Smoked Beer Can Chicken

This post has been updated for recipe, photography and content since its first publication in 2015. It also contains affiliate links. 

 Chicken and beer are a natural pairing, right? So what could be better than a real, wood smoked beer can chicken? Not much… except maybe a cold brew to go along with it. This easy BBQ beer can chicken recipe is one that our clan goes back to again and again because it’s easy to make, impressive to serve (everyone gets a chuckle from the beer can chicken stand).  But it’s the juicy, tender, lightly-smoked flavor that keeps ’em coming back. With only 3 ingredients and your choice of wood chips, you can have this satisfying bird on your table in no time.

sprinkling a whole chicken with chipotle BBQ rub.

Ingredients for smoked beer can chicken

Tips on choosing the best chicken:

  1. When you’re buying the poultry, make sure you look at the size and weight of it. A larger, 5 pound chicken is too big to rest on a 12 ounce can and will likely tip over. Try to stick with a smaller 3  1/2 to 4 pounder. That’s not to say you can’t do it with a larger bird, however, if you do, you’d need to use a 16-ounce Tall Boy to steady the BBQ beer can chicken.
  2. I recommend using an organic chicken for this recipe. Many conventional chickens are “plumped” with excess water or brine and when sitting upright for cooking, it’ll just run out of the chicken anyway. (No need to pay for that). At least with organic, you’re getting pure, unadulterated chicken (and beer) flavor.
tucking wings behind the chicken and rubbing in the chipotle seasoning.

Season the BBQ beer can chicken with your favorite BBQ seasoning. I recommend my all purpose smoky chipotle seasoning. It’s quick and easy to make and it’s good on chicken, pork and beef and you’ll have enough extra (after this wood smoked beer can chicken) for at least one or two more recipes. 

How to season and prep the chicken

  1. Use paper towels to dry the inside and outside of the bird completely.
  2. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet and liberally sprinkle with the BBQ rub inside and out.
  3. Use your fingers to rub it into the skin and flesh, so that the poultry is well coated. 
  4. Tuck the wing tips back behind the chicken, so they don’t crisp and dry out on the smoker.
adding beer to the wood chips and bbq seasoning to the beer, which will be the beer can chicken stand.

Flavor is the name of the game for our BBQ beer can chicken and with so few ingredients, its important to maximize where we can. Therefore, when soaking the wood chips, immerse them in a mixture of water and beer to amplify flavors a the wood chips smoke.  Further, we like to add a little BBQ seasoning rub to the other half of the beer, so that as the chicken smokes on the outside, the beer and dry rub cook the interior of the bird with a smoky, spicy steam bath.  Mmmm. Doesn’t that sound good?

Best wood chips to use?

I don’t know that there’s a “best” type of wood to use here.  I recommend sweet woods like hickory, apple, cherry or pecan. I think Mesquite is a little to sharp and pronounced, at least for my tastes. But if you like it… go for it.

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Let’s talk beer

You can use whatever type of lager or pilsner you’d like for the beer can chicken and, realistically, you only need one can of beer. However, most men I know would consider it a personal affront to use half the brew for wood chips and the other for standing up the beer can chicken — without even getting a sip for themselves. So, let’s be generous and say that this recipe calls for two cans of beer — one for the chicken and one for the grillmaster. There. Happy now? Just be sure you’ve got the right size beer can to stand the chicken on (and not one of those tall, skinny 12-ouncers).

Inserting the beer can into the butt end of the chicken to make a stand.

Assembling beer can chicken stand

  1. Carefully tip the beer can about 45° (or less) so that the beer and bbq seasoning don’t spill out of it. 
  2. Insert the can into the butt end of the chicken and stand it upright on the pan. Now it’s ready for the smoker or grill. 
  3. Carefully, carry the tray, with one hand holding the chicken upright so it doesn’t tip, out to the grill. 
  4. I recommend using a grill mitt or Pit Mitt {affiliate link} to arrange the chicken and beer can on the grill so that the can is the stand and the chicken legs rest on the grill grates to help prop up the bird.
BBQ beer can chicken on the grill and checking the temperature after 45 minutes.

 How long do you smoke the beer can chicken?

A  three and a half to four pound chicken will take about one hour to one hour and fifteen minutes to cook, though there’s really only one way to be sure. Use a good instant read thermometer.

I recommend the {affiliate link} Thermapen One by Thermoworks. It’s the Cadillac of instant reads. I used to go through a new thermometer every 6 months — they never last. I’ve had this one for 4 years without a hitch! Get one for yourself and thank me later. 

Start checking the temperature at about the 45 minute point to gauge how much longer the chicken needs to cook. A safe temperature is 165° for both white and dark meat. I usually pull it off the grill at 160° because the temperature continues to increase, even after its removed from the heat, a phenomenon known as residual or carryover cooking.

The beer can chicken resting on a cutting board after grilling.

Let the chicken rest

After the meat is cooked, use your grill mitt to transfer the steaming hot bird to a cutting board sitting upright on the beer can and let it rest for about 10 minutes before carving it.  This is a good time to let the other diners come in and regale you with accolade for having produced a magnificent, proud-looking bird. Go YOU!! After the bird has rested, remove the beer can– carefully. It’s full of steaming hot liquid after all.  

This wood-smoked beer can chicken is tender and  juicy with a light, smoke-kissed flavor. The tongue tingling chipotle BBQ seasoning is zippy, but not overpowering. This will feed four to six people depending on appetites and any leftovers make excellent sandwiches.

