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Beer Can Chicken - is it safe?

Okay, I have been wanting to make "beer butt chicken" for awhile but my boyfriend says he won't eat it because of all the dyes on the aluminum cans and the toxic chemicals they will produce when heated.

Is there any truth to this? Has anyone come up with a solution that would produce the same result but not use an actual beer can? I was thinking a really clean tin can with beer in it... But I really don't know.

Any thoughts?

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  1. There's always this:


    Works fine, but I wouldn't fear the beer can either.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sweetpotater

      that looks so cool...i just might have to buy it...thanks

      the blurb mentions "up to a 12 pound chicken"...yikes, that's one big chic!!!

      1. re: kleinfortlee

        Somebody gave us one as a housewarming gift. It actually works very well indeed!

      2. re: sweetpotater

        This is what I use, got it as a gift and it's great. I've used it in the oven and on the grill w/wonderful results. The liquid you choose dosn't seem to matter.

        I also received this one for cooking turkey, again best results I've ever had cooking turkey.

      3. Steven Raichlen who wrote the book on beer can chicken has said himself that it's safe. Basically, the ink is applied at 500 degrees. In the cooking process, you'll never go above 212 degrees if you follow that process. In other words, you can't get hot enough to get the dyes to revert back to a gaseous or liquid form - no seepage.

        As the other poster suggests, there are always the kits (Mr. Raichlen makes one himself) that allow you to encase the beer can if this is a sticking point.

        4 Replies
          1. re: meltedcheese

            sounds too simple to me... (j/k)...such a practical solution, seems like a good idea whether it is necessary or not

            1. re: meltedcheese

              Yes, but some people also want to avoid their food having with aluminum.

            2. re: Stephmo

              The beer can will probably be exposed to well more than 212 of heat. The grill is much hotter than that, and generally some part of the exterior of the can is exposed to direct heat. But I agree that there is probably no reason for concern -- particularly when you factor in that grilling itself is not e very healthy way to cook.

            3. Go For It !!! It is safe, lets all stop being so cautious, while you are at it, drink from the garden hose and toss out the bottled water !!

              3 Replies
              1. re: Jimbosox04

                I say go for it as well. I really hate it when these overpriced cookware stores like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table make something like this fancy beer can chicken cooker for $30. The whole point here is that you have something around, like beer, and use the can for something else. Pretty soon they'll come up with a stainless steel coffee can to bake Boston brown bread in and charge $40.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  But coffee cans are too small now for my mom's recipe for BBB!

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    I got the W-S vertical roaster on clearance a few years ago (Who pays full price for things at W-S, anyway? :-) ) and I really love it. The base makes a fine basket for grilling veggies, and the bird is more stable and much easier to handle. I never worried about toxins leaching from the can as much as I worried about the bird falling over or losing it when trying to move it from the grill to the plate.

                2. I make beer can chicken alllll the time and it's always delish. Never had a problem with a tinny taste or any of the dyes.

                  Also I usually add a peice of ginger into the beer for another aromatic :)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: starlady

                    I'll definitely drop some ginger and garlic into the can next time. As other people have said, I don't think it matters what liquid you use. We seldom have beer around and usually use Coke. I've also used La Croix lemon fizzy water. What you put on the chicken (I put Stubb's rub all over it, under the skin, and inside too) seems to matter more.
                    I love to make beer can chicken--fun, easy, always comes out moist and tender. I read about a guy who made a contraption that could hold up to six chickens at once! Now that's a party!

                    1. re: Jimmy Buffet

                      Worth it? You bet your can it's worth it. It's some of the most tender, succulent chicken ever to come off my grill. Sometimes I use a can of frozen pink lemonade instead of beer and we like that even better.

                        1. re: greenstate

                          Frozen pink lemonade? Is that concentrate, or actual soda (Minute Maid?) that's been frozen?

                          ETA: Or a beer can emptied and refilled with pink lemonade. Sometimes I am really dense... at least I didn't try freezing a can of soda *cough* again *cough*.

                          1. re: dietfoodie

                            Frozen pink lemonade concentrate is something I always have, so one day I pulled it out of the freezer, stuck the chicken on top of it, and baked. Necessity is the mother of invention!

                            1. re: greenstate

                              I am totally going to try that next time I do a chicken! You didn't have any issues with the paper container melting or anything? (I can't afford another fiery grill disaster until everyone's forgotten the last one.)

                              1. re: greenstate

                                Interesting! However, in my town, pink lemonade comes in a cardboard can with metal ends. That, I'd have to pass on.

