A popular grill recipe, we found a number of variations when we were researching ideas for our experiment. Some people smoked the bird, some covered it in a rub, some brined, some even baked in the oven! However the one thing we didn’t find were any tests on the various flavors you could get from using different beers – every recipe we saw either used a lager or didn’t specify.

Since the recipe seems to center around beer we were a bit surprised that more attention hadn’t been given to this aspect. However, as keen beer drinkers we were more than prepared to do the leg work ourselves. A quick stop at the supermarket later we had our supplies: 3 bottles of beer (1 Dopplebock (Aventus), 1 extra hoppy IPA (Epic Armageddon), 1 strong English Ale (Fuller’s 1845), 3 chickens, and 1 can of Dr Pepper (a good excuse to buy my fizzy drink of choice).

The technique can basically be divided into 4 steps: prepare the can, prepare the chicken, insert the can, and place on the grill. Something so simple surely must not have much room for error. Well, it does.

Our first chicken used the Strong English Ale. The can was half filled, inserted, and cooked without any problems. A delicious, crispy skinned bird resulted. However, we couldn’t taste any beer flavor or anything that we could contribute to the beer. It just tasted like a very nicely cooked chicken.

Our second chicken was paired with the extra hoppy IPA, or at least it was supposed to be. The can was half filled, as required, and the rest of the bottle was quickly polished off. Then we moved onto insertion, this was a mistake! With no beer reserves, when the can tipped over during the first insertion attempt and we lost around half of what was in the can, we were in dire straits. Yes, I admit, there was a small amount of cursing going on in the room. Then, at the second insertion attempt, when the greasy chicken flew out of my husband’s hands and skidded across the kitchen floor… well it was just hysterical laughter at that point. Of course by now the can was empty. We made a quick substitution of a tasty Mead (medium sweet), thinking a honey flavor could go quite nicely with chicken, and finally managed, on the third try, to get the can into the chicken. This one cooked up beautifully again, crispy skin, succulent flesh, but no apparent flavor from the mead.

Our third chicken was cooked with Aventus Dopplebock (the best beer of the bunch in my opinion). Everything went smoothly and the result at the end was again nicely cooked. This time however, we could taste some flavor imparted by the beer, albeit faint. The chicken was mildly richer and slightly sweeter. It also gave the flesh a rosy pinkness. I have to stress that these differences were very mild, and I personally would get much more pleasure out of drinking every drop of this beer myself.

So in conclusion, the technique itself produces nicely cooked chickens with the important crispy skin, however the beer used didn’t seem to make must of a difference. From our results it seems likely that any liquid would do the trick. A bit disappointing, but interesting nonetheless.

I wonder what would happen if I marinated the chicken in the beer though… hmm


1 whole chicken

1 can (if your beer of choice is in a can, then use that, but if you’re using a bottled beer then use a soda can)

1/2 a can of beer

Butter or olive oil

Salt and Pepper

–Because the main purpose of this experiment was to test the results of using different beers, we decided that smoking the chicken or applying a rub would cover up the beer flavors and so shouldn’t be used in our experiment. However, if you want to smoke or put a rub on your Beer Can Chicken, feel free! We have included instructions for both.–

Step 1: Start the Gas Grill or Light up the Charcoal BBQ

Start your grill so it has time to preheat before putting the chicken on to cook.

We used a gas grill for this recipe, but if you want to use a charcoal BBQ, that will work as well.

This recipe uses indirect cooking. If you are using a gas grill, make sure to only turn on a burner away from where the chicken will be sitting. (We used a temperature of Med-High). If you are using a charcoal BBQ, make sure to move the coals either to one side (so the chicken can be place on the opposite side of the grill), or to both sides with an empty space in the middle (so the chicken can be placed in the middle over this empty space).

Smoking: If you are smoking your chicken, start soaking the wood chips now.

Step 2: Prepare the Can

If you’re using a soda can like us, then drink all the contents, otherwise, if the beer you’re using is in the can, drink approximately half the can.

Poke some holes in the top of the can (we made 6 holes) using whatever aluminum poking instrument you have handy. We used kitchen shears, maybe not the best option, but it was all we could find. For our second chicken we cut the top all the way off in the hopes that this would increase the beer penetration.  However, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

If you’re using bottled beer, fill the can halfway. Make sure to let the foam settle before drinking the rest, you may need to top up your can!

Step 3: Preparing the Bird

Now you need to grease up and season the chicken. This will give you crispy skin that you won’t be able to resist no matter how health conscious you are. (Yes I admit it; crispy skin is my favorite part of the whole chicken).

Using someone else’s hands (if you’re like me and hate touching raw meat), rub softened butter or oil all over the chicken.

Season (generously!) with salt and sprinkle on some black pepper. (Of course this does come down to personal taste, but I like my chicken skin only lightly peppery but very salty, think potato chips.)

Applying a Rub: If you are putting a rub on the chicken, do this instead of seasoning with salt and pepper. Rub your chosen dry rub all over the chicken, particularly under the skin as much as possible, and then rub oil all over the chicken. See the rub recipe at the bottom of this post.

Step 4: Insertion

Really, it is impossible not to laugh at this step.

Insert the can half filled with beer into the chicken’s opening. It is at the rear side, hence the other name for this recipe ‘Beer Butt Chicken’.

Be careful not to tip the can over or drop the greasy chicken like we did.

Step 5: Cooking the Chicken

Carefully place the can with the chicken on top onto the preheated grill. Make sure to put it on the side away from the heat source.

Put the lid on and open the top vent.

Cooking time can vary considerably, depending on the size of your bird and the actual temperature of your grill. An instant read thermometer will be the most accurate way to tell when your chicken is done.

Check the temperature after 1 hour by sticking the thermometer into the chicken’s thigh (making sure not to touch the bone) and the breast, it will read 170 degrees F when the chicken is done.

Smoking: If you are smoking the chicken, put the drained wood chips on the coals when you put the chicken on the BBQ.


Chicken Rub Recipe

This recipe is a great starting point, adjust and add to it as you like.


4 Tablespoons paprika
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Reserve until needed.

May 17th, 2010

Posted In: Meat Poultry & Fish, Recipes