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Beer-Can Chicken & Barbecue Dry Rub

May 11, 2011

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Smoking chicken in the beer-can style takes work, though it is a labor of love. Years ago I saw some guy (Steven Raichlen) on television talking about propping a whole chicken on a beer can over charcoal & was intrigued, bought his book & have never regretted my excursion into my world of pit master-dom.

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I happened to have 3 similar-in-size chickens from our dear friends at Rolling Hills Farm which means it’s time to smoke some chicken! My Weber grill holds max 3 chickens & there is no reason to go to all this trouble for only 1.

I usually prep the chickens the night before, washing them & sprinkling my dry rub under the skin & in the cavity, but it’s been a busy week, so this step was omitted.

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Start a large charcoal fire, wash the chicken, assemble utensils, beer, & put hickory chips in a bowl of water/beer to soak. My friend, P, gave me a beer-can stand months ago – this is its inaugural use.

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Open the cans of beer – pour 1/3 of beer from each can onto wood chips. Using a key-style can/bottle opener & make 2 more holes in the top of the cans.
I have tried a variety of beers, teas, fruit juices but prefer to use Natty Ice, a fairly inexpensive beer to keep the chicken moist & flavorful during the smoking process.

Spread the charcoal around the edge of the grill: indirect heat. Add 12 more pieces of fresh charcoal on top of the burning coals. Place a drip pan in the center of the grill; I use extra foil to catch the drippings. Drain the water from the hickory chips. Sprinkle half of the chips over the burning charcoal. Place the top grate on the grill.

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I oil the aluminum cans with Mongolian Fire Oil – difficult to find lately though I used to buy it at Kroger – slide the can into the cavity. Stand the chicken in the center of the grate so that the drippings will be caught by the foil & pan. Carefully place the grill cover over the chicken. Adjust the air vents so the coals burn, but not too hot.

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These chickens were 4-ish pounds each, so I smoked them for 2 hours. After the first hour I added twelve more charcoal briquets & the remaining hickory chips.

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Carefully removing the chicken from the grill into a very large stainless steel bowl – I use Orca insulated gloves, remove the beer can from the cavity, the skin from the birds & pull the meat from the bone. I sprinkle about 1/2 cup of my dry rub & the contents of one of the beer cans from the chicken cavity over the pulled meat for more flavor.

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The reason I pull the meat – it is easier to serve. That’s it. I also include some of the smoked chicken skin, finely chopped, with the meat.

Because I use good pastured poultry, the 12 pounds of bird made 7 pounds of pulled meat. When P apprenticed with me once, her store-bought “Smart Chickens” yielded less meat compared to mine…a lot less! Email Heidi at Rolling Hills Farm & start feeding your family excellent, local, pastured meats & eggs!

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Steven Raichlen’s All-Purpose Barbecue Rub

Sorry, but mine is a secret!


  • 1/4 cup Coarse Salt
  • 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Sweet Paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Black Pepper


  1. Put the salt, brown sugar, paprika & pepper in a small bowl & stir to mix. (Your fingers actually work better for mixing the rub than a spoon or whisk does.)
  2. Store the rub in an airtight jar away from heat & light; it will keep for at least 6 months.
  1. Pam permalink
    May 11, 2011 11:59 am

    That pulled chicken looks super yummy…and I know for a fact that it is!! Did the new-fangled roaster stand make it more stable?

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