugar, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper. This blend gives meat its mouth-watering, caramelized exterior.

Moving on to the beer, a can that’s half-full forms the base of the chicken and provides moisture for smoking. It’s preferable to use a lager or a full-flavored beer that will infuse the chicken from the inside out.

For the chicken, a whole fresh bird, approximately four to five pounds, is best. It’s small enough to cook evenly and quickly, yet large enough to remain juicy throughout the smoking process.

The bird must then be prepared: remove giblets, excess fat, and rinse, then pat dry. The dry rub should be applied evenly inside and outside the chicken. Afterward, it is placed upright onto the beer can.

Quite importantly, set up your grill for indirect grilling. This involves heating one side of the grill to high heat and placing the beer can chicken on the cooler side. This method prevents undercooked or overcooked chicken.

Once you have these elements in place, you’re ready to start the smoking process, gently cooking the chicken to succulent perfection.

Essential Tools and Equipment

preheat the smoker

Having the right tools at hand makes the process simpler and ensures the best results. To begin with, the obvious – a smoker. You can use a traditional smoker or a kettle grill, whichever is convenient. For succulent, flavorful meat, consider purchasing a good quality meat thermometer. This instrument promises precision, affording you the confidence of properly cooked chicken.

A beer can chicken holder is another piece of equipment that aids in stability while cooking. This little gadget holds the chicken upright, ensuring an even cook.

Of course, you’ll also need a can of beer – it’s beer can chicken, after all. Any standard 12 ounce can will do.

For the final touch, wood chips are used to add that smoky flavor. Hickory, apple, and mesquite are popular choices and impart unique flavors.

Some other useful tools include tongs for moving the chicken, gloves to protect your hands, and aluminum foil used for indirect grilling or wrapping the chicken.

Required Ingredients

Spatchcock a Chicken

To execute this recipe flawlessly, procure the following quality components: a whole chicken – about 4 to 5 pounds will suffice; your preferred BBQ rub – a homemade blend or store-bought will do fine; a whole can of beer – any brand that pleases your palate; and the final touch, BBQ sauce for that perfect glossy finish.

Now, the focus needs to shift from edible components to necessary implements which comprise: a smoker – any kind will do; thermometer – ensuring accurate temperature monitoring; beer can chicken holder – designed to stabilize the chicken on the grill (optional yet handy); and wood chips – a fruity or nutty variety like apple, cherry or pecan would work best.

This list ensures readiness to embark on the actual preparation and smoking of beer can chicken. Accuracy and quality of these ingredients and tools set the basis for the final result.

Smoked Beer Can Chicken Preparation

Ingredients Smoked Spatchcock Chicken

Before rolling up your sleeves, make sure your chicken is fully thawed if it has been frozen. Begin by rinsing it thoroughly both inside and outside while removing any existing giblets if present.

Dry the chicken, patting it down using paper towels to ensure it is completely dry. This is key to achieving a crispy skin in the final smoked dish.

For the rub, opt for a mixture of your favorite seasonings, providing a flavorful boost to your chicken. Common choices include paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Regardless of what you select, liberally spread your rub all over the chicken’s exterior, as well as inside its cavity, to ensure maximum flavor absorption.

Now, for the unique part of this method – the beer can. Open your beverage of choice, pouring out or drinking approximately half of it. Some options, such as stout and porter beers, can inject the chicken with unique flavor profiles. To prepare, pierce additional holes into the top of the can in order to allow steam to escape during cooking, then dip the open end into the seasoning rub to coat the rim.

Finally, firmly and carefully work the chicken onto the beer can, with the aim of standing it upright with the can in its cavity and the legs forming a sort of tripod along with the can. This allows the beer vapors to keep the chicken moist from the inside as it smokes, leading to a deliciously tender end result.

Preparing the Beer Can Chicken

Spatchcock Chicken with seasoning

Firstly, select a whole chicken, ideally weighing between 3 to 4 pounds. To ensure the chicken is properly cleaned, remove any gizzards or organs that might still be inside and run it under cold water before pat drying with a towel.

Next, prepare a dry rub consisting of choice spices such as smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and brown sugar for a hint of sweetness. Evenly distribute the rub across the entire chicken, ensuring it’s thoroughly coated, both on top of the skin and underneath.

