Beer Can Chicken

Beer can chicken, beer butt chicken, whatever you want to call it – this is the best way to cook chicken on the Big Green Egg.

I’ve made beer can chicken three or four times since I bought my egg.  I made a couple of changes today and I liked the results.

If you’ve never made beer can chicken you’re missing out.  The basic idea is that you keep the chicken moist by sticking a can of beer up its cavity and grilling it standing up.  Pure genius.

My biggest struggle with beer can chicken is too much moisture.  Crazy, I know.  Usually the challenge is keeping the meat moist.  My chicken is always plenty moist, but I can’t get a crispy skin to save my life.  The skin always looks beautiful as its cooking but ends up a wet rag by the time I’m ready to carve.

I have a hypothesis about moisture.  My brother, who lives in Boulder, Colorado and also has a Big Green Egg, once told me he had issues with ribs drying out.  This surprised me because nothing has ever dried out for me on the egg.  How could we have such different results?  I decided it must be the difference in humidity between San Francisco and Boulder.  The air in San Francisco is always humid (the fog!), and the air in Boulder is always dry.  I think my brother has to take steps to promote moisture, while I have to worry less about my meat drying out.

In the past I’ve spritzed my beer can chicken regularly with a mixture of beer and apple cider vinegar.  I’m a big fan of the spritz.  But I decided the spritz isn’t necessary when my problem is too much moisture.  So no more spritzing my beer can chicken.

I’m also a big fan of low and slow.  But again, since I have plenty of moisture in my chicken, I decided I can afford to crank up the temperature.  So that’s what I did this time.

I made one other change with this beer can chicken: surgical gloves.  What do surgical gloves have to do with grilling?  Everything!  I’m very careful with raw meat.  I wash my hands regularly and segregate raw meat dishes and utensils.  So when I apply rub, I’m always thinking about salmonella getting underneath my fingernails.  Hence the surgical gloves.  What a difference!  I dug right into that chicken today!

So here’s the process.  Start out with a good rub.  Today I used Team Sweet Mama’s BBQ Chicken Rub from Savory Spice Shop in Boulder.  Absolutely delicious!  If you want a crispy skin use a rub with a good bit of sugar.  This rub has brown sugar, which carmelizes during cooking.

It’s important to rub the outside of the chicken.  But it’s more important to get as much rub as possible under the skin.  This is where the surgical gloves come in.  I really dug in this time.  You should also dump a whole bunch of rub inside the cavity.

Next comes my favorite part of the recipe: drink 3/4 of a can of beer.  Please do yourself a favor and buy a good beer.  Many microbrews are starting to distribute in cans.  Dale’s and 21st Amendment are my go to beer can chicken beers.  If I can’t find those, I’ll but a Tecate, dump it out, and pour a good beer into the can.

Once you have 1/4 of a beer in the can, fill it up to half full with apple cider vinegar.  Then dump some of your rub into your can.

Now you’re ready to grill.  Set your Big Green Egg for indirect cooking.  Bring the temperature to 375.  Toss some wood chips on the coals if you want some extra smoke.  Right before you place the chicken on the egg, drizzle with olive oil.

Carefully lift your chicken onto your beer can.  Lift the bird and beer onto the grill.  Use the drumsticks to balance the bird so it stands up straight.  There’s something eerily alive about the bird sitting like this!

My five-pound bird cooked for about an hour and twenty minutes to reach 160 in the breast.  I always let the chicken sit for about 10-15 minutes before carving.  I was pretty happy with the skin this time!  The wings and drumsticks had some good skin on them.  I leave those intact when carving.  Here she is:

Walk like an Egyptian!

Recipe Recap

Rub a 4-5 pound chicken with your favorite rub.  Pour rub into cavity and under breast skin.  Let chicken sit while you start your Big Green Egg.

Set the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking and preheat to 375 degrees.  Drink 3/4 of a can of beer.  Fill the can back to half full with apple cider vinegar.  Pour some of your rub into the can.  Set the chicken on top of the can.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Set the chicken on the grill, using the drumsticks to balance the chicken.

Grill at 375 until the breast reaches 160 degrees, about 75-90 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the heat, being careful not to spill the remaining beer from the can.  Carefully tip the chicken sideways over a sink to pour out the remaining beer.  Remove the can.  Let the chicken sit for 10-15 minutes prior to carving.

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About bbqesquire

I'm a Scandinavian Plaintiff's lawyer from Minnesota living in California. Despite that background, I've become a weekend warrior on my Big Green Egg. I've started this blog to share my successes, failures, and experiments with anyone who cares to read about them.

3 responses to “Beer Can Chicken”

  1. eric says :

    thanks for the shout out! Yes, I think the atmospheric conditions definitely play a big part in the process and i’m going the opposite way…always trying to find ways to keep the meat moist.

    I’ve tried beer can chicken, I’m surprised you were able to get it done at so quick at 375 cooking indirect. I have a stand that I put the chicken on and can put veggies in and it really keeps the heat off the chicken (although the veggies are awesome cause they cook in the grease of the chicken. Also, I agree with putting the rub under the skin. I hardly bother with putting anything on the outside since it just sits on top, stuffing under the skin is essential.

    • bbqesquire says :

      I was surprised at the cook time, too. I actually creeped up close to 400 a few times. That would probably lead to a dry bird in Boulder!

      We have a friend who is a great cook. When she roasts a chicken in the oven she lines the pan with potatoes. This helps prevent flareups and burning. I’ve been thinking about putting potatoes in a pan on top of the plate setter. They’d cook in the chicken grease. I’ll be sure to post if I ever try it!

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