The One and Only Beer-Can Chicken
Recipe courtesy of How to Grill by Steven Raichlen
  • 1 can (12 ounces) beer
  • 1 chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
  • 2 Tbsp. of your favorite commercial rub
  • Wood chips
Pop the tab off the beer can. Using a church key-style can opener, make a few more holes in the top of the can. Pour out half the beer into the soaking water of the wood chips. Set the can of beer aside.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.

Remove the packet of giblets from the body cavity of the chicken and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the rub inside the body and neck cavities of the chicken. Rub the bird all over on the outside with 2 teaspoons of the rub. If you desire, put some of the rub under the skin.

Spoon the remaining 2 teaspoons of rub through the holes into the beer in the can. Don't worry if it foams up: This is normal. Insert the beer can into the body cavity of the chicken and spread out the legs to form a sort of tripod. Tuck the wing tips behind the chicken's back.

When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss all the wood chips on the coals. Stand the chicken up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the chicken until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (about 180° on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thigh), 1 and 1/4 to 1 and 1/2 hours. If using a charcoal grill, you'll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour.

Using tongs, carefully transfer the chicken to its upright position on the beer can to a platter and present to your guests. Let rest 5 minutes, then carefully remove the chicken from the beer can. Take care not to spill the hot beer or otherwise burn yourself. (Normally I discard the beer, but some people like to save it for making barbecue sauce.) Quarter or carve the chicken and serve.

You can also barbecue a chicken on a can of cola, lemon-lime soda, or root beer.