How to Cook a Drunk Chicken

by Contributor ; Updated September 28, 2017

Beer is the secret ingredient in this juicy grilled chicken.

Hemera Technologies/ Images

This delicious method of cooking chicken on the grill goes by many names: drunk chicken, beer can chicken, or even beer butt chicken. Whatever you call it, most people agree that it's an easy way to cook a moist and flavorful chicken. Other than the beer, which is the key to the recipe, the other ingredients are limited only by your imagination. Just about any dry rub or seasoning mix will work well on this chicken -- use your family's favorite seasonings, or try something totally new.

Preheat your grill, preparing it for indirect heat. If you're using charcoal, keep the charcoal off to one side, because you will cook the chicken on the other side. If you're using a gas grill, follow your grill's instructions for cooking with indirect heat.

Rinse the chicken thoroughly, removing the giblets, and pat the chicken dry, inside and out, with paper towels.

Wash the beer can with warm soapy water and rinse. Pat dry with paper towels.

Open the beer and drink or remove half of the contents. Add a tablespoon of minced garlic -- or more or less, according to your taste -- into the half-full beer can.

Pour some olive oil into a small bowl -- enough to coat the chicken -- and use a basting brush to coat the chicken thoroughly with the oil, inside and out. The olive oil is essential to having a crispy skin, and to making your seasonings stick.

Combine the salt and lemon pepper in another small bowl -- start with about a tablespoon of each, or however much you want to use, according to your own taste and the size of your chicken. Mix the seasonings with a spoon until well blended.

Rub the mixed seasonings all over the surface of the chicken, inside and out. If you run out of seasoning mix before you're done, just mix up a little more as needed, and continue until the chicken is well coated.

Place the beer can and the chicken on your beer-can-chicken rack, following the instructions that came with the rack. In general, this involves setting the beer can on the rack, and then carefully sliding the chicken over the beer can -- legs pointing down -- until the chicken is firmly in place. The chicken will look like it is standing up on its legs. If you are not using a rack, you slide the chicken directly onto the beer can -- it's more of a balancing act, but it can be done.

Pierce the small lemon several times with a fork. Gently but firmly slide the lemon into the other end of the cavity -- the neck side. Not only will the lemon add flavor, but it will help the chicken stay juicy.

Place the rack -- or the beer can, if you're not using a rack -- on your preheated grill, over indirect heat. The rack helps the chicken remain upright. If you're not using one, make small adjustments of the chicken until it remains upright.

Cover the grill, and do not open the grill for an hour. After an hour, check for doneness. The chicken will probably still need about half an hour more if it's closer to 4 pounds. When it's done, the temperature should read 180 degrees F when a meat thermometer is inserted into the thigh.


  • If you don't have a rack, they're easy to find online. A google search of "beer can chicken" will yield many different racks, which cost between about $10 and $30.

    If lemon flavoring's not your thing, you can use a small potato instead of a lemon -- it won't add flavor, but it will keep the chicken juicy.

    After you take it off the grill, let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.

    If you don't have a grill, you can bake the chicken in the oven, setting it up in the same way -- but in a large roasting pan -- and cooking at 350 degrees for about the same amount of time.

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