This beer-can turkey starts with a bird, some seasonings, and a 24-ounce can of beer. For this recipe, we chose to go with one of our favorite barbecue seasonings from Code 3 Spices, but any seasoning you prefer for your turkey will work. Along with the seasonings and beer, you’ll also need a turkey baster and a disposable, aluminum pan. Before any cooking can get started, make sure the turkey is properly thawed over the course of a few days in the refrigerator, and that the plastic piece that holds its legs together has been cut off.
The first step is to coat the turkey evenly all over with salt and pepper, to taste, and the barbecue rub.
To cook the bird, you can either use a grill or smoker that is preheated to 300 degrees. If you choose to use a smoker, great choices for wood chips are fresh-cut apple, peach, pear, or apricot. Depending on the type of grill or smoker you’re working with, you may need to remove the grates so that the turkey will fit standing upright and the lid can be closed. Komodo-style grills are great to use for a beer-can turkey because they have a place-setter below the grates that helps to deflect heat around the bird, rather than scorching it from below. The aluminum pan your turkey is resting in also helps to divert the direct heat that comes from placing the pan directly on the heat source, rather than the grill grates.
Now it’s time to add beer to the equation. Crack open the can and pour a few ounces of beer into a glass so that the beer left in the can will begin steaming faster (and feel free to drink that glass of beer). Be careful not to pour out too much beer, because the weight of the can is what keeps the turkey propped up. Add the can to the center of the aluminum pan and slide the turkey on top so that it’s upright. Once upright, rub the underside of the turkey with salt and pepper, to taste, and barbecue seasonings, as well. Before closing the lid, make sure to tuck the wings in and under themselves to prevent them from scorching.
After about 60 minutes of the turkey steaming in the closed grill, you’ll begin to notice that it is starting to brown nicely. This is the time you should begin to baste your turkey, using the baster to collect all of the juices that have gathered on the bottom of the pan and spreading them all over the turkey, from the thighs and breasts to inside the neck cavity.
At the 90 minute mark, give it another basting. You may also notice that the top of the turkey is beginning to brown more than the rest, and if so, you can cover that part with aluminum foil to deflect any direct heat from browning it any further, but also allow it to continue to smoke. Continue to baste the turkey every half hour until it's done.
The cooking time of your turkey will vary based on the size. While some turkeys come with guidelines on their packaging, the best rule of thumb is to go by the internal temperature of the turkey. A 13-pound turkey takes just less than three hours to reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, which is when you should remove the turkey from the grill. While that may seem low for poultry, we allowed our bird to rest, tented in foil, for 30 minutes, and the temperature lifted the last five degrees during that resting time.
After 30 minutes of resting, the turkey is ready to be carved. You’ll find that a beer-can turkey is smoky, succulent, tender, and, most of all, mind-blowingly delicious. It’ll instantly take the stage for many holidays to come, and you’ll finally believe us when we say that it’s not just for Thanksgiving, and make it all year round.