Beer Can Chicken On A Traeger (Or Any Pellet Grill) Pro Tips From The Masters


Beer can chicken is a fun recipe to try on your Traeger pellet grill. This popular method for roasting chicken is a spectacular sight, and all you need is a can of beer, a chicken, some seasoning, and some wood pellets. I wanted to find out how the pros prepare beer can chicken when using a pellet grill, so I asked the barbecue gurus for a step-by-step guide.

Apply a generous amount of dry rub to the chicken, then set the temperature of your Traeger to 300°F. Remove 1/2 to 1/4 of a can of beer, then insert it into the cavity of the chicken. Sit the bird upright on the grill, balancing on its legs. Cook for around 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F in the breast and 175°F in the thighs.

Whole chicken can be a little tricky to get an even cook because it has an awkward shape and a large cavity. Unless you constantly rotate the chicken, it’s hard to cook evenly. The advantage of the beer can method is the chicken cooks more evenly. The beer will also create some extra steam—adding extra moisture and flavor to the chicken. 

Beer Can Chicken

Beer Can Chicken
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • Whole chicken
  • Barbecue rub
  • 1 can of beer or root beer

Instructions

    1. *Optional, pre-brine or inject your chicken. 
    2. Dry the chicken as much as possible. 
    3. Slather olive oil to the bird, and as a binder for the rub.
    4. Apply the barbecue rub and/or all-purpose seasoning to the chicken. 
    5. Take a beer can, root beer, or Dr. Pepper, and remove 1/4 of the liquid. 
    6. Insert the can into the cavity of the chicken. 
    7. Balance the chicken with the legs to the front. Use a chicken rack to help balance the chicken better. 
    8. Use hickory wood pellets for a stronger smoke flavor. Other good choices are apple or cherry or mixed blends. 
    9. Fire up your Traeger, and set the temperature to 300° F. 
    10. *Optional. Spray the chicken with cooking oil every 30 minutes. 
    11. Cook the beer can chicken until the internal meat temperature reaches 165° F in the breast and 175° F in the thigh. 
    12. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes prior to slicing or shredding. 

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

100

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 237 Total Fat: 13.49g

How Long Does It Take To Cook Beer Can Chicken?

Plan for about 2 hours to cook a beer can chicken on a pellet grill. The total cook time will depend on the size of the chicken and the temperature of your grill. The chicken is done once the internal temperature reaches 165°F in the breast and 175°F in the thigh. Allow 10 minutes for the chicken to rest.

The Best Cooking Temperature For Beer Can Chicken

The ideal temperature to cook chicken is in the 300° F range. Any lower than 275° F, you may end up with soft, rubbery skin. There’s nothing worse than soft rubbery chicken skin. It’s even more important to cook above 300° F with the beer can chicken recipe. The beer can will create some extra steam, producing more moisture in the cooking chamber, and therefore softening the chicken skin. 

Make Life Easier – Get A Chicken Rack

Balancing a chicken on a beer can be a challenge. You need to position the legs correctly, otherwise the bird will tip over. Some pitmasters use a chicken stand, which make s life so much easier. A chicken roasting stand is enough room to insert a can of beer in the middle, and we’ll prevent the chicken from falling over. Hardware stores sell chicken stand for about $10, or you can get one on Amazon here. You can also get roasting stands with stainless steel trays like the Steven Raichlen Chicken Roaster.

Brining Beer Can Chicken

Brining chicken is a blessing and a curse. A brine will make your chicken juicy and full of flavor, but it may also cause the skin to become soft and rubbery. If you decide to wet brine the chicken, dry the skin as much as possible prior to cooking. You can either do this by patting the chicken with a paper towel, or leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for a few hours. You could also sit the bird on an airing rack for an hour before applying the barbecue rub.  

Chicken Brine Mixture

Here is a basic brine mixture for chicken:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 cup of salt 
  • 1 cup of sugar

Dissolve the sugar and salt in a pot by adding a small amount of water. Then add the rest of the water into a container.  For the best results, soak the chicken in the brine overnight. Otherwise, let the bird soak for about 6 hours if you can. 

Dry Rub

There are dozens of rubs on the market, and even more rub recipes. I’ve got several recommendations, and a couple of simple recipes that you can try. If you want a pre-made rub, I would highly recommend Malcolm Reed’s Killer Hogs or Harry Soo’s Slap Yo Daddy rubs. Harry and Malcolm are both champion pitmasters and produce high-quality rubs.