Now comes the beer can part. Empty about half of the beer can, either by pouring it out or enjoying a quick drink. Then, carefully place the chicken onto the can. Ensure that the can goes into the cavity of the chicken and that it’s able to stand on its own.

As a final touch, apply a light coating of cooking spray over the chicken skin to make it crispy during smoking. The chicken is now ready for the smoker.

One quick tip, try adding some garlic, onion or herbs into the beer can to infuse some additional flavor into the chicken while it cooks.

Smoker Preparation

Preheat the Smoker

Before placing the chicken in the smoker, it’s critical to ensure the unit is correctly set up. Start by preheating it to an optimal temperature of between 225 – 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range allows for slow, low-heat smoking that maintains the moisture of the chicken and allows it to absorb the flavors from the beer can.

Choice of wood chips heavily influences the flavor profile of your smoked chicken. The popular options include hickory and mesquite for a robust, smoky flavor, or fruitwoods like apple and cherry for a subtly sweet hint. Soak your chosen wood chips in water for about 30 minutes to allow for long, steady smoke.

Next, fill the water pan. The water vapor helps to regulate the temperature and adds humidity, which keeps the chicken moist during the long smoking process.

Lastly, arrange the coals correctly for indirect heat exposure. This setup allows for even heating and avoids burning one side of the bird. Adjust the vents or dampers to manage airflow and maintain the desired temperature.

Make sure to have a drip pan in place underneath where the chicken will sit to catch drippings as this aids in cleanup post-smoking.

Remember, a properly prepared smoker is key to achieving that juicy, mouth-watering smoked beer can chicken with perfectly crisped skin. Consistency in temperature and smoke are pivotal points to watch throughout the process. Proper preparation at this stage saves time and ensures a smoother smoking experience.

Steps to Create Smoked Beer Can Chicken

smoked Beer Can Chicken

Begin by preheating your smoker to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Empty half of the beer from the can. For added flavor, you can also fill the can with a sprig of rosemary or garlic cloves. Place your chicken on top of the beer can, inserting the can into the cavity of the chicken. This position will keep the chicken upright during the smoking process.

When it comes to seasoning the chicken, opt for a simple seasoning or a combination of your favorite dry rub or spices. Make sure to cover the entire surface area of the chicken with seasonings, including its cavity.

Next you will place the chicken inside the preheated smoker. A water pan filled halfway with hot water should be placed on a rack underneath to maintain the moisture levels inside the smoker. Close the smoker’s lid and cook until the chicken reaches the desired internal temperature. The ideal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which typically takes approximately 3 to 4 hours.

During the smoking process, refrain from constantly opening the smoker. The aim is to maintain a consistent temperature and smoke level inside the smoker. Exceptions can be made for basting with juices or a mix of the chosen beer and apple cider vinegar to keep the chicken moist.

Once the desired internal temperature is achieved, remove the chicken from the smoker, letting it rest for 15 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices in the chicken to redistribute evenly, resulting in a succulent and flavorful chicken.

Remember, smoking is a process that runs on ‘low and slow’ cooking. It requires patience, but the end result is always rewarding. If you are a beginner to smoking, beer can chicken is a good starting point to explore and fine-tune your smoking skills. The beauty of smoked beer can chicken lies in its simplicity and the room for experiential learning it provides. So, go forth, smoke, and savor your perfect smoked chicken!

Smoking Process for Beer Can Chicken

Beer Can Chicken smoke

Start by positioning your chicken over your beer can. Open the lid of your smoker while maintaining the temperature around 225-250°F. Place the chicken, in its standing position, on the grates of the smoker and close the lid.

Monitor the smoker’s temperature throughout the smoking process to maintain a steady heat. This is crucial for even cooking and for achieving optimal flavor and juiciness. Make use of a reliable digital thermometer to keep track of the temperature.

In case the heat goes too high, close the vents partially to lower the temperature. Conversely, open the vents up if the temperature falls too low. Avoid opening the lid now and then as it leads to heat loss.

Bear in mind that the chicken needs to reach an internal temperature of 165°F to be safe for consumption.

While maintaining the heat and smoke, ensure that the wood chips, pellets, or chunks do not burn out completely. Add more, as needed.

Remember, patience is the key. Don’t rush the smoking process. The rule of thumb is to smoke the chicken for about 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound, however, depending on the smoker and the size of your bird, time may vary.

