Beer-Can Chicken on the Grill With Gratis American Ale

by Jim Casey
photo by Outsider

Beer-can chicken is a crowd-pleasing spectacle of delicious proportions. Shoving a half-full can of beer into a whole chicken’s cavity delights both onlookers and eaters. While I still believe spatchcock chicken is the superior cooking method (both in terms of efficiency and taste), smoked beer-can chicken is a close second. The beer keeps the interior of the chicken moist and tasty as it steams, while the smoke infuses the meat and crisps the skin (thermodynamics, baby).

Plus, beer-can chicken provides you with the perfect excuse to drink Outsider’s Gratis American Ale (if you need one).

Let’s get smoking. Of course, if you’re looking for more grilling recipes from Outsider, check out our Best Damn Brisket, Skillet S’mores, Chicken Quarters, Pig Shots, Pickle-Juice Hot Wings, Philly Cheesteak Dip, or Juicy Lucy Hamburgers.

Beer-Can Chicken Ingredients

Four simple ingredients: whole chickens, beer, oil, and dry rub.
  • 1 whole chicken (about 5 lbs.)
  • 1 can of Gratis beer
  • 4 tbsp. Cajun dry rub
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil

We’re gonna smoke two beer-can chickens today, since we’ve got a lot of mouths to feed in the office. So we’re doubling the list of ingredients.


Unwrap the chicken, pat dry with a few paper towels, and let it air dry on a wire rack in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (preferably 4 hours).


Open a can of beer. Pour half into a mug and enjoy (image 1). Rub the entire chicken, including the cavity, with 1 tbsp. of canola oil (2). Sprinkle the dry rub over the entire chicken, including the cavity (3). In addition, you can—and should—sprinkle some of the rub between the chicken’s skin and breast for added flavor. We’re using a Cajun dry rub, but feel free to use your favorite rub, including BBQ, lemon-pepper, or Montreal, among others. Place the chicken on top of the beer can (4). If you don’t have a beer-can stand, insert the can into the chicken and use its legs to stabilize it upright (you can also use metal kebab skewers to help support).

Set your smoker to 300 degrees and smoke for about 2.5-3 hours.

Fire up the smoker to 300 degrees. Today, we’re using Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Smoker/Grill with an offset firebox, but any smoker will suffice. Place the chicken on the smoker. In addition, you can cook a beer-can chicken on direct heat in a charcoal grill, gas grill, or in the oven, but cooking times will vary.


Smoke the chicken for about 2.5–3 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees in the breasts and 180 degrees in the thighs. Check your chicken periodically and rotate. Our 5-pound chickens took 3 full hours to cook, but we like our skin extra crispy.

The smoked beer-can chicken can be broken down with a cleaver and served as legs, thighs, wings, and sliced breast meat (left), or it can be pulled/shredded for sandwiches (right).