I like to get the rub on the skin and underneath the skin. Try to get the rub over every part of the chicken. If the rub doesn’t stick, apply some olive oil to the bird, and then sprinkle your rub. The oil should help the rub stick. Try not to use water as a rub binder because we don’t want to soften the skin. 

Some people will apply an all-purpose seasoning before adding the rub. All-purpose rub usually contains salt, garlic, pepper and some herbs.

Aaron Franklin Style Texas Rub

If you’ve ever watched barbecue guru Aaron Franklin smoke meat, you would know that he likes to keep things simple. In Texas, Pitmasters often use a simple salt and pepper rub. Franklin will sometimes add in a little of paprika for color, or some garlic powder and granulated onion for a savory taste. For a simple salt and pepper rub, use a coarse black pepper. Franklin uses is 16-mesh cafe grind black pepper, and Morton’s kosher salt. Mix a 50/50 ratio, and if you want some color to your beer can chicken, add in a little paprika.

Homemade Rub

There’s a couple of different rub recipes I use when making rub at home. The best recipe I’ve come across was created by the Linn Brothers. It’s a really delicious blend of spices, and extremely versatile. The great thing about this rub is you can add and subtract spices, depending on your taste, and make different versions of the rub. If you don’t like spicy, you can reduce the amount of chilli powder or cayenne pepper. Check out the video below for the recipe in the description.

Check The Salt Content Of Your Rub

Always be careful not to over-salt your chicken. Be careful with the salt in the rub if you have pre-brinded the chicken. Check the salt content of the rub you buy. If the rub has a lot of salt, be careful if you brine the chicken. If you’re making a homemade rub, then hold back on the rub or make a version without salt. I always like to salt my meat separately and make a version of rub with no salt. 

How To Insert The Beer Can

  • Once you’ve seasoned the chicken, insert the beer can into the chicken cavity.
  • Remove at least 1/4 of the can of beer.
  • If you Don’t want to use beer, you can also use Dr. Pepper or root beer. 
  • Sit the bird on the can so it looks like the chicken is standing up on its legs. 

When Is Beer Can Chicken Done?

Smoke the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165° F in the breast, and 175° F in the thigh. Use a good instant-read thermometer to check the internal meat temperature and don’t go by look or feel with chicken. The USDA recommends chicken is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165° F. Chicken contains a lot of bacteria, so it needs to be cooked properly. Therefore, an instrument thermometer should be one of your most important tools when barbecuing. Smoked meat can deceive, because it leaves a pink ring around the outer layer of the meat. Some people mistake this pink smoke ring as underdone. A thermometer will give you peace of mind knowing that although the meat might have some pinkness, it is at a safe temperature and therefore safe to eat. 

Can You inject Beer Can Chicken?

If you want to take your beer can chicken to the next level, use a meat injector and pump the bird with any liquid such as stock, broth. I highly recommend injecting the chicken with Butcher BBQ’s Bird Booster. Injecting is the only way to get moisture deep inside the meat. A wet brine will improve the tenderness and juiciness of the chicken, but injection will go deep. If you are wet brining the chicken, then you don’t need to inject and vice versa. You can get a decent stainless steel meat injector on Amazon for around $20- $30. This injector is an Amazon bestseller.

Best Wood Pellets For Chicken

Since chicken is a hot and fast cook, use a stronger smoking wood so you can impart more smoke flavor in a short period. Hickory wood pellets are a superb choice, but you can use whatever you have available. Normally I would recommend using mild fruit wood when smoking chicken, such as apple or cherry. Both woods are perfect for chicken, and cherry will give the chicken a nice mahogany color. Otherwise, cover all your bases by using a mixed blend.

Can You Cook Beer Can Chicken Low-N-Slow?

You can also cook beer can chicken in the low and slow range between 225° F and 250° F. Although the skin won’t be as crispy, the meat will be much smokier and full of flavor. It would take around about 3 hours to cook a chicken in the low range. 

Olive Oil Spray

Throughout the cook, I like to eat the chicken with some olive oil spray every half an hour. This will help add some nice color to the outside of the chicken and aid in the browning effect. 

Resting

Allow the chicken to rest for about 10 minutes after cooking. This will allow the chicken to reabsorb some of the moisture, so the chicken won’t turn out dry. When cooking, all the muscles tighten, and push out liquid. If you were to shred or slice the chicken immediately out of the smoker, I love the moisture will disappear. 

More Chicken Articles:

Whole Chicken On A Traeger – We Asked The BBQ Gurus How They Do It

How to Avoid Rubbery Skin on Smoked Chicken

Smoked Chicken Done Temp – Safe Internal Temperatures

My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.

Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.

Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.

Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.

Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.

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