Beer Can Chicken on the Grill?

Are you asking for guesses for the temperature of the boiling beer in the can? Since you’re at sea level and since beer is water with negligible sugar and ethanol content, my guess is 212 F.

Yes and no. If this were a price-guessing TV game show, 212 might be a good guess.
And it would be an excellent number to pick in the Napoleon bottom, because none of THAT beer would be inside the chicken, partially insulated by the cool bird. With the Napoleon, you’re basically grilling beer, i.e., boiling it, and directing any steam inside the carcass.

However… to riff on what Thermoworks did, I’m planning to put an actual beer can upright in the Napoleon. So only the can bottom will be heated directly. Still want 212? Will there be visible water vapor at a lower temp?

THEN, to test that 187F finding, I’ll do it all again with a bird. It might be challenging to thread the probe through the bird and into the can, but we’ll see (Did you notice I drilled a hole to accept the probe?). The question will be if the small-footprint direct heat is overcome by the effect of the rest of the can being “insulated” by the bird.

If my morning coffee is any clue, 185-195 F water generates a fair amount of water vapor.

So as promised, I ran a little experiment (strictly for science!) with roasting Beer Can Chicken in the Big Green Egg. The goal was to assess the competing claims that liquid in the can “does nothing” OR steams the bird from inside to some effect.

Informing the experiment–mostly for the “does nothing” faction–was this work by Thermoworks: There, the conclusion was that the beer never exceeded 188F, and that there was more liquid in the can afterward than before. I found this conclusion suspect for several reasons, including that the cook was done on low (325F) indirect heat, and no provision was made to prevent drippings from entering the can. Nevermind, too that 188F water does give off some water vapor, as anyone who’s simmered at that level can attest.

Anyway, what I did was cut off the top of a 12-oz beer can, and put in it 150ml of water. The can went inside the Napoleon “infusion” gizzie, standing upright on the bottom pan, and inside the gizzie’s suppository end. I did it this way to make sure (a) the can wasn’t in direct contact with the bird; and (b) no drippings could get into the can.

The BGE was brought to 375F and kept there for the entire cook. I set the wire grid at the felt line for direct heat. A long Type K penetration probe was inserted through the mounted bird’s neck, through the cowling and into the water in the can. Then the whole assembly went on the grill.

I was shocked, frankly, by how fast the water heated. It reached 190F within 22 minutes, and then gradually rose to 200F over the next half hour. Then the temperature spiked to 206F. I pulled the bird at this point to assess the water loss , even though I knew the bird’s meat was not fully done (I was concerned all the water had boiled away).

When I weighed the water remaining in the can, there was 116 grams, meaning that in the short (1:04:00) cook, 34 grams had cooked away.

The bird went back on for another 45 minutes until done. Who knows how much more of the water would have steamed out if I’d just left it be. However, considering that liquid was already at 206F, the additional loss would have been considerable.

Our subjective take was that it was indeed more moist than conventionally-roasted chickens I’ve done.

I consider this question conditionally solved. This was done basically with the beer can standing on a thin 16" SS drip pan over direct, somewhat distant heat.

Next experiment will test the “does nothing” debate over whether BCC actually can impart aromatic flavor to the bird. I think I’ll use rosemary sprigs in the liquid, since most rubs contain garlic and onion.


I would like to see the same experiment with just the regular opening of a beer can instead of a fully opened can (it looks like that is the main difference between your and their experiment.) When you cook/braise something on the stove there is a significant difference how much liquid remains in the pot if you complete remove the lid or if you have it just a little bit open

One difference among several. I can run it again with just the sippy hole as the vent. My guess is the temp will pass 206F.

But I wonder if the evaporation within the can will be much less due to the much smaller hole

We’ll see.

FWIW, Steven Raichlen’s current BCC prep calls for punching two additional holes in the can top.

Well, I have some pans, the covers for which have very small closeable vents, much smaller than even the sippy hole of a beer can. IME, when these tiny vents are opened, a LOT of steam escapes. And we’re talking about cooking for two hours…

Interesting, we recently made two times a ragu bolognese (not the same recipes but comparable amounts of liquid) and in both cases you should slowly simmer them but one without a cover the other one with a cover just very slightly open. The one without a cover had the right consistency after two hours, the one with the cover was still not done after four hours (and it became late and we got hungry and so we removed the cover)

Sure, the difference between a completely covered pot and no cover at all can be big.

Here, though, we’re talking about the difference between a 2" diameter open top and a 3/4" diameter sippy hole.

The second pot wasn’t completely covered but had a small opening so some liquid could evaporate (but it did very slowly)

OK, we’ll see.

Too many variables to modulate. You should write a thesis and get a PhD for this.

What i liked doing was shoving some rosemary and thyme sprigs into the chicken cavity with half of a sliced lemon . Salt . Place that bird over a half can of beer and cook . Turning every 10 minutes on the weber covered. Towards the hot charcoal.

It’s indubitable this flavored your birds. No one contends this isn’t happening. Yet, with the can, suddenly it does… nothing?

Similarly, no credible person could question that bouquet garni, mirrepoix and wine flavor stocks, court buillion, and brines, and those liquids retain the flavors and elevate the dishes we eat and perfume the air we breathe.

But it can’t possibly work if it gets anywhere near a beer can or is associated with BCC. Strictly a parlor trick!

Your big green egg should be around 375 to 400 for bcc . Otherwise rubber skin .
I would only use this cooker for low and slow . Which it is perfect for . Try a brisket

Thanks, John. Actually, a brisket was one of the first things I did on the BGE.

It works great as a grill, too.

1 Like

Now that is some dedication to the craft of chicken! I now stand corrected that it is NOT a parlor trick, although I still won’t be doing BCC in the future. I suppose, in retrospect, that it was easy for me to buy into Meathead’s skepticism. I tried BCC about four times, and every time it was a PITA getting the can out of the bird without spilling hot beer all over the place, and it was such a mess that I gave up on it. Meathead just fed my own personal echo chamber.

I much prefer spatchcocking when I do chicken on the grill.

No problem. Although I’ve only grilled spatchcocked chicken a few times (and never on the BGE), the method makes complete sense. I’ll try that soon on the Egg.

Aesthetically, both BCC and spatchcocked leave a little to be desired. The roasted BCC bird looks like it died taking a crap, and the spatched one looks like roadkill.

I think many folks react negatively to things that become fads. I tend that way. And let’s be honest about BCC: it’s biggest boon is the vertical, no-rack roasting position that handicaps the dark meat down. The steaming effect probably pales in comparison.

1 Like

Yeah, well, there is that. Norman Rockwell would never have featured a spatchcocked bird!