Beer Can Chicken – A wobbly dancing bird

Though there is no official history of ‘beer can chicken’, it certainly seems to be an all American classic to have first appeared in the Southern US in the 1970s. As well as the name ‘beer can chicken’, it does go by other names such as Beer in the Butt Chicken, Drunken Chicken, Thirsty Bird, Dancing Chicken or Chicken on the Throne. Whatever it is called it produces amazingly tender and succulent meat.

It is possible to cook beer can chicken on a barbeque, a smoker or even just in the oven. Though if you are using a barbecue, it is best to use an indirect heat method. The basic technique is to cover the chicken in a rub, seal up the neck, stick an open can of beer up the bottom end, stand it up on the beer can and cook it. One of the first issues for anyone wanting to make beer can chicken themselves, is how to make the chicken stand up by itself. It is a lot easier than it looks. Because of the low centre of gravity the weight of the chicken basically holds itself up, with the beer can and the two legs making a tripod. However if it doesn’t work or you aren’t brave enough to try it, there are beer can chicken stands which make the whole process easier to cope with.

Beer can inserted into chicken

Beer can inserted into chicken

Beer Can Chicken Basic Technique



First remove any giblets, wash the chicken inside and out, and then pat dry with paper towels. Cover the chicken in your favourite dry rub seasoning. Open the can of beer and pierce a couple of more holes in the top. This will allow more  beer ‘steam’ to exit the can. Pour out about a quarter of the beer. Don’t waste it, drink it. Take the beer can and push it up the bottom end of the chicken, making sure it is firmly in place inside the cavity. Place the bird onto a baking tray and arrange the legs so that they form a tripod with the beer can, making sure that the chicken is sitting upright and well balanced. Use cocktail sticks to securely seal the neck end skin over the opening. This will help steam the chicken from the inside.

Cooking times will vary depending on what you use for cooking, but always use a meat thermometer to check that the thigh is at 170F (75C). A 4lb chicken will roughly take 4 hours at 230F(110C) or 2 hours at 350F (175C). After cooking remove the beer can from the chicken, wrap the bird in foil and leave to rest for 15 mins before eating.

Smoked Beer Can Chicken

Smoked Beer Can Chicken

Variations to the Basic Beer Can Chicken Technique

  • Try different types of beer or even soda
  • Use different types of dry rubs
  • Add onions, garlic, etc to the beer can for more aromatics
  • Baste the outside of the chicken with beer or apple juice during cooking
  • Seal the neck end of the chicken with a potato


Beer Can Chicken posing for the camera

Beer Can Chicken posing for the camera

Essential Kitchen Supplies

1 comment

    • Angie@Angie's Recipes on June 30, 2012 at 12:07 am
    • Reply

    A very clever idea. The chicken looks fingerlicking!


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