Everything But The Beer Can Chicken

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This Everything But The Beer Can Chicken has all there is to love about the BBQ classic – minus the can! Designed for maximum flavor with minimal effort (and no special equipment like a can stand), this recipe uses a whole spatchcock chicken. Brine the chicken in dark beer, season with smoky-sweet BBQ dry rub, and grill with a combination of indirect and direct heat for juicy, tender meat and crispy, charred skin.

Serve with your favorite BBQ sides for the ultimate summer dinner!

An overhead shot of everything-but-the-beer-can chicken in a casserole dish on a blue and white checked cloth on a white planked surface. Dishes of cooked sweet corn, grilled peppers and onions, pickles, and coleslaw sit alongside the dish.
Photography by Gayle McLeod

Unfussy, Extra-Flavorful Beer Can Chicken (No Stand, No Mess!)

A few years ago, Mom and I set out to make the ultimate beer can chicken recipe. In case you’re not familiar, this BBQ classic is typically prepared using a beer can as a stand to hold a whole chicken over the grill as it cooks.

But no matter what we tried…we kept spilling the beer. 😩 It made a mess on the grill and the chicken lacked flavor. A lot of work, without any flavorful, juicy reward at the end – not ideal. 🙅🏻‍♀️

We found what I think is an even better solution – eliminating the can altogether! Hence, Everything But The Beer Can Chicken.

Everything there is to love about classic grilled beer can chicken – minus the can!

This recipe recreates the flavors and textures you love in classic beer can chicken, but strays from tradition in 2 kinda major ways…

  1. Swap whole chicken with a spatchcocked bird. Also known as “butterflied,” a spatchcock chicken lays flat on the grill grates for quick, even cooking. The meat stays juicy and flavorful and doesn’t dry out.
  2. Brine the chicken with dark, hoppy beer. Unlike stuffing a whole chicken with a can of beer, a beer brine seasons the meat from the inside out and guarantees a beautifully juicy result.

TL;DR: You get better beer flavor with no risk of spilling – a win-win! Plus, the chicken ends up being smoky and tender with deliciously crispy-charred skin. It’a seriously the best way to grill beer can chicken.

Just slather it up with BBQ sauce and serve with your favorite side dishes. The ultimate summer dinner – the only thing missing is an icy cold beer! 🍻

3 Secrets To Extra Juicy and Flavorful Beer Can Chicken

Traditionally, beer can chicken is made with a whole, seasoned chicken that sits on top of a beer can as it grills. In theory, the beer steams and releases its flavor into the meat. But every time we tried this, the chicken was bland and dry.

This recipe recreates classic beer can chicken flavor using spatchcock chicken seasoned with a bold beer brine and a sweet-spicy BBQ dry rub for juicier and more flavorful results.

An overhead shot of ingredients displayed on a white planked surface: a raw, spatchcocked chicken on a sheet pan, a bowl of BBQ dry rub, a glass measuring cup of beer, a bowl of salt and two beer cans.
Spatchcock a whole chicken by removing its backbone and pressing it flat.
An overhead shot of raw chicken brining in beer in a large glass bowl atop a white planked surface.
Brine the chicken by soaking it in your favorite dark or hoppy beer for up to 3 days.
An overhead shot of a brined whole chicken seasoned with dry rub on a sheet pan atop a white planked surface. A small dish of dry rub sits alongside it.
Just before grilling, season the entire surface with smoky-sweet BBQ dry rub.
1

Spatchcock the chicken. Also known as butterflying, spatchcocking is a poultry butchering technique in which the bird’s backbone is removed so it lays flat. Ask your butcher to take care of it or give it a try yourself – it’s pretty easy! Step-by-Step Guide. ⇢ How to Spatchcock a Chicken.

2

Brine the chicken in beer. Add beer, salt, and dry rub spices to a large airtight container or resealable bag. Submerge the chicken and soak in the fridge for at least 12 hours or up to 3 days. The longer the chicken brines, the juicier and more flavorful the result! Why? ⇢ As the chicken brines, the meat absorbs the rich, earthy flavor of the beer. For best results, use a bold dark or hoppy beer.

3

Season with BBQ dry rub. Just before grilling, pat the chicken dry and season it well. My go-to, gold-standard dry rub for chicken is a blend of brown sugar, chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, mustard powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Use your fingers to massage the spices into the chicken and let it come to room temperature while the grill preheats. Learn More! ⇢ All-Purpose BBQ Dry Rub.

How to Grill a Spatchcock Chicken (Without the Beer Can!)

Cooking whole chicken on the grill can be a little tricky since the meat needs to cook through without completely burning the crispy skin. The solution is a pretty simple method called 2-Zone Grilling, which creates cooking zones with varying levels of heat to give you better control of the grill. Learn More! ⇢ How to Grill with the 2-Zone Method (Direct vs Indirect Heat).

How to grill whole chicken, Step 5: Spatchcocked/butterflied chicken on grill grates, grilling in an indirect heat zone of Weber Genesis II grill.
Place the chicken in an indirect heat zone. Cook with the gentler low heat, rotating every 15 minutes to ensure it grills evenly and stays juicy.
How to grill whole chicken, Step 5: Blackened spatchcocked/butterflied chicken on grill grates, grilling in an indirect heat zone of Weber Genesis II grill.
After 45 minutes – 1 hour, the chicken will be mostly cooked through. Finish over direct heat for charred and crispy skin.
1

Zone 1: Grill the beer can chicken with indirect heat. Place the seasoned chicken on the indirect heat side of the grill and close the lid. Rotate the beer chicken every 15 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160℉. Why? ⇢ Rotating ensures that the entire chicken cooks evenly, resulting in juicy, tender white and dark meat.

2

Zone 2: Char the beer can chicken over direct heat. Transfer the beer chicken to direct heat, flipping it so the skin side faces down. Grill 2-3 minutes longer. Why? ⇢ Direct heat on the grill finishes off the skin with crispy, charred grill marks – the best part!

An overhead shot of everything-but-the-beer-can chicken on a sheet pan atop a white planked surface.
Rest 5-10 minutes before carving so the flavorful juices redistribute throughout the meat.

Serving Suggestions

As soon as the grilled beer chicken is rested to juicy, tender perfection, carve it up and slather it with your favorite BBQ sauce.

A BBQ chicken dinner is not complete without some summery side dishes, so serve it up whatever you love most!

Here are a few PWWB reader faves to round out your menu…

An overhead shot of everything-but-the-beer-can chicken in a casserole dish on a blue and white checked cloth on a white planked surface. Dishes of cooked sweet corn, grilled peppers and onions, pickles, and coleslaw sit alongside the dish.
Create a full spread with your favorite BBQ side dishes – grilled vegetables, corn on the cob, slaw, potato salad, and baked beans.

Storage

Leftover beer can chicken keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. I love to repurpose leftovers into BBQ chicken sandwiches, salads, and bowls to enjoy all week long – check the Recipe Notes, below, for more inspiration!

An overhead shot of BBQ sauce being brushed onto a whole chicken in a large casserole dish atop a white surface. Glasses and cans of beer sit alongside the dish.
The ultimate summer dinner for weekend grill outs, Father’s Day, 4th of July, and more!

I can’t wait for you to try this Everything But The Beer Can Chicken! It’s an unfussy take on the BBQ classic – but it’s even easier to make with more flavorful results. Nothing not to love!

If you do give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo and tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!

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An overhead shot of everything-but-the-beer-can chicken in a casserole dish on a blue and white checked cloth on a white planked surface. Dishes of cooked sweet corn, grilled peppers and onions, tomato salad, pickles, and coleslaw sit alongside the dish.

Everything But The Beer Can Chicken (No Stand!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Inactive Brine: 12 hours – 3 days
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4-6 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes, Chicken Recipes
  • Method: Grilling & Smoking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

A few years ago, I set out to make the ultimate beer can chicken recipe. But no matter what I tried…I kept spilling the beer all over my grill!

This frustration led finding what I think is an even better solution – eliminating the can altogether.

This Everything But The Beer Can Chicken recipe recreates classic beer can chicken flavor using a beer brined, BBQ dry rubbed spatchcock chicken. The chicken lays flat on the grill for a quicker and more evenly cooked result – all without any risk of spilling.

Be sure to check out the blog post, above, for plenty of tips and tricks for perfectly juicy and flavorful results. ♡ Happy grilling!


Ingredients

Scale
  • one 45 pound whole chicken, spatchcocked (see Recipe Notes)
  • 24 ounces beer of choice (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to season
  • PWWB BBQ Dry Rub (below)
  • for serving, as desired: BBQ sauce of choice

for the All-Purpose BBQ Dry Rub:

  • ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • heaping ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • optional: up to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Mix the dry rub: Add all listed ingredients to a small bowl or jar. Stir or shake to mix well. Set aside, or store on your spice rack in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
  2. Brine the chicken in beer: Place the spatchcocked chicken in a large airtight container or resealable plastic bag. Add the beer, salt, and ¼ cup of the prepared dry rub. Toss to coat the chicken in the beer mixture well. Cover or seal and transfer to the refrigerator to brine for at least 12 hours or up to 3 days. The longer you’re able to brine, the juicier and more tender the grilled chicken will be.An overhead shot of raw chicken brining in beer in a large glass bowl atop a white planked surface.
  3. Prep the chicken for grilling: About 60 minutes before you’re ready to grill, pull the beer brined chicken out of the refrigerator. Remove from the brine and transfer to a cutting board or sheet pan. Discard any excess brine. Use paper towels to pat the chicken as dry as possible. Season the entire surface of the chicken well with a good sprinkling of kosher salt, then repeat with the remaining dry rub. Use your hands to rub the spices into the surface of the chicken. Set aside to rest at room temperature while the grill preheats.An overhead shot of a brined whole chicken seasoned with dry rub on a sheet pan atop a white planked surface. A small dish of dry rub sits alongside it.
  4. Grill prep:  Prepare your grill for indirect cooking, creating a zone of direct high heat and a second zone of indirect heat. If using a gas grill, begin preheating at least 15 minutes before grilling. If using charcoal, light the charcoal at least 30 minutes prior to grilling. (Learn More! How to Grill with the 2-Zone Method.)A woman's hand shown above an open Weber Genesis II, prepared for indirect heat grilling with one side of burners all the way open and the other side shut.
  5. Grill the beer can chicken with indirect heat: Once the grill is hot, please the chicken on the indirect heat side of the grill, breast side facing up, as close to the flame as possible without being over direct heat. Cook the chicken, stopping to rotate it 180 degrees every 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast (without hitting the bone) registers 160 degrees F. Depending on the size of your chicken and temperature of your grill, this could take as little as 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.How to grill whole chicken, Step 5: Spatchcocked/butterflied chicken on grill grates, grilling in an indirect heat zone of Weber Genesis II grill.
  6. Finish the chicken over direct heat for charred and crispy skin: Move the chicken over direct heat, carefully flipping it such that its skin side is down and comes in direct contact with the grill grates. Cook 2-3 minutes longer, until the chicken skin is crispy and charred as desired.How to grill whole chicken, Step 7: Spatchcocked/butterflied chicken on grill grates, grilling in a direct heat zone of Weber Genesis II grill.
  7. Rest: Transfer the beer can chicken to a large plate and set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes. Carryover heat will cause the internal temperature to continue to rise as it rests. The chicken is be ready to serve once an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 degrees F.An overhead shot of a whole grilled spatchcocked chicken on a sheet pan atop a white planked surface.
  8. Carve and serve: Serve your beer can chicken immediately with your favorite BBQ sauce and whatever summery sides you love most. Enjoy!An overhead shot of everything-but-the-beer-can chicken in a casserole dish on a blue and white checked cloth on a white planked surface. Dishes of cooked sweet corn, grilled peppers and onions, tomato salad, pickles, and coleslaw sit alongside the dish.

Notes

Jess’ Tips and Tricks:

  • Spatchcocking is a poultry butchering technique in which the spine is removed so the poultry lays completely flat during the cooking process. Doing so facilitates faster and more even cooking, resulting in a juicier, perfectly cooked bird. It’s the best way to grill whole chicken! While you can ask your butcher to spatchcock the chicken for you, it’s also very simple to do at home with a pair of sharp kitchen shears. For more guidance, check out my step-by-step guide: How to Spatchcock a Chicken.
  • Best beer to use: Even if you’re not typically a beer drinker (I am not!), a beer brine adds rich, earthy flavor to chicken that’s pretty hard to beat. Any beer works well here, but for best results, use a strong and/or hoppy beer such as IPA, porter, or stout. The bolder flavor of a stronger beer comes through really nicely without overpowering the chicken.

Storage and Reheating:

Leftover beer can chicken will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through. Once you’ve enjoyed all of the chicken, sure to hang on to the grilled chicken carcass to make homemade chicken stock or broth!

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest for more unfussy recipes that pack a big punch of flavor!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 7.7.24
    Erin said:

    Just made this for dinner with a free range chicken from our local farmer’s market. It was wonderful! We didn’t even need the additional sauce to go with it as it had so much flavor and remained so moist. Another hit from Jess!






    • 7.8.24
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      SO thrilled to hear that, Erin!! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review!

  2. 7.1.24
    Chris Smith said:

    Any chance on some over baking directions? I don’t have a grill, but this looks amazing!

    • 7.3.24
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Chris, we don’t have oven instructions for this exact recipe, but you could definitely use our Lemon Herb Roasted Spatchcock Chicken recipe as a base for an oven-roasted chicken! Be sure to let us know if you try it out!

      • 7.3.24
        Chris said:

        Thank you!