Make the most juicy and tender Traeger Smoked Beer Can Chicken you've ever tasted with this wood pellet grill recipe!
It's the perfect smoked chicken recipe for cookouts, tailgate parties, and gathering 'round the smoker with a few beers and a bunch of good friends.
What Is Traeger Smoked Beer Can Chicken?
Traeger Smoked Beer Can Chicken is about cooking a whole chicken with a half-full can of beer in the empty cavity on a Traeger pellet grill.
Yep, you heard that right! This crazy, yet classic method of cooking a chicken upright on a beer can is also known as Drunken Chicken, Chicken on a Throne, or Beer Butt Chicken (just to name a few).
Nobody knows exactly where this cooking method came from, but it’s a popular staple in the south. The beer actually steams the chicken from the inside out – adding moisture and juiciness. We're taking it to the next level by smoking it, which adds an even deeper layer of bliss!
This smoked whole bird is a surefire crowd-pleaser and also makes a great weeknight dinner. Take one bite, and you'll have a hard time eating chicken cooked any other way.
Why You’ll Love It
- Easy Recipe: Once the chickens are on your Traeger pellet smoker (a charcoal or gas grill will do in a pinch), you can simply sit back and relax. The cooking instructions are simple to follow, so you don’t need any difficult chef skills to make this amazing meal.
- Great Flavor: Traeger beer can chicken is loaded with flavor! From the crispy skin on the outside, to the tender meat infused with moisture and a homemade dry rub, you’ll love everything about this dish.
- Food for Days: This recipe uses two whole chickens, so you’ll have plenty of food to serve a large crowd or enjoy leftovers for casseroles or salads.
- Fun for Entertaining: Just pop a beer can in the cavity of the chicken and you've got entertainment for the evening! Everyone will be amazed at how tender and juicy this chicken turns out when cooked with indirect heat on an electric smoker.
- cutting board
- pellet grill
- wood pellets
- kitchen tongs
- grill gloves
- sheet pan
See printable recipe card below for quantities and info.
Homemade Dry Rub
- brown sugar
- instant coffee granules
- burger seasoning
- steak seasoning
- sea salt
- onion powder
- smoked paprika
- garlic powder
Beer Can Chicken
- 2 whole chickens (4 pounds each)
- olive oil
- 2 cans beer, any type (12 ounces each)
How to Smoke Beer Can Chicken
In a small bowl, add dry rub ingredients together.
Mix dry rub ingredients with a spoon until fully incorporated.
Rinse chickens under cold water. Discard any gizzards inside. Pat chickens dry with paper towels.
Place whole chickens on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Rub oil into the skin of each chicken.
Sprinkle dry rub over chickens, rubbing into every nook and cranny with your hands.
Pour half of both beers into a glass. (Drink the beer or share with a friend).
Insert the half-full beer cans into the cavity of the chickens so they will be sitting up on the cans. Sprinkle with dried oregano or more seasoning if desired.
Preheat smoker to 225 degrees. Use hickory or apple wood pellets for best flavor.
Place chickens (with cans inserted in the cavity) in a pan on the grill grate of the smoker and close the lid.
Smoke chickens for 1.5 hours at 225 degrees, then turn up the temperature to 350 degrees and smoke 1 hour (more or less) until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees between the breast and the thigh with a meat thermometer. The exact cooking time will depend on the size of the chicken, the type of smoker you use, and outside weather conditions.
At 165 degrees F, remove chickens from smoker and place on a cutting board. For best results, use rubber gloves to take the meat off of the hot beer cans. Let chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Carve as you would a rotisserie chicken. Cut off legs first, then thighs and wings. Cut through the base of the chicken horizontally to remove breast meat and slice as desired. Use tongs to serve meat.
Does the Kind of Beer Matter?
The type of beer doesn't really matter. I've made this recipe with every kind of beer imaginable...even sour watermelon. You won't taste the beer once the chicken is cooked. It mainly serves as a way to infuse moisture inside of the chicken while it's cooking.
Since I like to treat myself to half of the beer while I’m hanging out by the smoker, I usually go with a lager. Your favorite beer will work well with this recipe (even light beer will do nicely), so choose one you enjoy because you've earned it!
Want to add a twist to this Traeger smoked beer can chicken recipe? Here are some ideas to try:
- Make it spicy: Need more of a kick? Crank up the heat by adding some chili powder or crushed red pepper to your spice mix.
- Go for sweeter flavors: Like it sweet? Sub your booze for root beer or a can of Dr. Pepper to bring out the brown sugar flavor. This method is also good for guests who prefer alcohol-free beverages.
- Give it a stronger kick: If you’d rather go enhance the alcohol, try your smoked chicken with whiskey. A mix of whiskey and apple juice is a great option that gives you a sweet and fruity interior. Just pour your booze of choice into an empty can and let it steam the meat from the inside.
- Ditch the beer altogether: For an even easier recipe, you can skip the beer completely! Smoked whole chicken is really tasty even without the beer. You also don’t need to sit the chicken upright because it can fit on a sheet pan in a gas or charcoal grill. Use wood chips in a smoker box to infuse the smoke flavor if you don't own a pellet smoker.
