Light at Night Beer Can Chicken

Posted by Kelli Jennings on

This summer, our dinner themes have been grilling and keeping dinners “Light at Night.” 

This week, for even more fun, we’ll throw in a beer.  If you’ve never heard of beer-can chicken, keep reading because this recipe, using beer, produces a wonderfully moist and flavorful whole chicken.  To keep it light at night, we’ll skip the grains and starches and use a fresh salad or grilled vegetables, and a healthy fat to round out a satisfying and fun meal.

This week, grab a beer (you can only drink 1/2 of it!), grab a whole chicken, and head outside to the grill.

Recipe of the Week: Grilled Beer-Can Chicken


  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds)

  • 1  12 ounce can beer (room temperature)

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed

  • Juice of 1 lemon

For Rub:

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest


  1. Prepare Grill with Medium-High Heat.

  2. Combine all rub ingredients and set aside.

  3. Prepare chicken by removing giblets & neck, if necessary.  Rub mix all over chicken, within cavity and under skin as much as possible.

  4. Open beer can and discard (or drink) half.  Add garlic, rosemary, thyme, lemon juice & pepper flakes to the beer.  Also, pierce 2 extra holds in the top of the can.

  5. Place chicken on top of can. Place chicken/beer on grill (either directly or within a roasting pan), balanced on the beer can.  To hold in moisture, you can also stuff a ball of aluminum foil into top neck cavity of the chicken.

  6. Grill over heat (indirect if placed directly on grill) 1.5 to 2 hours until internal temperature of thigh is 180 degrees.

  7. Remove chicken when finished cooking and let sit (with beer can still intact), for 10 minutes before carving.


It may sound crazy to use a beer to cook chicken, but after a bite or two you’ll understand and appreciate the sacrifice.  And, since it has quite a few ingredients, this one might seem like a difficult recipe – it’s not.  Many of the ingredients are repeated, and it’s actually quite quick to prepare.

As most readers know, I recommend a dinner meal sans starches and carbs most of the time.  I like to keep it to just protein, loads of vegetables, and healthy fats.  If you’ve already read a “Light at Night” post, this is just review and you can skip it and just focus on the recipe.  If you’re new to eating “Light at Night,” here’s why you should consider it, and how beer-can chicken fits in:

  • Proteins: Organic or other high-quality chicken is a great source of highly bioavailable (easily digested and absorbed) protein.  Protein at dinner can decrease any muscle wasting from chronic training, encourage muscle repair and rebuilding, and reducing spikes in blood sugar/insulin.  Especially if you’re training earlier in the day, make sure to include protein at dinner.

  • Healthy Fats: Make sure to use a olive oil based dressing or add a healthy fat such as avocado, nuts, or seeds to your vegetables. A healthy fat source promotes overall wellness and good hormone balance without increased blood sugars.

  • Vegetables: Round out this meal with a 1/2-a-plate-worth of vegetables.  Grilled, fresh, or sauteed, every dinner should be loaded with them.  Vegetables are a great source of antioxidants that supports cellular repair and decreases the oxidative stress that’s often elevated from training.

  • Carbohydrates: Why not grains and other carbohydrates?  While I think it’s fine to include these occasionally, if you’re actively trying to lose fat, keep it to just 2 dinners or so a week.  Carbohydrates are simply not needed by the body in the evening if you’re relaxing, and serve only as an extra calorie source.  They promote increased insulin levels, which promotes fat storage, especially when they are not readily used (as they would be immediately before, during, or after training).  They are often inflammatory in the body, especially if they are refined grains or sugars (refined grains act very similarly to sugars in the body). What’s more, the extra insulin output can interfere with hormones that are released at night and work to promote optimal muscle repair and recovery.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  Proactively add carbs back in, around 30 grams or so, when it’s the evening before an extra strenuous or long training or any race, or if it’s immediately after an evening training.  Thirty grams of carbs is the equivalent of 2/3 cup cooked brown rice, quinoa, or beans, 1 large banana, 1 (5″) medium sweet potato, 1 cup whole-grain pasta, 1 1/2 cup fruit, 8 oz. chocolate milk, etc.

We’ll keep adding to our “light at night” options with delicious, flavorful dinners like Grilled Beer-Can Chicken.  Within the Apex Healthy Fuel recipes, you’ll also find Asian Wraps, Curry Sauce Leftovers, Spicy Tacos, and Grilled Caribbean Jerk Packets.  And remember, it’s not about minimizing foods or calories, but getting the right foods and nutrients, that your body can use, at the right time.

We’re trying to promote and maintain a healthy and lean weight, while still promoting the best performance and recovery possible.  The right foods at the right times:  Eat for wellness day to day.  Eat for performance before, during, and after your workout.


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