Hickory-smoked Beer-can Chicken

This is a classic BBQ chicken. With a can up its ass.

Cheap beer is better used for cooking than for drinking.

This is an old favourite of mine. Not quite basic grilling, but still easy enough for any griller to cook. It’s basically roast chicken.

My beer of choice is whatever I can find in cans that’s cheap: Lucky Lager, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee; you get the idea. No point wasting the good stuff on this. I find the beer imparts little flavour; it’s merely a means to keeping the chicken moist while cooking. Get the short, normal cans. I haven’t used a tall can, but I imagine the legs of the chicken won’t reach the grate with a tall can, plus it’ll look…cruel.

I’ve only had one chicken tip over on me, so don’t worry.1 As long as you balance the can on the grate so that it doesn’t rock, you’ll be fine.

The hardest part is getting the chicken off the grill and then getting the can out of the chicken. Treat them as two separate steps. Take the can/chicken combo off the grill, carry it inside, let it rest, then take the can out. You’ll need tongs, a cookie sheet and oven mitts to complete the operation.

Hickory is a powerful wood chip, maybe too powerful for chicken

You may want to skip the smoking part. That’s fine. Chicken is neutral and bland, so the smoke just over powers any other flavour. I had some extra wood chips soaking in water from the night before2, so I thought why not try it.

If you don’t like smoke flavour (unlike me and the missus), it may not be for you. Likewise, Hickory has a bold flavour. A more neutral wood may be the way to go. You could try Apple, Cherry or Maple. In fact, I might do that and report back. Stay tuned. You can get wood chips in bags for about $4 at a Canadian Tire, in their barbecue section.

If you are going to smoke, soak the chips in water for at least an hour. This is the critical step for smoking. If the wood isn’t wet when it hits the heat, it’ll just burn quickly imparting no flavour. Just make a pouch with aluminum foil, poke some holes and place it under the grill. No special equipment required.

I've said this before, but, seriously doesn't this remind you of those head crabs in Half-Life 2?

Chicken goes great with salad

Serves up to 4 adults

  • 2 handfuls wood chips, soaked in water, at least 1 hour
  • 1 can cheap beer
  • olive oil
  • 1 chicken
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Wrap your wood chips in aluminum foil. Fold the foil over the chips to form a pouch. Poke holes in the pouch with a fork six to eight times.

Prepare your grill for indirect medium cooking (around 400F).

Open the beer and pour out about half, in a glass or down the sink. With an old-school can opener, make two more holes on the top of the can. Set aside.

Lightly oil your chicken. In a small bowl, mix the paprika, salt and pepper. Coat the chicken with the seasoning mixture.

Fit the chicken over the beer can, such that you can form a tripod with the chicken legs and the beer can.

Lift the grate and place your smoke pouch on the hot side of the grill (the one with the flame). Carefully place the chicken on the grates. Adjust the legs and beer can so you have a solid base. Close the lid and keep it closed until the chicken is done, around an hour and a half (it should be 180F in the breast and 170F in the thigh away from the bone).

To remove the chicken: grab the hot can with tongs. Balance the chicken with the other hand (wear an oven mitt). Lift the can and chicken, place on a cookie sheet. Carefully bring into the kitchen. Let it rest standing up for five minutes.

Wearing oven mitts, tip the chicken into one hand and pull the can out with the other. Place on a cutting board and let rest another 5 – 10 minutes. Carve and serve.

Goes well with a salad. Or anything: it’s chicken.


  1. I’ve done this tons of times, let’s say 30. []
  2. I smoked ribs, which does handle the smoke well. Stay tuned. []

Jason Kemp is a geek trapped in a cool guy's body. He hand crafts software for the web and mobile devices. He excels at user interface design, the deadlift and barbecue. He is @ageektrapped across the internet.

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