This Traeger beer can chicken is so easy and delicious. We use our own simple Kansas City-style dry rub and a lager to smoke this chicken to moist, flavorful perfection. It's the perfect rotisserie chicken substitute.
Why We Love This Chicken
It's easy: We rub a whole chicken with a simple homemade dry rub, place it on top of a beer can, and smoke it to tender, moist perfection. It's a (mostly) hands-off Traeger chicken recipe that anyone can make.
It's versatile: We usually eat this chicken with some veggies on the day we make it, then shred the leftovers and use them in enchiladas, wraps, salads, soups, and more. It has a mild, neutral flavor and can be used for anything. It's a great substitute for rotisserie chicken in recipes.
It's foolproof: We've made this beer can chicken dozens of times and it always comes out moist and delicious, even if we don't perfectly time things.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
A whole chicken: You need a whole chicken for this recipe because the beer can goes in the cavity. You can get a whole chicken at most grocery stores—we get ours at Costco or Sam's Club. We use a five-ish pound chicken.
A can of beer: We usually use a pilsner or lager for this recipe. Use a light beer with a neutral flavor—beers like Pacifico, Yuengling, Budweiser, Coors, etc. all work well. Using something super hoppy will give the chicken a bitter flavor.
Poultry BBQ dry rub: We make our own dry rub and highly recommend it. If you want to take a shortcut, you can buy a poultry rub. If you don't wan to make your own, we love Kosmos Q Dirty Bird dry rub.
See recipe card for full ingredient list and amounts.
Step 1: Preheat your Traeger to 275°F.
Step 2: Add the dry rub ingredients to a small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.
Step 3: Remove the giblets from your chicken. They're usually conveniently packaged in a bag in the cavity. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel, then cover the outside and the center of the cavity with olive oil. Then cover the it with the dry rub.
Step 4: Empty (or drink) two-thirds of the beer, then place it directly on the grill grates of your Traeger. Place the chicken on top of it so that the beer can is inside the cavity of the chicken and it is sitting upright on the Traeger.
Step 5: Smoke for 1.5 hours, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken (we usually test a breast) is 150°F. Then turn the heat to high (450°F) and cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 175°F.
Step 4: Remove the chicken from the Traeger, discard the beer can, and allow to rest before cutting. Then serve!
- Season your chicken with a generous amount of dry rub. If it feels like you're using too much, then it's probably the perfect amount.
- Don't use a hoppy beer (such an an IPA)—it will make your chicken bitter. Use something mild, light, and neutral like a pilsner or lager.
- Try to keep the temperature on your Traeger steady for the duration of the cooking time. Minimize the amount of time you leave the lid open. If it's cold outside, try using a Traeger insulation blanket (or, as I call it, the Traeger coat).
- You can make this chicken on any pellet grill (or a regular grill). Just follow the same instructions and stick with the same temperatures/times.
Here are some ways to use this leftover chicken:
- Chicken and Stars Soup with Basil
- Air Fryer Chicken Wraps (adapt the recipe to use this chicken instead of the air fryer chicken)
- Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls
- Chicken Pot Pie Filling
- Rotisserie Chicken Garden Salad
- Jalapeño Popper Chicken Enchiladas
Frequently asked questions
Yes! Follow the same instructions, keeping the temperature of your grill/smoker around a constant 275°F for the first hour and a half and 450°F for the last 15 minutes or so.
Store the leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Check out our suggestions on how to use the leftovers above!
Beer can chicken takes a little short of two hours on the Traeger. We cook ours at 275°F for an hour and a half, then crank it up to 450°F for the last fifteen minutes or so.
Side Dish Ideas
These side dishes pair perfectly with these Traeger smoked chicken thighs: