Family Favorite

It’s hard to say when or where Beer Butt Chicken originated. A safe guess would be that a group of guys came up with this gem of a technique for barbeque grilling a whole chicken. Picture some good old boys sitting around guzzling cheap beer and not being too keen on keeping watch over chicken pieces roasting on the grill. One of the fellows probably pondered on the situation. Since the cavity portion of a hole chicken is roughly the size and shape of a beer can . . .the rest is history as they say around here.

Everyone loves eating chicken, it’s easy to make, it has a great flavor, and you can make a variety of meals with it. You don’t have to be a professional chef to make a dish with chicken, but you need to be careful because chicken breasts tend to get dry. Beer butt chicken is one of the most popular meals out there, and many people tend to make it. Beer is a unique ingredient that provides special moist and softness to the meat. If covering the entire chicken with a bear and placing on the grills is too much for you, then you can use pieces, enough for one or two servings.


The basic idea in making Beer Butt Chicken is that a whole chicken is shoved over a can of beer, then placed on a grill and roasted until tender. Though the novel BBQ chicken recipe tickles the fancy of most guys, kids, and other assorted persons with prominent funny bones, the superior flavor of chicken roasted on a beer can is what keeps folks making this dish time and time again. Beer Butt Chicken simply tastes better than the typical chicken parts grilled over coals. The meat stays juicy while the skin crisps up. The bird comes out bursting with flavor.

The Beer

To get started making Beer Butt Chicken, buy a 12 oz. can of beer. If the chicken is large, a 16 oz. is fine.  Play around with various quality beers. Fruit juice, soda (not diet) or wine can be used in place of beer, but beer is the tastiest option.

Chicken on a beer can

Do not use bottled beverages in this recipe. The glass can get hot and break. Drink (or pour out) ¼ to ½ of the beer. Crushed up garlic, onions, or any sprinkle seasonings can be added to the beer.

The Chicken

Buy a chicken. The smaller ones are easiest to work with both in terms of setting the bird upright and as far as cooking through to the bones. Before putting the chicken over the beer can, rub any dry seasonings desired inside the cavity. Some good options include seasoning salts, pepper, garlic, and paprika.

Ready to Cook the Beer Butt Chicken

Slide the beer deep inside the chicken cavity. If the opening is especially wide, a carrot or slice of potato can be slid in beside the can to seal off the cavity. This open part is really the head end of the chicken, but Beer Neck Chicken just doesn’t have the same ear appeal. Push until the can is almost fully inside the bird. The bottom of the can and the two legs bent slightly downward form a tripod which keeps the chicken upright on the grill.


Melt butter in a small pan and add seasonings. Rub the butter mixture over the outside of the bird. This seals the chicken and also ensures that the skin will be brown and crispy when done.

If barbeque sauce is used, wait until the last 15 minutes to brush the bird. If the sauce is lathered on earlier, it will burn and leave the chicken looking like a charred mess. The meat still tastes fine, but the appearance is not good when barbeque sauce is spread on too early in the cooking process.

Get an old shallow baking pan or a throw-away silver pan and add ¼ cup water in the bottom. Place the pan on the grill and place the chicken in the pan. The chicken can be grilled directly, but using a pan helps prevent flares and also makes clean up much easier.

Beer Butt Chicken should cook indirectly. If using a charcoal grill, slide the coals over to one side and cook the chicken on the side without coals. For gas grills, light only one side of the grill. Cook the chicken on the side not fired up.

It’s much easier to cook Beer Butt Chicken in a large grill with a lid. It can be done on an open grill, but it takes longer and requires more attention.

To charcoal grill, let the coals burn down until gray hot. Add 8 additional coals every half hour to keep the heat consistent and steady.

With a gas grill, set one side to medium heat.

Check the chicken every 15 minutes or so and brush on more butter mixture as needed. The bird can also be sprayed with Pam spray or a mixture of apple juice, beer, and olive oil mixed and in a spray bottle. Use about 1 cup of apple juice, one cup of beer, and 2 T. olive oil to make the chicken spray.

A chicken cooked in a grill with a lid takes about an hour and a half to 2 hours to cook. On an open grill, it will run 3 hours or more to fully cook the chicken. To check for doneness, insert a meat thermometer. The reading will be 180 degrees F (80 degrees C) when done. Some chickens are sold with a little pop out doneness meter, but they cost more than birds without such indicators.

Chicken Tides

Taking the chicken off the grill can be a challenge. It tends to be a bit tipsy (pun intended). Use two large forks and stick on in each breast and lift off or use grilling gloves and grab the bird and move off the grill. Be careful with the can of liquid. It will be hot and will burn if sloshed out.

Let the bird cool for 15 minutes or so before serving. It will fall off the bone and is easiest served in large chunks rather than sliced.

Here is a basic recipe for Beer Butt Chicken:

1 12 oz. can beer (half full)

1 whole chicken (small size)

1 cup melted butter

1 T. garlic salt

1 tsp. pepper

Place chicken over half full can of beer. Melt butter with seasonings and brush over outside to chicken. Place upright on grill with indirect heat on a charcoal grill or a gas grill. A barbecue smoker is even easier for this recipe if you have a smoker. Cover and cook 1 ½ to 3 plus hours. Check and add butter as needed during cooking.

Use other seasonings in the can of beer, inside the chicken cavity or mixed with the butter for different taste options. This is a fun recipe to play