I have made beer can chicken in my domed lid charcoal grill. It works well if the lid is tall enough and you can control the fire. I also have a ceramic chicken roaster with a center cup/stand that I can use in my oven. But now it is time to cook a beer can chicken in the smoker.
This recipe is super easy. Most of the work is in making a dry rub, and it isn’t a lot of work at all. You can modify the rub ingredients here to your liking. For instance, spice it up with creole seasoning or give it an earthy Middle Eastern spin with za’atar and ras el hanout. Za’atar is a staple on my spice rack. It is good on anything, especially chicken. This rub recipe is a bit traditional and uses spices and herbs you likely already have in your kitchen pantry.
While I like this dish with just about any beer, I have made it with creamy ale or dark, chocolatey stout to take the dish up a notch. I have also made this with wine. You can find canned wine these days. I like a deep red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon. A dry rosé would work too. If you have a giant bird, get a tall can of beer or wine to hold the chicken steady.
Tips for Smoking Beer Can Chicken
When preparing the chicken, always be sure to remove the giblets from the cavity. Then, rinse the chicken under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Allow the bird to sit for about 30 minutes so it comes almost to room temperature. This helps it to cook more evenly.
After you season the chicken with the dry rub, set it aside for about 30 minutes so the seasonings can really adhere and sink into the skin.
Pour out about 1/3 to 1/2 of the beer from the can. If you don’t do this, the beer can get hot enough to bubble up into the chicken cavity. We don’t want to boil the chicken. We just want the steam from the beer to keep the chicken moist. Don’t let that 1/3 cup of beer go to waste. I add it to the water in the bowl of my Masterbuilt Electric Smoker. Or, just drink it.
Balancing a beer can with a chicken on it on a smoker rack can be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes, tying the tips of the legs together with kitchen twine can help. You can also make little aluminum foil feet for the leg tips that can rest on or in-between the grates. Otherwise, place the can and chicken inside a cast iron skillet to steady it.
This particular recipe calls for smoking at 225°F and then raising the temperature of the smoker to 350°F for the second cook. This helps to crisp the skin. Who doesn’t like crispy chicken skin?
Make sure you check the thigh of the chicken with a digital meat thermometer. You are looking for an internal temperature of 165°F to be sure it is cooked completely. Also, the juices should run clear, not pink.
Always rest your cooked chicken before carving it.
Smoked Beer Can Chicken with Dry Rub
- 4 to 5-pound roasting chicken
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano leaves
- 1 Tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- Pinch of cayenne
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 can of beer
- Mild wood chips (Alder, apple, or oak)
Total time:2 hour 45 min – Prep time:15 min – Smoke time:2 hour 30 min – Serves:6 people
1. Remove the giblets from the cavity of the chicken. Use these to make a bone broth. Rinse the chicken under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.
2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the salt, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, pepper, ground cumin, chili powder, and cayenne.
3. Rub the chicken with olive oil. Then, coat the bird all over with the dry rub. Use your hands to do this. Set the chicken aside while you prepare the smoker. It can rest for about 30 minutes.
4. Open the beer can. Fill the liquid bowl of the smoker halfway with water and 1/3 of the beer. Fill the tray or drawer with wood chips. Open the top vent and preheat your smoker to 225°F.
5. Carefully place the cavity of the chicken over the beer can. Tuck the wing tips under the body, if they will stay. Place the chicken on a rack of the smoker using the leg tips to balance it. If the chicken wants to topple over, try wrapping some foil at the base of the legs to make little feet for it to rest on. Alternatively, you can use a cast-iron skillet to steady the chicken.
6. Smoke the chicken for 1-1/2 hours, replenishing the water and wood chips as needed.
7. Raise the temperature of the smoker to 350°F and continue to smoke for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F when checked with a digital meat thermometer. Start checking at 30 minutes. The skin should be browned and crispy. Again, replenish the liquid and wood chips if needed.
8. Remove the chicken from the smoker. Allow it to rest on the beer can for 10 to 15 minutes. When cool enough to touch, carefully remove the beer can.
9. Carve the chicken into drumsticks, thighs, wings, and breast portions. Serve while warm with your favorite sides.
Sides for Smoked Beer Can Chicken
When smoking a whole chicken, it can be placed on a lower rack, giving you room on a rack above the chicken to smoke some sides to serve with your carved bird. Here are some ideas of what to smoke above your chicken to serve with it. Just be mindful of the temperature of the smoker and the timing of the sides because they will generally take less time than the chicken to cook.
- Sweet potatoes with different toppings
- Smoked garlic bread
- Mac and cheese with cheddar and gruyere
- Smoked watermelon with feta cheese salad
- Brussels sprouts
While the chicken is cooking, assemble a fruit dessert that you can smoke while you are enjoying your awesomely smoked dinner. Smoked fruit desserts include: peach blueberry cobbler, apple cinnamon crisp, and banana chocolate bread Pudding. Yum.