- Shred it: If you have some time for an extra step, shred your chicken after carving. Pulled chicken is an amazing addition to creamy pasta and fresh salads.
- Always pat your chickens dry with paper towels after rinsing. You want the olive oil and spice rub to stick.
- Make sure the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. The best way to do this is to insert an instant-read thermometer between the thickest part of the breast and the thickest part of the thigh.
- Cooking time may vary based on the size of the chickens, so be sure to check the temperature often.
- Don't cover the chickens with aluminum foil or you'll lost that crispy skin you worked so hard to get.
- Beer can chickens will be piping hot coming out of the smoker, so be careful. Rubber gloves allow you to handle the scorching hot beer cans without burning yourself.
It's difficult to give an exact time since it depends on several factors: the size of your chickens and the type of smoker you use. Starting at a low temperature (225 degrees F) will add that perfectly smoked flavor. Raising the temp to 350º F will create crispy skin.
Plan to cook the meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. How long this takes depends on the size of your chickens. Remember, it’s important to cook to temperature – not to time.
Insert the top of the beer into the chicken cavity and lower the bird onto it. Be sure to pour out half of the beer before you take this step! Then, use the chicken legs to prop it up so it sits upright. Or, purchase a special beer can stand that will do the hard work for you.
One chicken will serve about 4 to 6 people depending on its size. I have found that cooking two chickens is just as easy as cooking one, and I like having leftovers for other meals.
You can, but it's not necessary. I never seem to find time for brining, but I've done it before and I do like the flavor it infuses. The beer will keep the meat moist, and the dry rub adds a savory bite, so brining is not a requirement.
Storage and Freezing
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in your fridge for three days. They keep better if the chickens have been broken down or carved before refrigerating.
You can also freeze leftovers, preferably shredded, for up to 3 months. Be sure to seal the meat thoroughly in an airtight container and reheat internally to at least 165 degrees F before eating.
What to Serve with Traeger Smoked Beer Can Chicken
Looking for sides to serve with beer can chicken? Try these delicious recipes...
- Smoked Potatoes: These smoked spuds can be made in your pellet grill right beside your chicken!
- Garlic Redskin Mashed Potatoes: If you prefer potatoes mashed and creamy, you’ve got to give this recipe a try. The garlic flavor complements smoked beer can chicken perfectly.
- Southern Macaroni Salad Recipe: This pasta salad is creamy, tangy, and has that Southern vibe you just can’t resist.
- Sweet Pickled Onions: If you’re looking for a smaller side dish, these pickled onions are sure to hit the spot. Not only are they quick to make, but their tart and tangy bite tastes great with any type of smoked meat.
- Smoked Potato Salad: turn smoked potatoes into a German-style potato salad with this tasty recipe.
- Traeger Smoked Pork Butt: smoke a whole pork butt alongside your whole chicken and have twice the meat!
Traeger Smoked Beer Can Chicken
*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.
Chicken Dry Rub
Beer Can Chicken
- 2 whole chickens (4 pounds each)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cans beer, any type (12 ounces each)
- In a large bowl, mix dry rub ingredients together.2 cups brown sugar, ¼ cup instant coffee granules, 2 teaspoons burger seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon steak seasoning, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Rinse chickens under cool water. Discard any gizzards inside. Pat chickens dry with paper towels.2 whole chickens
- Place whole chickens on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Rub oil into the skin of each chicken.2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Sprinkle dry rub over chickens, rubbing into every nook and cranny with your hands.
- Pour half of both beers into a glass. (Drink the beer or share with a friend). Insert the half-full beer cans into the cavity of the chickens so they will be sitting up on the cans.2 cans beer, any type
- Preheat smoker to 225 degrees. This is the starting temperature to get a nice smoked flavor. Use hickory or apple pellets for best results.
- Place chickens (with cans inserted) directly on the grill grate of the smoker and close the lid. You can also put them on a cast iron skillet or sheet pan.
- Smoke chickens for 1.5 hours, then turn up the temperature to 350 degrees and smoke about 1 hour more until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees between the breast and the thigh.
- At 165 degrees F, remove chickens from smoker and place on a cutting board. Use rubber gloves to take chickens off of beer cans and let them rest for 15 minutes.
- Carve as you would a rotisserie chicken. Cut off legs first, then thighs and wings. Cut through the base of the chicken horizontally to remove breast meat and slice as desired.
- Smoking 2 chickens is as easy as smoking 1, and you'll have more leftovers for chicken salad!
- Only smoking 1 chicken? Just half the recipe.
- If your chicken weighs over 4 pounds, you'll need to cook it longer. Cook to temperature not time. Chickens must reach 165 degrees F between the breast and the thigh bone to ensure it's done.
- Grill times can vary depending on type of smokers, outdoor temperature and humidity, so check the temperature frequently after 2 hours of cooking time.
- Cranking up the heat to 350 degreess F after 1.5 hours helps the skin get crispy and prevents rubbery chicken.
- Use rubber gloves when removing beer can and cutting chickens because they will be scorching hot.
- Don't cover the chickens with aluminum foil or you'll lose that crispy skin you worked so hard to get.
Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.