Beer-can chicken

Beer-Can Chicken, known variously as drunken chicken or beer-butt chicken, is a barbecue legend. It’s tender, juicy, and makes for a fantastic conversation piece during backyard festivities. And with so many different ways to create this simple masterpiece, you honestly can’t go wrong.

It is simple. All you have to do is (carefully) cut the top off of a can of beer, or make a few holes in the lid with a church-key can opener, and pour out half of (who am I kidding? drink half of) the beer. The beer works as a moistening agent, and the yeast and malt react with the chicken, resulting in crispy-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside meat. You can use just about any kind of beer you want. Adding some type of spice to the beer guarantees more flavor. Try adding fresh herbs, garlic, onions, and citrus.

It’s very important to season the entire bird before cooking. Use a dry spice rub and heavily distribute it all over a lightly oiled chicken, including inside the cavity.  You’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to making a dry rub, but I’ve included one of mine to try. Prep the grill so you can cook the meat over indirect heat with the lid closed.

With all that done, it’s time for propping. Set the chicken upright over the beer can with the legs down, which helps the bird to stand up on the grill. Cooking the meat this way ensures lean results by allowing most of the fat to melt off. It takes about an hour to an hour-and-a-half to fully cook. Use a meat thermometer inserted between the leg and the thigh for an accurate temperature reading. The thermometer should register at least 165ºF, and not too much higher.

This main course is completely versatile, but a couple of sides I like to serve with it are grilled corn on the cob with cilantro-lime butter (just mix room-temperature butter with salt, pepper, lime juice and zest, chopped fresh cilantro, and minced garlic), a mixed salad filled with colorful vegetables and dressed in a citrus vinaigrette, and grilled bread seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. Believe me, this meal won’t soon be forgotten.

Beer-can Chicken Dry Rub

1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c kosher salt
1/4 c black pepper
2 T onion powder
2 T garlic powder
2 t cayenne pepper
1 T cinnamon powder

In a bowl, mix all ingredients with fingers until well blended. Set aside about 1/3 of the mix for use on one chicken. The leftover rub can be stored in an airtight canister for up to six months.


Since 1986, the SA Current has served as the free, independent voice of San Antonio, and we want to keep it that way.

Becoming an SA Current Supporter for as little as $5 a month allows us to continue offering readers access to our coverage of local news, food, nightlife, events, and culture with no paywalls.

Join today to keep San Antonio Current.

Scroll to read more Flavor articles

Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.