Finally, handling the beer can in the chicken is a tricky business. Use grill gloves or tongs to safely remove the can once the cooking process is over to avoid any accidental burns.

Duration to Properly Smoke Beer Can Chicken

empty pellet grill

A crucial aspect of smoking a beer can chicken is getting the timing right. The process isn’t about rushing; it’s about allowing the meat to slowly absorb the smoky flavor, and that takes time. The duration largely depends on the weight of the chicken and the temperature of the smoker.

Generally, a 4-pound chicken smoked at a consistent heat of 225 degrees Fahrenheit (107 degrees Celsius) would take about 3 to 4 hours. It’s very important to assess doneness based on the internal temperature of the meat, not just the cooking time. Use a meat thermometer and insert it into the thickest part of the bird’s thigh. The chicken is ready when the thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius).

Remember, every chicken, smoker, and even fire may behave differently. Therefore, consider these times as a starting point rather than a strict rule.

  • Start with preheating your smoker to a steady temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Allow about 3 to 4 hours for a 4-pound chicken. Adjust the timing for larger or smaller birds.
  • Check the doneness of the bird with a meat thermometer. When the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, your smoked beer can chicken is ready.
  • If you’re using a smoker with a water pan, refill it as necessary to maintain the moisture level in the smoker.

Remember, slow and steady rules the roost when it comes to smoking meat. The goal is a well smoked bird, with meat that slides off the bone and a flavor that’s worth the wait.

Choice of Beer for Smoked Beer Can Chicken

Beer Can Chicken with beer

The beer selection plays a crucial role in the flavor profile of the smoked chicken, making it one of the fundamentals in this recipe. While any beer type can work, certain options might enhance the dish remarkably.

An Ale or Lager, with their light yet slightly bitter notes, can add a certain zest to your chicken, perfect for those who prefer a sharp and tangy flavor.

Stouts and porters, on the other hand, offer rich, robust flavors. If you prefer your chicken to have a deep, smoky taste with hints of cocoa or coffee, these beers are an excellent choice.

For a fruity, slightly sweet undertone, a wheat beer or fruit-infused ale could be your go-to. They impart a subtle sweetness that pairs well with the smoky chicken.

An IPA (Indian Pale Ale), full of floral and citrusy flavors, is ideal for bringing in a punch of flavor. However, they can overpower the chicken’s flavor, use it when you want your dish to have a strong beer influence.

Remember, with each beer type, the flavor of your smoked beer can chicken can vary significantly. So, go ahead and experiment with different kinds until you find the one that suits your palate.

Take note, though, that your chosen beer should have a flavorful personality but not excessively strong, to avoid overpowering the natural taste of the chicken. Lastly, it’s key to remember the beer should complement the flavors of your rub or marinade. The balance between the beer, the spices, and the chicken should be in perfect harmony for a delicious end result.

Ideal Wood Chips for Smoking

Hickory wood chips

Choosing the right type of wood chips can greatly enhance the flavor of your smoked beer can chicken.

The type of wood chip you use matters. If you prefer a lighter, fruity smoke, applewood chips are a great choice. They give off a sweet, mild aroma that pairs well with chicken.

For a stronger, more robust flavor, mesquite wood chips can be used. They provide a rich and earthy taste that really enhances the natural flavor of the chicken.

Cherry wood chips also work excellently with chicken. These chips add a mild, sweet, and fruity flavor, which works beautifully for chicken with a slightly sweeter glaze or rub.

Hickory wood chips are another preferred. They deliver a strong flavor that’s often associated with classic barbecue smoking.

Remember, moist wood chips are more efficient as they produce more smoke. Before grilling, It’s beneficial to soak your chosen wood chips in water for about 30 minutes.

Experiment with different types, even mix different chips, to find the smoke flavor you like best. It all depends on personal preference.

Serving Suggestions for Beer Can Chicken

Beer Can Chicken served

One of the beauties of beer can chicken is its versatility. There are various ways in which it can be served to enhance the overall taste and make the meal more enjoyable.

Firstly, beer can chicken can be carved and served on a platter, garnishing with fresh herbs for an added touch of finesse. This is a simple and straightforward option that brings the focus to the beautifully smoked chicken.

In addition, it can be shredded and served on soft, warm bread rolls for a satisfying smoked chicken sandwich, providing a balance of flavors between the smokiness of the chicken and the softness of the bread.