Carved chicken on a platter.

More smoking recipes you might like:

Serving the smoked grilled chicken with a glass of beer.

What to serve with smoked BBQ beer can chicken:

A plate of chicken breast and wing with baked beans on the side.

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A beer can chicken resting on a cutting board.
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5 from 11 votes

Wood Smoked Beer Can Chicken with Chipotle BBQ Rub

One of our favorite ways to grill because it yields a tender, juicy, smoky bird — every time! Fire up the grill for this easy to make recipe.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword #grill, beer, chicken
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 4


  • 1 whole chicken about 3.5 – 4 pounds – larger chickens (5-6 pounds) will need a larger beer can and longer cooking time.
  • 1 12 ounce can beer
  • ½ cup Chipotle Dry Rub

special equipment

  • cherry or hickory wood chips or wood pellets for a pellet smoker.
  • smoker box


  • Soak the wood chips for an hour in a bowl or wood chip soaker with 1/2 can beer and 1 cup water.


  • Set up your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Heat the smoker to about 350° to 375°. Add the soaked wood chips directly to charcoal or use your favorite wood pellets for a pellet smoker. If you don’t have a smoker, you can also make this on a gas grill. See below for method.


  • Set up the grill for indirect heat, by lighting a mound of charcoal in a chimney starter, then separating the charcoal embers to opposite sides of the grill.


  • Add the soaked wood chips directly to the burning embers on either side of the grill. Place the grill rack over the charcoal. When the chips start to smoke, add the chicken to the center of the grill, so that it’s not sitting directly over the heat source.


  • We will be using an indirect cooking method for the chicken, which means if you’re using a gas grill, only one of the burners will be on and the others will not. So that one half of the grill is on (and smoking after you add the wood chips) and the other side isn’t lit.


  • When wood chips have finished soaking, remove them from the soaking liquid and transfer to a smoker box. (If you don’t have a smoker box, make a pouch out of heavy duty aluminum foil. Place the chips in the pouch and seal it, then use a sharp knife to poke holes all of the pouch.) Set the smoker box/pouch directly over the burner that is your heat source. Turn on the grill to a medium high heat (about 350°.) and cover with the lid. It will be ready to start cooking when it starts to emit white smoke. Set the chicken on the grill opposite the heat source.


  • While the grill is heating, remove the giblet package from the interior of the bird. Use paper towels to dry the inside cavity and outside of the chicken. Place it on a rimmed sheet pan.
  • Sprinkle the inside and outside of the chicken with about 6 tablespoons of the chipotle dry rub and massage it into the flesh with your fingers.
  • Use a church key to puncture several holes in the top of the half empty beer can. Add about 2 tablespoons of rub to the beer. Carefully insert the beer can into the cavity of the chicken and rest it upright. The beer can is the chicken stand.


  • Place the chicken on the grill opposite the smoker basket so that it’s standing up and steady on the grill — and won’t fall over. Close the lid and cook for about an hour – or 1 hour and 15 minutes or when an internal thermometer registers 165 degrees. (I actually take it off a little before that because the chicken continues to cook when it’s resting) Try not to open the grill too much in order to preserve the heat and smoke.


  • When the chicken is done, carefully remove the beer can, tent the chicken with tin foil and let the bird rest for about 5-10 minutes. Carve the chicken and transfer to a platter. Serve.


Calories: 436kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 143mg | Sodium: 137mg | Potassium: 379mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 267IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 2mg

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  1. 5 stars
    Love this recipe!! My family enjoyed the leftovers the next day made into a smoked chicken salad!

  2. Lisa Huff says:

    5 stars
    Love that you add some seasoning to the beer! Why didn’t I think of that?! Genius!

  3. Oh my goodness !!This looks and sounds so delicious ? I have never made with with the beer can(scared) lol… Will definitely give it a try now that I have the best recipe.

  4. 5 stars
    This is such a cool idea! The chicken came out perfectly juicy!

  5. 5 stars
    I have just about everything needed to make this amazing sounding recipe. I already have Stubb’s Sweet Heat, I actually have a gadget called a “beer can roaster” which is totally open at the top (so no need to make holes in a real beer can) and I’m lucky enough to have a Traeger smoker/grill. BUT I’d like to make my own chipotle butter. I’m thinking 1/2 c. melted butter with 1 tbsp. adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers). Not knowing how intense the flavor of Stubb’s Chipotle Butter is, I’m having a hard time gauging just how much adobo sauce to add. Or should I skip the adobo sauce and just use a whole chipotle pepper and whiz in the food processor/blender? Thanks for any thought you can provide. One way or the other, I
    AM making this chicken! It sounds too delicious!!

  6. 5 stars
    My friends swear by beer can chicken but I think this chipotle version would take it to another (delicious) level!

    1. We are huge beer can chicken fans here — once my husband had two on the grill at once. Totally decadent!

  7. 5 stars
    This looks amazing, and I love smoky flavour. The beer cans are such a clever idea!

    1. Beer can chicken is a “thing” in our area!

  8. Cindy Rodriguez says:

    5 stars
    What a great use for beer cans! I love working with beer and I just recently posted an ice cream cake using it but nothing fun like this! Thanks for the tip

    1. A “beer” ice cream cake? Send me that recipe!

  9. 5 stars
    If you and Scott are ever in the mood to make this again, but feel a whole chicken is too much for the 2 of you, James and I would be more than happy to help you finish off that bird 😉 This looks fantastic!

    1. That’s incredibly thoughtful of you Katrina! You are truly selfless!