A quest for gastro-liberation, an excuse to buy more cookbooks…

I like beer butts and I cannot lie


One of the reasons why I started this food resolution was to try and push myself out of my gastronomic comfort zone.

Well readers, I certainly did that today.

I’ll just give you a moment, as you probably want to do a double take on that.

Yep? Welcome back.

This, dear readers, is beer butt chicken and whilst it looks like a gross violation (it felt a little like a gross violation too, if I’m completely honest) it is worth the experiment.

I’m a roast chicken fanatic. Not only does it appeal to my stock-making-obsession but it is the most versatile, easy and satisfying thing to make in the world. What’s not to love? A mere five minutes of preparation and a few hours of waiting (and beadily eyeing the oven timer) will result in a burnished and bronzed bird, ready to be paired with a crisp green salad; roast potatoes; billowing clouds of mash; encased between a soft, floury bap; the list is endless.

For as long as I’ve been roasting a chicken, I’ve always stuck to the same winning formula: lemon and garlic up the bum, olive oil on the breast (no sniggering at the back there). It takes a lot for me to deviate from this winning formula but Jamie Oliver’s beer butt chicken intrigued me sufficiently to sacrifice my usual Sunday roast chicken.

Unfortunately, amusing an experiment as this was, it hasn’t toppled the classic roast chicken from its pedestal in my heart. But that is not to say that you shouldn’t give it a try (if not for the novelty value of seeing a chicken primly perched upright in your oven). The beer performs the same function as the lemon in a classic roast chicken, keeping the meat beautifully tender and moist (even the notoriously arid chicken breast). Neither myself or my Fabulous Taste-Tester could discern any contribution of flavour from the beer (to this end, I’d be tempted to swap the beer for Coca-Cola, would it produce a caramelised aroma?). The saving grace of this recipe is the spice rub.

The smoky sweetness of this particular spice rub recalls Cajun flavours but the addition of fennel seeds brings a more complex note to proceedings. Consider me a spice rub convert, not only does it bring a beautiful intensity of flavour but the oil and brown sugar crisps the skin up perfectly. Try out the spice rub and drift off into a reverie of how well it would marry with hot coals and a cold beer. Preferably not a beer which you have had to extricate from a chicken carcass.

Beer butt chicken

taken from Jamie’s America by Jamie Oliver

1 medium or large chicken (a small chicken will, I fear, not accomodate a beer can)

a 400ml can of beer

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon chilli powder

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon brown sugar

salt and pepper

olive oil

Preheat your oven to 200c/gas mark 6.

Start by creating your spice rub. I feel a little silly for even telling you how to make the spice rub as the method is implied within the name. All the spices go into a mortar and pestle together, mix and crush so that the seeds release their flavour. Add in olive oil and seasoning to create a paste. Et voila, a spice rub to bathe your chicken in.

Crack open your can of beer and drink about half the can (or, in my case, present it to your flatmate who will kindly take one for the team and drink the wretched stuff for you). Pop this can into the middle of a roasting tin and ready yourself for the next part. Lower your chicken down onto the beer can so that it sits securely and firmly atop it. Take a moment to recover yourself and then proceed to liberally baste the chicken in your spice rub. Depending on the size of your chicken, it will take roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes to cook. (For reference, I used a medium sized chicken and roasted it for 1 hour and 10 minutes. I feel that it could have done with possibly just one hour, so just keep checking!)

Have a serving dish to hand, as you will need to slide your chicken (in a rather undignified manner) off the beer can and onto a plate. Serve with a crisp green salad or spiced sweet potato wedges.


Author: Hong-Anh

Climb aboard the Good Ship Gastrobabble as we voyage upon the unchartered waters of my neglected cookbook library (and muddle my metaphors faster than a KitchenAid on full-speed).

4 thoughts on “I like beer butts and I cannot lie

  1. I have often been tempted by the beer butt chicken (although, wargh, budwiser! wargh!) but likewise, do not want to give up on my lemon/garlic/olive oil sainted trio, so I am glad that you went and did it (so I don’t have too. 😉 )

    The spice rub looks nice though – will def. keep that in mind! I did a tray roast of some chicken legs/thighs last night with lemon, garlic (of course), toms, courgettes and onion. It looked very nice but sadly, I left my carefully packaged lunch at home. Waaaargh!

    • I was thinking that the spice rub would work particularly well with:

      a) chicken thighs, wings and drumsticks
      b) steak

      Do it, it’s completely worth it. I’d go as far as to say that you should probably up the fennel and cumin but that might just be my own personal seed-mania.

  2. OH MY GOD, at first I thought you had used a CHICKEN IN A CAN!!!!
    It looks very nice, but I honestly don’t think you could beat your winning formula (I still talk about that chicken to this day!!!!)

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