Grill Master's Guide to Beer Chicken


It’s interesting how food, and more importantly flavour, can engage the brain in remembering specific times in your past, conjuring up an almost nostalgic feeling. One such dish that has this effect on me is Beer Chicken. It was February 2011, my first week working as a grill master for Weber UK and I was trying beer chicken for the first time. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. 

The flavour was so distinct, unlike any chicken I’d ever eaten. This particular chicken had been cooked on a beer can in a poultry roaster and smoked with wood chips. The dark, mahogany coloured skin was crisp and the white flesh was juicy, and there was a real depth of flavour that I’d never experienced before. I remember being excited about it, being eager to try it out for myself, and to tailor the dish with my favourite herb and spice combinations. 

In many ways that is what is so great about beer chicken. It has been around for quite some time, but with some many potential variations, like so many classic recipes, it’s hard to imagine it will do anything but grow in popularity.

One question I’m often asked is why do you cook a chicken with beer? The simple answer is it allows flavour and moisture being introduce to the cavity of the chicken via a can or cup. This will help with flavour and texture of the meat.

However, there is so much more at play. First off, cooking an upright chicken means you get even 360º roasting. The flavour of the beer admittedly is subtle, but add some aromatics to the beer like ginger, chilli or spices and the whole dish comes to life. Roasting a beer chicken is a fantastic way of doing justice to the mighty chicken; elevating a simple roast to something quite remarkable.

Chicken can be a meat that we’re wary of, particularly when it comes to cooking on the barbecue; often erring on the side of caution and over-cooking it to the point where the meat becomes dry and tasteless. But it needn’t be this way! 

If you follow the Weber Way of barbecuing you are going to create the tastiest chicken, and you’ll have the confidence it’s cooked to perfection. 

Firstly, barbecue with the lid down, this will allow you to easily control the temperature and ensures that smoky barbecue flavour infuses into the chicken. Keeping the lid down also locks in moisture, so along with the beer or liquid you are using in your poultry roaster this means you will have deliciously juicy chicken.

Secondly, it’s vital to know the difference between direct and indirect cooking. Beer chicken requires  indirect cooking or the roasting method. The heat will circulate around your chicken so that it will cook evenly.

Finally, use a thermometer to check the chicken is cooked. This will save you a whole lot of guess work and you won’t have to cut into your chicken to check. You are looking for a core temperature of 75°C at the thickest part of the meat. 

Now you have the basics down, it’s time to get creative. Try different flavours. Try using different liquids in place of the beer. If you’re using a Weber Poultry Roaster there is no limit to what you can put in the cup. I have heard of people cooking over cider, Bourbon whiskey, and even coffee. If your attempting this for the first time I would recommend keeping it simple.  Let the flavour of the beer subtly infuse the meat and season with only salt and pepper. However, if you want to go bold you can add dry rubs, butters and marinades to the chicken to really make it your own. 

My current favourite is a Whole Satay Beer Chicken recipe. The chicken is rubbed in curry powder and turmeric then coated in a special spicy Thai peanut sauce. I roast the bird on a poultry roaster using the famous Tiger beer with chilli, ginger and lemongrass in with the beer. Once cooked, this is served up with a spicy Thai-style herb salad. The result is out of this world. 

There are so many combinations, which I suppose is why this dish is so popular. I have tried a Mexican Beer Chicken flavoured with hot chilli and lime and serve in soft shell tacos. A Tandoori version served with naan and mint yogurt. Using beer chicken as your core ingredient can be a fantastic way of creating your own signature dish to impress family and friends . Thanks to its moist and tender meat and perfectly crisp skin, a whole beer chicken is an impressive dish to grace any barbecue. However, it can also provide the basis to a diverse range of meals. Take a look at all our Beer Chicken recipes for inspiration. 

So, next time you’re thinking of giving it ago get those creative juices flowing and come up with something never done before. You never know. It could it could be the next big thing.