BBQ Beer Roast Chicken

Roasting a chicken on a vertical roaster gives you the most moist and tender chicken possible. Being able to do that roasting on a BBQ grill makes that moist chicken even tastier and frees up your oven too.

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A BBQ Beer Can Chicken cooking on a vertical roaster on an outdoor grill.

The Juiciest Beer Can Chicken

I’ve roasted many a chicken in my time, but every time I use a vertical chicken roaster to do it, I wonder why I ever roast a chicken any other way. In my experience, roasting a chicken vertically gives you an amazingly juicy chicken that is evenly cooked and delicious every time. This BBQ Beer Can Chicken is no exception and when cooked on a grill with a delicious brown sugar BBQ sauce, you just can’t lose.

A vertical chicken roaster with spices, a bottle of beer and a seasoned chicken in the background.

Vertical Chicken Roaster

Beer can chicken recipes used to involve opening a can of beer, placing a chicken on top of the open can and placing it all on the grill. The beer gets hot and steams the inside of the chicken while the rest of it cooks from the radiant heat surrounding it, producing a very moist roast chicken. While this might have been fun in a camp setting, it has several drawbacks. First, there was the concern that the beer can would tip over, spilling the beer and sparking a fire. There is also the trouble of the chicken drippings – as they drip down into an open grill, they also flame up. Finally, there was the issue of over-browning (read: charring) the chicken, or at least the legs which are closest to the heat. A vertical chicken roaster, specifically a cast iron vertical chicken roaster solves all those problems. With this pan, the chicken is stabilized and can’t tip over, the base catches all the drippings so they don’t flame up and it also protects the chicken from the direct heat of the grill so that it browns evenly without charring. The cast iron can handle the high heat of the BBQ and the wide base of the pan also gives you the option of roasting vegetables around the outside. 

A hand pouring beer into the cavity of a vertical chicken roaster with spices and a seasoned chicken in the background.

Beer Can Chicken in the Oven

You don’t have to put the vertical chicken roaster on a grill, however. You can absolutely roast a chicken vertically in your oven – you just might have to remove a rack so there’s room for the chicken to stand up. Pour a little beer into the center cavity of the roaster – you don’t need a full can which is nice because you probably have a glass in your kitchen too! Then, roast the chicken in the oven at 400˚F for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken. Wait for an hour before you baste with the BBQ sauce and then continue to roast until the internal temperature is 165˚F on an instant read thermometer.

A raw seasoned chicken sitting on a vertical chicken roaster.

BBQ Rub for Chicken

This recipe for BBQ Beer Can Chicken starts with a spice rub that gives the chicken a great flavor and helps to brown the chicken as well. Rub the chicken with a little oil and then add the spice rub. You can do this a day ahead of time if you like, but you don’t have to. 

A chicken on a vertical chicken roaster on an outdoor grill.

Beer Can Chicken on Charcoal Grill

The key to making this chicken on a grill (charcoal or gas) is to create a section of indirect heat on your grill. You can do this on a gas grill by turning off one of the burners. On a charcoal grill, move the coals to one side, so one side of the grill is hotter than the other. The other really important key to making this chicken on the grill… and this one is hard… is not to open the lid for the first 30 minutes. Get your grill to register around 400˚F and when it is stable at that temperature, place the chicken over the indirect heat section, close the lid and leave it alone. Don’t lift the lid. Have faith. It will be ok. After 30 minutes, you can give it a check, but make it quick. Close the lid again and let the chicken go for another 30 minutes before basting and letting it finish cooking.

A whole chicken cut into pieces on a wooden cutting board with a knife next to it.

BBQ Sauce for Chicken

While you’re not opening the lid to your grill, you have time to make the brown sugar BBQ sauce. It’s a quick and easy, dump-and-stir recipe made on your stovetop. It will smell delicious and you have an hour to make it. Because the sugar in the sauce can burn easily, you only baste the bird after it has been cooking for an hour. Then, mop it on and let it caramelize a little more while the chicken finishes cooking.

A plate with BBQ Beer Can Chicken, zucchini and a crock of baked beans with a beer and can on a wooden table.

What to Serve with Beer Can Chicken

There are endless possibilities to serve with this BBQ Beer Can Chicken, but since you’re out at the grill, why not grill some vegetables? This Grilled Parmesan Corn and Zucchini dish would be perfect, or a Grilled Panzanella Salad would be a delicious accompaniment as well. If you don’t want to use the grill, a crock of Baked Beans out of your pressure cooker would fit the bill too. Of course, there’s the beer from the rest of the can too…

Featured Recipe Techniques

More about the skills used in this recipe.

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How to Carve a Chicken

Once you've roasted your chicken, it's time to cut it into serving pieces. It's not hard and you can use...View Technique

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BBQ Beer Can Chicken

  • Prep Time: 10 m
  • Cook Time: 1 h 15 m
  • Total Time: 1 h 25 m
  • Servings:
    to 6 people


  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • ¾ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 beer lager or ale – something you like!
  • 1 5-pound chicken
Brown Sugar BBQ Sauce:
  • cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion or 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika


  1. Rinse the chicken and remove the giblets and neckbone. Pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Combine the cumin, paprika, thyme, sage, salt and black pepper. Brush the chicken with olive oil and rub the spice mix over all sides of the chicken. Pour the beer in the well of the vertical roaster. (Feel free to drink the rest of the beer!)
  3. Place the chicken on top of the vertical roaster, inserting the cavity of the chicken over the beer well.
  4. Pre-heat the grill to roughly 400°F. Grill the chicken over indirect heat by turning off one of the burners of the grill or pushing coals to one side of the grill. Place the roaster on top of the indirect heat area. Close the lid and grill for 60 t 75 minutes. Be sure not to lift the lid for at least the first 30 minutes.
  5. While the chicken is cooking make the BBQ Sauce. Combine the brown sugar, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, onion and paprika in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
  6. After 1 hour of grilling, brush the chicken generously with the BBQ sauce and continue to grill for 5 to 15 minutes until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F on an instant read thermometer. Brush with more BBQ sauce.
  7. Remove from the grill and carefully transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with any remaining BBQ sauce.
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Comments (1)Post a Reply

  1. 5 stars
    I made this on our Traeger grill (smoker). It was the best roasted chicken I’ve ever made. Tender, juicy and the skin was crisp and delicious. The rub was so easy to make. I have a molcajete (pestle and mortar) that I used to grind the spices for the rub. The freshly ground cumin, thyme and sage together with whole peppercorns and salt made all the difference in flavor. I just used Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce because I had it in my pantry. It was perfect. I plan on trying your sauce next time. This recipe is a keeper! My husband and I ate the leftovers for three days. It made great chicken salad wraps too. Thank you so much. Your recipes are the best!

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