                          2. re: Jimmy Buffet

                            As a native New Yorker now living in Texas, I never ate beer can chicken until a few weeks ago. Bone Daddy's, which is a pedestrian barbecue chain more known for skimpily clad waitresses than food, had been overflowing with diners since it opened near the DFW airport a couple of months ago. You can't even find a parking spot in the lot because of the crowd. We wanted to see what all the fuss was about. (I do think it is about the young girls, and not the food.) So, my husband and I tried it because it seemed like it could be one of the best things on the menu. Apparently it is --juicy, flavorful, and, hopefully, really cooked using a beer can. At least that's what they said, but who knows? Their kitchen might be stocked with dozens of WS's imitation beer can chicken holders for all I know. I was so surprised at how good it was that we are going to try to cook it at home on the grill one of these nights.

                          3. If you have a problem with the dyes and such on the can you could use a couple of unlined, washed tin cans. Stainless steel molds of all sorts can be found at a resty supply store, and the are as safe as you will ever find.

                            I use the beer can and have never had a problem.

                            1. I have used root beer and orange soda, both very good. U can use anything creative. I added herbs to the soda, plugged the neck with an onion - it was soooo tender.

                              1. My husband makes it all the time..fabulous. If it's good enough for the Barbecue Bible man..it's good enough for us.

                                1. I too make it all the time and there is no sign that the beer can is interacting with the chicken in anyway. I like to be fairly cautious, but in this case your boyfriend is really reaching.

                                  1. To chime in with all others, my BF and I just made our first beer can chicken and there was absolutely no tinny taste and the dyes on the can didn't budge at all. The can was disqustingly covered in chicken goo but under all that it looked totally normal. And we checked because my boyfriend was also convinced that the dyes would react and give us killer chicken. But if you really are worried about it I see no reason why you couldn't either use a clean tin can or just wrap the beer can in foil. Both would give you that extra piece of mind with almost no added work....and certainly without the added expense of the beer can style roaster do-hickeys.

                                    And really...it sounds redneck to say that you're shoving a beer can up a chicken's butt and throwing it on the grill (not that that's a bad thing) but it is really very good. In my experience, it was second only to the Zuni chicken for crispy skin + tender succulent meat. And second only because the skin wasn't as perfectly crispy...the meat was actually more juicy and tender (but I love me some crispy skin). I'd imagine you could get the skin to crisp up perfectly (instead of almost perfectly) if you were cooking on a gas grill and could crank the heat for the last bit of cooking. We were using charcoal and didn't have that option.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: wawajb

                                      TO get the skin really crispy I CRANK the grill up really high and leave it going for a half hour before lowering it. Also the less times you open the grill and let the heat escape the better. I love crispy skin too and the secret is the original high heat followed by slow and low without opening it up to let the heat escape. Also oiling the bird up beforehand is key

                                      1. re: MVNYC

                                        I'm buying a chicken on the way home!
                                        Tender succulent meat and crispy skin....

                                        1. re: MVNYC

                                          You can also leave the chicken in the fridge on a rack over a plate (or just on the plate) to let the skin air dry overnight. That's another sure bet for achieving crispier skin. I do it with Thanksgiving turkeys, too.

                                      2. Michael Chu writes a blog "Cooking for Engineers" in which he tested whether the beer made any difference and he concluded that it didn't. His account is here:

                                        He also gives a link to an alternative to beer cans.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: cheryl_h

                                          i've always found that you can prove any hypothesis by taking a simple, well-established idea, do it completely WRONG (in order to have scientific objectivity, of course), & then writing a paper about it so you and your friends can flex your big frontal lobes.

                                          i wouldn't eat a meal at this guy's house-- i'd drive over a bridge he designed, though. the exact opposite would hold for almost every good cook i know, & i think that's probably a good thing.

                                        2. I hope so, because it's our favorite way of grilling chicken--always so moist and tender. Easy, except for clean-up. We have graduated from an actual beer can to the teflon beer can chicken tray thingie. The teflon tray does capture the juices, which might be a bad thing if you want the smokey flavor that comes from the juices running off into the fire. But, we don't eat the skin anyway since it's kind of rubbery. The chicken meat, is moist and tender though. (I'm sure the ideas above for getting the skin crispy are very effective and delicious, but I don't need any excuses to eat chicken skin so I'm going to pretend I didn't see them.)


                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            Something about using teflon on a grill, exposed to open flame, that makes me nervous.

                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                              Oh dear, that's a worry I didn't know I should have. It's actually made by Weber. It has a non-stick surface on the "stand" part that touches the chicken, as well as on the tray that catches the drippings. We have a gas grill. Do you think this is not safe?