For a flavorful twist, consider serving the chicken atop a bed of grilled vegetables. The pairing of the smoky chicken with the natural sweetness of grilled veggies offers a culinary experience that is both delicious and healthy.

The smokiness of the chicken also pairs excellently with tangy or spicy sauces. Serving the chicken with a side of barbecue sauce or buffalo sauce allows everyone to enjoy their chicken with their desired level of spiciness.

Lastly, the chicken can be cubed and served in a salad. The rich, smoky flavor of the chicken elevates a basic salad into a hearty and enjoyable meal.

Remember to let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes before it is served. This allows time for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a juicier, more flavorful chicken.

Storing and Reheating Smoked Beer Can Chicken

pork steaks in oven

Preserving your smoked beer can chicken after enjoying it fresh from the grill requires proper storage methods to maintain its flavor.

For refrigeration, place any leftover chicken in an airtight container or tightly seal it in aluminum foil. This method ensures that the chicken remains moist and reduces the risk of it absorbing other flavors from your refrigerator. In this condition, it can be stored up to four days.

When it comes to freezing, wrap the chicken portions in plastic wrap before placing them in a freezer bag or container. It’s crucial to squeeze out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Well-protected smoked beer can chicken can be kept frozen for up to three months for optimum flavor.

Reheating should be done with care to ensure the chicken doesn’t dry out. Thaw frozen chicken overnight in the refrigerator before heating.

The best method for reheating smoked beer can chicken is in the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C), place the chicken in a baking dish, add a small amount of chicken broth, water or beer to provide moisture during reheating, then cover it tightly with aluminum foil.

Reheat the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). A meat thermometer comes in handy to ensure the chicken is adequately warmed. Remember, the goal is to reheat the chicken, not cook it further.

Refraining from microwaving is generally recommended as it often causes the chicken to become rubbery and dry. An exception could be a quick reheat of small bitesize portions.

Keeping these steps in mind while storing and reheating your smoked beer can chicken will ensure you enjoy its savory flavors even days after the grilling event.

Preferred BBQ Equipment for Smoking Chicken

BBQ smoker

Quality is crucial when choosing BBQ equipment, as it significantly affects the taste and texture of your smoked beer can chicken. Three primary, non-negotiable pieces are a BBQ smoker, meat thermometer, and wood chips.

A BBQ smoker is the centerpiece of your setup. It comes in various types, such as offset smokers, upright smokers, and more. Pick one that suits your budget, space, and frequency of use.

A precise meat thermometer allows for accurate temperature readings, ensuring perfectly-cooked chicken each time. Don’t rely on estimated cooking times; use a thermometer to check for doneness at a poultry-safe 165°F (74°C).

Wood chips, on the other hand, infuse glorious, smoky flavor into your beer can chicken. Different woods produce different flavors – hickory or mesquite for robust flavor, apple or cherry for sweetness, or oak for a balanced taste.

Additional tools include tongs for handling the chicken, a can holder for stability, and heat-resistant gloves for safety. Lastly, have a comfortable chair and your favorite beverage on hand – smoking is a patient, leisurely activity after all.


How long does it take to smoke a whole beer can chicken?

The smoking process of a whole beer can chicken typically ranges from 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes.

How long to smoke a chicken at 225?

Smoking a whole chicken of about 4lb at 225 degrees Fahrenheit typically takes between 3.5 to 4.5 hours, but keeping track of the internal temperature is crucial to determining its doneness.

How do you smoke chicken and keep it moist?

To smoke chicken while maintaining its moisture, consistently cook it over a longer period at a low temperature, ideally not surpassing 250°F, but striving to keep as close to 225°F as possible.

What type of wood is best for smoking beer can chicken?

For smoking beer can chicken, applewood is often considered the best choice due to its mild, slightly sweet flavor that complements poultry well.

How does the type of beer used in the beer can chicken affect the flavor?

The type of beer used in beer can chicken can subtly influence the flavor, with darker beers tending to impart a more robust, malty taste, while lighter beers yield a milder, less pronounced flavor.

What are some good rubs or marinades for enhancing the taste of the smoked beer can chicken?

Some good rubs or marinades for smoked beer can chicken include a mixture of brown sugar, paprika, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper, or a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and rosemary.