Clever & Tasty Twists on the Classic Beer-Can Chicken

Try root beer, hard cider, or ginger beer to give your chicken a new kick.

Beer-can chicken

Photo by Peden & Munk/Trunk Archive

Photo by Peden & Munk/Trunk Archive

Master Recipe

Beer-Can Chicken

Makes 4 servings 
Prep 15 minutes 
Grill 1 hour

Prepare grill for indirect grilling. (Heat one side to medium-high and leave other side off.) Pat dry a whole 3  1/2-pound chicken, place on a cutting board and season with salt and pepper. Pour (or drink!) 1/2 cup liquid from a can of beer and fit chicken over it, with legs pointing down and tips of drumsticks resting on cutting board. Transfer chicken, standing upright, to an aluminum pie plate or a baking pan lined with foil. Place over indirect heat and grill 25 minutes, then cover loosely with aluminum foil. Grill 25 to 35 minutes, until thigh reaches 165°. Rest 10 minutes, carefully remove from can and slice.

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Twists on the Master Recipe

Root Beer 
Enhancing root beer’s inherent sweetness is easy with a combo of molasses, Chinese five-spice powder and salt. 

  • Seasoning Brush with 1 tbsp molasses, then rub with 2 tbsp five-spice powder + 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Beer Alternative 1 can (12 oz) root beer (such as Dr. Brown’s)

Hard Cider
Citrusy aromas in the rub mixture work with the fragrant cider to flavor the bird both inside and out.

  • Seasoning Rub with 1 tbsp lemon zest + 11/2 tsp kosher salt + 1/2 tsp ground coriander + 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • Beer Alternative 1 can (12 oz) hard cider (such as Angry Orchard Crisp Apple)

Ginger Beer
Make it Jamaican: Add 2 tsp curry powder to the brown sugar and ginger before rubbing onto chicken. 

  • Seasoning Rub with 1 tbsp packed light brown sugar + 2 tsp ground ginger + 11/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Beer Alternative 1 can (12 oz) ginger beer (such as Gosling’s)

Tips

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  • Start with room-temp beer, cider or soda—it will give the bird flavor more quickly. 
  • To impart a smoky kick, add soaked wood chips to the fire. Pair hickory chips with root beer, apple chips with cider and pecan chips with ginger beer. 
  • Tuck wing tips behind body to keep them from overcooking.