                                              EDIT: Oh, and now that I've clicked the link on the WS version, I see theirs has holes in the "tray" to allow the drippings to run through, thereby solving the problem for folks who want the smokey flavor created by the drippings.

                                              By the way, we just got that grill top pizza stone featured on the same WS page as the beer can chicken roaster and we love it. The pizza crust comes out wonderfully!


                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                I have this one too and the chicken comes out great - mine had a bit of crispy skin on it. I put some veggies in the tray too, yummy! Only problem was getting the chicken off of it, seemed like it would be easier than it was. No matter - tasted the same shredded a bit :-)

                                                I'm sure it's safe - Weber is very well respected and they probably tested the s--t out of it before they sent it out to market.

                                          2. My thoughts on this topic:

                                            I have made the beer can chicken 2 times and found it to be a decent, different variation on chicken, it does come out juicy.

                                            Regarding the"health risk" of the beer can, and even as someone mentioned grilling in general, I kind of chuckle at these notions. I live/eat for today, as the great lyricist of The Grateful Dead, Robert Hunter penned: "if the thunder dont get you than the lightning will."

                                            1. i see 2 possible scenarios for the o.p.-- 3 if you decide not to do beer can chicken, in which case the op and bf should move to sheboygan and get an all-beige wardrobe :)

                                              1. yeah if he's wigging out just use a clean tin can with the beer-- the whole point of the beer can is that it's the original vessel of the beer anyway, that and that you slice the top off the can and then, erm, shove it, *uhhh* in the rear orifaces of differently. . . endowed. . . or shaped chickens, scrunching if necessary for a smaller fowl. . .

                                              ***insert sir mixalot sample***

                                              2. oh come on, we're talking about the op having the once in a lifetime opportunity to use tinsnips on the top of a can of budweiser tallboy, handing the (jagged edged intentionally?) thing to BF and saying "shove it, hon," or whatever! what could be better?!

                                              then the chicken will be so good that you'll want to do the whole thing over again, and lingering thoughts of possible toxins will flit away like applewood smoke over the may morning rooftops. . . sorry, it will be hickory for us today, and pork, but don't get me started--

                                              it doesn't matter what you shove, just shove somethin up thar! remember that it's fun!

                                              1. it wasnt safe last week when my wife left the grill on direct, rather than indirect heat. She returned to find the bird on fire. A good lesson learned by all. When done slowly, over indirect heat, with a BBQ rub, it is both tender and flavorful.

                                                1. Wowee what a thread!! Thanks everyone for posting. I will definitely convey the thoughts over the the bf and if he still being all difficult I will use a tin can or similar instead of an actual beer can.

                                                  But for the record, I don't drink bottled water and I did grow up in a house where a bit of a dirt is good for you. I wouldn't even have thought about it except for him. If you listen to all the things you shouldn't do too much then you wouldn't do anything.. but everyone has to draw their line somewhere, smoking, drinking, processed foods..what have you.

                                                  heheh.. thanks for the fabulous images of him shoving a can up the... Not to mention baby got back is now stuck in my head.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: daily_unadventures

                                                    The liquid in the can will not add any significant flavor, just moisture. It doesn't matter if it's water, beer, Coke or lemonade. As the liquid heats up it's the water that evaporates to moisturize the chicken and this carries little if any flavor components. So don't dwell on seasoning the liquid but do season the chicken.

                                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                                      or add other aromatics in the can to provide additional flavors-- garlic, onion....etc...

                                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                                        I'm in agreement on this one...I've found that various liquids (ginger ale, beers, cola, 7-Up, lemonade, brewed tea, pineapple juice, orange juice, etc) don't impart a whole lot of flavor, but garlic & ginger dropped into the liquid do make a small difference. A light coating of oil & dry rub on the outside provide most of the flavor; marinating the whole chicken for a couple of hours before grilling really boosts taste. Still, it is the single easiest way to cook a whole chicken, by far. Once you figure out your grill's particular idiosyncracies, you only need to rotate it once, halfway thru cooking. It requires almost NO attention.

                                                        1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                          I've read articles that say that liquid that is used makes no difference. I'm guessing it's because all that boils off is water.


                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                            Other compounds do indeed boil off other than water....aromatic oils & other flavoring ingredients are released (depending on the liquid), but are in too small quantities & are quite ephemeral & overwhelmed by the heavier, carbonized grill-char flavors.

                                                    2. If it were dangerous, NASCAR tracks all over the south would be littered with dead bodies.

                                                      Yes it's good to be cautious when it comes to your health. But being paranoid of every little thing is bad for your health.


                                                      21 Replies
                                                      1. re: Davwud

                                                        Maybe it just damages your brain enough to make you drive in circles a lot.

                                                        1. re: Scrapironchef

                                                          when they start taking right hand turns I will worry about the can. I don't think it is painted with lead paint is it ? He He Thought I would add a pic of my beautiful beer can chicken on the grill with some "grill-woked potatoes, peppers and onions" MMMMmmmmm How do you say NO to this ??

                                                          1. re: Jimbosox04

                                                            Looks soo good. The bf still isn't convinced. For some reason he thinks trusting people on the internet to be credible is flawed. Sigh.

                                                            Still though, something metallic is getting shoved up somebody's butt, and soon!

                                                            1. re: daily_unadventures

                                                              See, this is the problem. What's worse? People believing what they read on the internet? Or not believing what they read on the internet? You gotta figure out if the information is credible, for goodness sake!
                                                              And then at some point you have to ask yourself, "so what's the worse case scenario?"
                                                              If a Budweiser label is the worse thing you ever eat, you're pretty lucky.

                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                I really like this makingsense guy, he is right up my alley....I agree with ya Bro !!! Keep it simple but make it complicated is the American way

                                                                1. re: Jimbosox04

                                                                  I agree
                                                                  I also think that if there were some inherent danger, we'd have heard about it by now. What with how popular this method has become.


                                                                2. re: MakingSense

                                                                  Besides, where are his facts that beer can chicken DOES do you harm?

                                                                  1. re: QueenB

                                                                    he probably got it off the internet! LMFAO!

                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                      I wasn't going to type that, but I sure was thinking it!!!

                                                                3. re: daily_unadventures


                                                                  It seems to me that jword2001's suggestion above (June 2 entry) solves the problem. Just buy the Cameron's vertical chicken roaster featured on Amazon.com, to which jword 2001 linked and "problem solved" for your boyfriend. It even contains a reservoir for beer!

                                                                  At first, I thought your boyfriend was being a bit paranoid. But someone on this board mentioned the coating on the inside of the aluminum can and I got to thinking . . . There is some kind of coating there, isn't there? Is it BPH? Is it designed to hold up to high heat? (212 is the max when there is beer in the can, but what about toward the end of the roasting period when all of the beer has evaporated and been imbued into the chicken. At roasting temperatures, say 400 F. or much higher, I'll bet whatever coating is in the inside of the can evaporates and imbues the chicken, as well.) The same thing happens with T-Fal in frying pans and we hear warnings all the time about that.

                                                                4. re: Jimbosox04

                                                                  How can I say no? Because it's cooked over gas....LOL!!!!

                                                                  Just joshin' (insert goofy smiley here)

                                                                  1. re: BackyardChef

                                                                    well, here's the moment i realize that for all i know everyone on this thread is talking about doing this method of poultry cookery in the oven like the engineer, or on a gas grill????!!!! i'm a little slow sometimes, i guess-- is anyone besides me and BackyardChef talking about smoke cooking here?

                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                      We do beer can chicken on a gas grill.


                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                        I'm doing it on a gas grill with soaked wood chips in the smoking tray. So I guess it's a hybrid method...

                                                                        1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                                          I do that too. CHips and a gas grill.

                                                                        2. re: soupkitten

                                                                          Gas grill.

                                                                          Did beer can duck too. Make sure to put down a drip pan.


                                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                                            Have you seen the turkey rocket? It's a sort of sideways rack that holds up a whole turkey.

                                                                          2. re: soupkitten

                                                                            Yes! A good old beat-up smoker, with mesquite chunk charcoal and sometimes some soaked wood chips too.
                                                                            I have cooked it in the oven before, though, and that worked out all right (minus the smoky flavor, of course).

                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                              not that the method wouldn't work, just that you'd miss all that fruit-wood smokiness! Hungry Celeste's hybrid method would approx some of the flavor in a gas grill. . . i'd rec everyone tries beer can chickens done in a real slow smoker at some point, it's the real deal!

                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                we use a soup or veggie can, remove the paper label (and glue) and wrap it in foil. we find this to be a pretty sturdy alternative to the beer can.

                                                                                also - this recipe from food network is awesome http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                                                              2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                I always do it over lump charcoal, but only sometimes with smoke. (Depending on the rub or on my foresight to soak some chips.)

                                                                        1. re: jword2001

                                                                          "Who knows where the can has been and what inks might come off if you insist on cooking on an aluminum beer can?"

                                                                          How can you trust the opinion of someone trying to sell you something??


                                                                          1. re: jword2001

                                                                            I like the looks of this, nice and strudy. No tippee

                                                                          2. can this be done in a home oven as well as a grill? can the bird be cooked horizontally instead of vertically?

