Bottoms up – a recipe for spicy beer can chicken

PUBLISHED: 10:55 05 July 2016 | UPDATED: 10:55 05 July 2016

Preparing spices

Preparing spices


Linda Duffin has an original way to barbecue chicken, perfectly partnered with home grown sweetcorn

Beer Can Chicken, on the barbecueBeer Can Chicken, on the barbecue

If we’re lucky with the weather and you planned ahead you could be picking early varieties of sweetcorn towards the end of this month. If you’re still waiting for them to ripen, keep watering the plants without waterlogging them and give them a high-potash feed (tomato food is ideal) once the flowers have appeared.

Corn on the cob, especially if it’s home-grown, is delicious barbecued. Either cook it still in its green sleeves and peel the leaves and silky inner strands off after it’s done (about 15 minutes on a medium-hot barbecue), or plunge the sweet, golden cobs in boiling water for a couple of minutes, brush lightly with oil and finish on the barbie to caramelise those sugars.

Either way it’s perfect with Beer Can Chicken, which can be cooked either on the barbecue or in an oven. It is sometimes known, rather inelegantly but for obvious reasons, as Beer Butt Chicken. The insertion of a half-full can of brew in a painful place keeps the bird moist, while having it sit upright on its perch means the skin gets crisped all over.

While it’s customary to use a can of ale, the chicken doesn’t really pick up any beery flavours. It’s the steam that does the work, so take your pick of liquids and their containers. A preserving jar will do just as well, providing it’s heat-proof and will fit.

Swettcorn growingSwettcorn growing

When handling the cooked bird, please use oven gloves and kitchen tongs to avoid burning or scalding. Getting the can out of the bird can be trickier than inserting it in the first place, but it’s worth it for a perfectly browned and tender chicken and the expression on your guests’ faces.

Spicy Beer Can Chicken


A chicken, about 2kg, preferably free-range

A 330ml can of beer (or cider or half-fill a can with chicken stock or apple juice)

1 tbsp olive oil

For the rub:

1 tspn chilli flakes

1 tspn fennel seeds

1 tspn coriander seeds

1 tspn sweet smoked paprika

1/2 tspn black peppercorns

1/2 tspn sea salt


Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4 or prepare your barbecue to the same temperature, ready to cook on indirect heat.

Grind the spices together in a pestle and mortar. Rub the chicken with a tablespoon of olive oil and massage in the spice rub, trying to get it into all the nooks and crannies.

Pour off half of the beer (chef’s perk) then lower the chicken carefully onto the half-full can so it’s sitting up and its legs help form a tripod.

Put it all – carefully – onto a roasting tray and cook for about an hour and a half or an hour and 40 minutes, until the juices run clear when you poke a knife into the thickest part of the leg. Reduce the cooking time if your chicken is smaller.

Remove - carefully! - from the oven or barbecue and leave to rest for 10 minutes before attempting to remove the beer can. This requires dexterity, oven gloves, kitchen tongs and caution. Carve into thick slices and serve.

Linda Duffin is committed to growing, cooking and eating good food. 
She blogs at

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