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Beer-Can Turkey

Beer-Can Turkey recipe from Beer-Can Chicken by Steven Raichlen.

This book wouldn’t be complete without that revered centerpiece of the American Thanksgiving dinner table: turkey. You might be wondering just how in the world it will come together. The secret, of course, is in the beer. You’ll need to get your hands on a 32-ounce can of beer (yes, they do exist), like Miller High Life, or a chicken roaster large enough to accommodate a turkey. You’ll be amazed how crisp-skinned and juicy, how tender and moist, a beer-can turkey can be. Here’s the perfect antidote to a bird that’s too often dry, and it’s guaranteed to turn heads at your next holiday dinner.

Beer-Can Turkey recipe from Beer-Can Chicken by Steven Raichlen.

Beer-Can Turkey

Steven Raichlen
Indirect Grilling
NOTE: A bird this big requires some special treatment when removing it from the grill and the can. Wearing insulated gloves, grab the turkey on both sides and gently slide it, on the can, to a cool part of the grill. Have a buddy hold the beer can with the tongs while you lift the turkey off the can and transfer it to a platter or carving board.
TIP: Beer-can turkey may challenge the height limits of your grill lid-especially if you're working on a Weber kettle. I insert my rotisserie ring to gain an extra 6 inches of clearance.
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 8 -10 servings


  • 3 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably oak or apple), soaked for 30 minutes in water and/or beer to cover, then drained


For the rub:

  • 4 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 4 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage 
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 can (32 ounces) beer
  • 1 (10 to 12 pounds) turkey, thawed in the refrigerator if frozen
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted


  • Make the rub: Put the salt, paprika, pepper, sage, oregano, and thyme in a small bowl and stir to mix.
  • Pop the tab off the beer can. Pour half of the beer (2 cups) over the soaking wood chips or chunks or reserve for another use. Using a church key–style opener, make 2 additional holes in the top of the beer can. Set the can of beer aside.
  • Remove and discard the trussing clamp if one is holding the turkey legs together. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of rub inside the body cavity and 1 teaspoon of rub inside the neck cavity of the turkey. Brush the outside of the turkey with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Sprinkle the outside of the turkey with 1 tablespoon of rub and rub it all over the skin. Stir 2 tablespoons of rub into the remaining melted butter and set aside.
  • Spoon the remaining rub into the beer through a hole in the top of the can. Don't worry if the beer foams up: This is normal. Holding the turkey upright, with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom, lower it onto the beer can so the can fits into the cavity.
  • Pull the turkey legs forward to form a sort of tripod, so the bird stands upright. The rear leg of the tripod is the beer can. Tuck the wing tips behind the turkey's back.
  • Set up the grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and heat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.
  • When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss half of the wood chips or chunks on the coals. Stand the turkey up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the beat. Cover the grill and cook the turkey until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (about 175°F on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh, but not touching the bone), 2 to 2-1/2 hours. If using a charcoal grill, you'll need to add fresh coals every hour and toss the remaining wood chips or chunks on the coals after the first hour of grilling. Baste the outside of the turkey with the butter-rub mixture every 30 minutes. If the turkey starts to brown too much (and it will have a tendency to do so at the neck end), loosely tent the bird with aluminum foil.
  • Using tongs, hold the turkey by the can and carefully transfer it in an upright position to a platter. Or use insulated gloves to pick up the turkey on the beer can and remove it from the grill. Present the turkey to your guests. Let the turkey rest for 5 minutes, then carefully lift it off the beer can. Take care not to spill the hot beer or otherwise burn yourself. Carve the turkey and serve at once.


Beer-Can Chicken by Steven Raichlen (© 2024). Published by Workman Publishing.Recipe reprinted with permission from Beer-Can Chicken by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, 2024). 
Keyword Beer, Beer-Can Chicken, Black pepper, Butter, Oregano, Paprika, Sage, Salt, Steven Raichlen, Summer, Thyme, Turkey

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