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: nyc_cravings

                                                                              I think the vertical orientation is one of the things that makes it work, but if did it right it could probably work lying down. Sounds like a good excuse to relive your college days and "shotgun" half of the beer :-)

                                                                              But you can definitely do it in the oven. I did it just last night since I didn't feel like tending the grill in the pouring rain. I think the only caveat is to make sure you put something underneath to catch the drippings.

                                                                              1. re: jzerocsk

                                                                                did you cook last night in the oven vertically? just the bird, the beer, and a sheet pan?

                                                                                1. re: nyc_cravings

                                                                                  Yes...although I have a roasting basket designed for this sort of thing (see my post above in this same thread), but that's pretty much all there is to it.

                                                                            2. I have given this "safety" question lots of thought, and i guess beer can chicken could get pretty exciting if you forgot to open the can...BOOM...not good!, my question is has anyone tried this method with turkey?,using maybe a large veggie can filled with liquid?, if so how long would you cook per pound in the oven,not the grill,thanks.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: jword2001

                                                                                I believe it was Steve Raichlen (BBQ U) did it. He used a Fosters king can for the turkey. He also did a duck (Which I've done) and if memory serves, he did a Cornish game hen on a tiny can of beer.

                                                                                I can attest for the duck. It was great.


                                                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                                                  Raichlen has an entire cookbook devoted to the beer can method--it's a book I own & recommend to others. IIRC, the cornish hens are done on little cans of pineapple juice.

                                                                                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                                                    Hey, I was just at the used bookstore and saw this cookbook sitting on the shelf--I remembered your recommendation, so I picked it up. Some of the recipes in here look fantastic! And it looks like he has a sense of humor, too. Thanks for the recommendation. Along with our "vegetable share" this year, we're getting whole chickens from our CSA and this cookbook will give us plenty to experiment with.


                                                                              2. When I make beer can chicken the chicken usually burns and I wake up on the floor in a puddle of drool. That could be because I'm drinking all of that canned Shlitz...

                                                                                I may have the methodology incorrect, but I digress.

                                                                                If he is afraid, open a can of beans or something, pull the label and wash out and then pour the beer in there. Cowboys have been cooking in these cans on hot coals for a century and those crusty ole' bastages seem to be alright.

                                                                                1. It is safe, not only is the ink applied at high heat to "seal" it, any ink that comes in contact with food or drink must be FDA approved. So assuming you trust the government...

                                                                                  1. I've made this twice in the oven at home and once on a gas grill. I've never gotten sick, nor has anyone else that ate it.

                                                                                    1. Just for the record, I had my first ever beer can chicken the other day at a friend's house, and I'm still alive. And I could definitely taste the beer (she used Budweiser -- it's pretty, um, distinctive). I suspect the guy linked to above who couldn't taste any difference between the beer and water had too many other spices going on; my friend just used a very simple, very mild barbeque rub.

                                                                                      1. I would not do it, I live in Canada and the cans are still lined with a plastic containing BPA (Bisphenol A) which has been banned in the making of plastic products such as drinking bottles and such but is still used in the linings of aluminum & tin cans. As Wiki. says it is "Known to be estrogenic" and that is one reason why Canada has banned it, I hope my opinion helped.

                                                                                        1. I've read you can use a Mason jar instead of a beer can. I've never tried it. But it seems to make sense,as Mason jars certainly withstand high heat when boiled for canning purposes. And glass certainly seems healthier than aluminum or "tin.." Canned bean cans are still usually llined with BPA. I'm sure a beer butt chicken or two won't kill you, but I know some people are really concerned about aluminum and BPA issues. It's not that you will get sick immediately, it's more of a toxic build up over time. Throwing caution to the wind can be fun - - and, you know I can totally see doing this half-wazooed at a cottage or camping (altho, seriously, who brings a whole chicken camping??) - - but I'm also into healthy, clean cookin'

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: kaycat

                                                                                            Glass is not a good idea due to its tendency to shatter

                                                                                            If using a can, first heat the can on a screaming hot grill or over an open flame on the stove. Be sure to use a ventilation hood if indoors.

                                                                                            Heat the can to 400+ degrees and you will burn off all coatings which could prove harmful

                                                                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                              Well,I don't know, I haven't tried it. But Elise from simplyrecipes.com recommends it and I tend to trust her advice and recipes as reliable. Maybe folks coud ask her.


                                                                                              1. re: kaycat

                                                                                                Why risk it?

                                                                                                You can burn off any coatings that would be an issue and a can would be lighter, safer and easier to handle hot