The Final Installment of Beer Can Chicken

This is my third attempt to get this recipe right. My first attempt failed because the spice rub yields enough to season four chickens. My second attempt was mid-winter; made in the oven. It was easy and edible, but the flavoring didn’t penetrate, leaving a bland interior, and lacked the smokey flavor. Today, all problems have been resolved. The spice rub was just the right amount for my 7-lb chicken, I let the spices permeate for a full 2-hours, and the BBQ left a wonderfully smokey flavor and beautifully crisp skin. Even still, with all the stars properly aligned, the highest this recipe can possibly score is 3-1/2 stars.

Beautifully Golden-Skined Barbecued Beer Can Chicken

While a little more work, the Peruvian Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lime is a slightly higher 4-stars. I’d recommend it over this Beer Can Chicken. But still, if you are looking for something that requires about 15-minutes of effort (or something that you can cook with only the spices already in your pantry), then this is a nice was to cook a whole chicken. You won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but everybody will be happy.


  1. As I’ve mentioned in recent posts, Kingsford Charcoal’s re-formula has messed up everything. All of Chris Kimball’s barbecue recipes that mention a specific amount of charcoal are now wrong. For example, in this recipe he says, “Using the right amount of charcoal is crucial here; using too much charcoal will burn the chicken, while using too little will extend the cooking time substantially.” The recipe calls for 60 briquettes, but anticipating the reformulation, I increase to 75 briquettes and waited 30 minutes to fully ignite. As you can see in the chart below; the initial temperatures looked good; but then fell off too fast at the end. In the end I had to finish cooking the chicken in my oven.

CI's recipe is no longer accurate for new Kingsford charcoal formula

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $7.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 3:45 PM. Dinner time 8:00 PM. (see issue)

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below:

Spice Rub:
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoons ground celery seed
1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 whole chicken (about 4 to 4-1/2 pounds)
1 can beer (12-ounce)
2 bay leaf
Large disposable aluminum baking pan (13 by 10-inch)

  1. Combine all the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Pat the chicken dry and work the skin free over the breast, drumsticks and thighs.
  3. Massage the spice rub all over the chicken directly onto the meat. Sprinkle at most one tablespoon of spice rub over the skin.
  4. Open the beer and drink about 1/3 of the can (1/4 cup). With a churchkey open two more holes in the top of the beer can (there will be three holes total). Rip the bay leaves a few times and add into beer can. Slide the chicken over the can so that the drumsticks reach down to the bottom of the can and the chicken stands upright.
  5. Let the spice rub sit on the chicken for 2 hours; first uncovered in the refrigerator then sitting at room temperature for the last 30 minutes.
  6. Light about chimney starter filled three-quarters full of charcoal (about 75 briquettes). Let burn until the coals are covered with a thin layer of ash, 25 minutes.
  7. Place the disposable pan in the center of the grill, and dump half the coals on each side of the pan. Place 1 foil packet on top each coal pile, and replace cooking grate. Clean the grill grate.
  8. Put the chicken (sitting into of its beer can) in the center of the grate. Position so that the wings face the coals. Use the drumsticks to steady the chicken. Cover and grill for approximately 85 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh should register 175 degrees
  9. Using two wad of paper towels, keeping the can upright, transfer the chicken to a platter or tray; let chicken rest for 15 minutes on it’s beer can throne.
  10. Carefully lift the chicken off the beer can and place onto a platter or cutting board. Dump the remaining beer and discard or recycle the can.
  11. Carve the chicken and serve.

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