The best beer for beer can chicken is a light and crisp lager. Avoid beers that are overly hoppy or sweet. Lagers are widely used and a popular choice for beer can chicken.
Beer can chicken is one of those “secret” recipes we keep up our sleeves for whenever we have a large amount of people to feed. Not only does the beer keep the chicken moist, but it also adds delicious flavor, taking your chicken recipe to the next level.
But if you are planning to make beer can chicken for your next gathering, you might be wondering just what beer to choose. Honestly, almost any beer will do, but there are those that are simply better for beer can chicken than others.
Read on to discover the best beers for beer can chicken.
The 5 Best Beers for Beer Can Chicken
There are so many beers you can use for beer can chicken, but below are the ones we’ve enjoyed the most over the last few years:
#1. Sam Adams Jack-O Beer
Sadly, this is seasonal, but with warm fall spices that add amazing flavor to your chicken, this was our number one choice, hands down.
#2. Blue Moon
An easy alternative to Jack-O, this orange-flavored beer will add a light fruity taste to your beer when pumpkin beer is out of season.
#3. Guinness Stout
Guinness is a bit of a risky choice, but it adds a rich coffee/chocolatey taste, which is reminiscent of the Mexican chicken dish Mole.
#4. Modelo Especial
If you want your chicken to stay moist but are risk-averse, Modelo will get the job done!
#5. Pilsner Urquell
Another low-risk option, Pilsner Urquell will keep your chicken moist without drastically changing the flavor.
How to Choose the Best Beer for Beer Can Chicken
As we mentioned above, you can honestly choose almost any beer type for beer can chicken, but your choice will influence the flavor of the chicken in the end. While it is hard to mess up, if you are averse to certain flavors, you’ll want to choose your beer for beer can chicken carefully.
Below are all the factors you should consider as you choose a beer for beer can chicken.
Above all else, you should never choose a beer you don’t like the flavor of because that flavor could be present in the chicken when you are done. While it’s okay to experiment, maybe just take a sip first before putting your dinner on the can to ensure it's a flavor you enjoy.
Generally, it is better to go with fruity, earthy, or neutral flavors, and we’ve found that pumpkin beers are always a crowd-pleaser when they are in season!
You can use both light and dark beers for your chicken, but we do recommend avoiding IPAs. This is because the bitterness in the beer can make your chicken a bit bitter. We also recommend avoiding sours.
Pilsners and light beers are excellent choices for those who want a more neutral flavor. Our personal favorite is wheat beers and ales, as these tend to improve on the natural savory flavors of the chicken without being overpowering. Especially when they are fruity in flavor.
Stouts are also an option, but we recommend proceeding with caution as these dark and rich flavors may not be for everyone when cooked into chicken.
As a rule of thumb, the best beers for beer can chicken are those that have less than 5% ABV, as too high of an alcohol content can dry out the chicken. We also recommend choosing a beer that is at least 3.5% ABV for best results.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t try a beer with a 6% ABV or 7% ABV with beer can chicken, just know you should proceed with caution. We don’t recommend using any beer over 7% ABV for this recipe.
You can make beer can chicken with alcohol-free beer if you would like! Just know that it may not yield the same results as using a beer with at least 3.5% ABV.
Comes in a Can
There are many amazing beers that come in a bottle, but unfortunately, you can’t use them for this recipe. Ensure the beer you have purchased is available in a can before getting your heart set on it!
Beers to Avoid for Beer Can Chicken
While you can choose almost any beer for beer can chicken, there are a few beers you should avoid as they can ruin the taste of the chicken. Avoid the beers that are as follows:
- High-alcohol in content
- Any beer that you don’t like the flavor of
How Does Beer Influence the Taste of Chicken?
Many people wonder just how beer can change the taste of chicken, and to explain this, we need to quickly explain the science behind beer can chicken.
When making beer can chicken, you place your entire chicken over a can of beer and then place it on your grill. As your chicken heats, so does the beer can, turning the beer into steam.
As this steam rises, it finds that it cannot escape the chicken and is directed back through the meat. Since chicken is a permeable layer, the steam is absorbed into the chicken, and any flavor molecules end up trapped in the layers of meat while the steam itself helps to keep the chicken moist as it cooks.
Therefore, any beer you place in your chicken should be one that you enjoy, as the flavor will influence the taste of the chicken. If you are nervous about the flavor being too strong, you may want to choose a pilsner for your first time making the recipe.
Is Beer Can Chicken Safe?
There are some concerns about cooking beer can chicken directly on the can of beer (as you see in demonstrations and YouTube videos!) Honestly, while this practice is most likely safe, it is true that the ink on some beer cans may not be considered safe to cook over the high heat of a grill.
While nothing will happen with the can itself, if you are concerned about the ink or printing on the can getting into your food, an alternative option is to pour the beer into a grill-safe pan and place it beneath the chicken. This will still allow the steam from the beer to get into the chicken without placing a beer can directly in the meat.
There are also beer can chicken roasting stands, which are another option if you cook beer can chicken frequently.
How to Prepare Beer Can Chicken
Now, while you might be ready to grab a chicken and a can of beer and toss it on the grill, there is a little more to it than that! Here are the steps for preparing beer can chicken.
1. Thaw the Chicken
Sorry, but frozen chicken isn’t going to work for this recipe. You’ll need to allow your chicken to thaw in the fridge the night in advance so you will be able to put it over the beer can.
2. Remove the Giblets
You aren’t going to have room for a beer can in the chicken unless you remove the giblets first. Some people choose to save them for a gravy, but honestly, beer can chicken is so moist you shouldn’t need it.
3. Pat the Chicken Dry
Take a paper towel and pat the chicken dry. This will make it easier to handle and will allow the seasoning to adhere to the meat.
4. Season Your Chicken
The beer can’t make the chicken flavorful all on its own! We recommend at least rubbing the chicken down with some salt and pepper or trying our smoked chicken rub to make your beer can chicken as delicious as possible.
5. Baste the Chicken
Although beer can chicken can be deliciously moist as is, we do recommend basting the chicken while it cooks for maximum flavor. You can baste the chicken with extra beer or some chicken broth, whatever you prefer.
6. Use a Thermometer
The only way to know that chicken is done is by using a meat thermometer. Do not try to guess when your beer can chicken is done, as this could lead to disastrous results.
What to Serve With Beer Can Chicken
As your beer can chicken is cooking, you’re probably wondering what to serve with it! As far as sides go, anything you would normally serve with chicken will be delicious, but we specifically recommend serving it with a potato and a vegetable of your choosing.
For the meat itself, it should stand fine on its own without a sauce, though you may want to place BBQ sauce on the table just in case anyone wants one. You could also make a gravy but know this will seem a bit heavy if you use a fruity beer in the chicken.
If you love spicy food, our homemade horseradish cream sauce can be great to serve with beer can chicken.
No matter what you choose to serve it with, we are confident you will enjoy your beer can chicken and count down the days until you can cook it again!
Have you decided that beer can chicken isn’t for you? No worries, you can head over to our smoked whole chicken recipe instead!