This idea came from a friend of my daughter’s who is the BBQ king! (That’s you, Scotty McShotty). It was described to me but I’ve never actually seen it done so I didn’t really know this was going to pan out. I needn’t have worried, though. It was a triumph and didn’t really take a great deal of effort. It’s a really flexible idea in terms how many variations on a theme are possible; you could use a can of cider and make a cinammon based rub or perhaps a can of Cobra and use an Indian spice rub. For children I guess you could use a can of ginger beer and a more traditional BBQ style spice rub , although, to be honest, the bird doesn’t really taste of beer as such – the purpose it mainly serves is to keep the meat moist. Of course, if you wanted to keep it simple you could just open a can of beer, rub salt and oil on the chicken and away you go. The beauty of this idea is in it’s potential for adaptation and that means it can be as complicated or as easy as you like.
The recipe I came up with has two different rubs, a wet rub for the inside of the bird and a ‘dry’ (it’s not really dry because you mix oil with it but it uses dry ingredients) rub for the outside. The most important component for the dry rub is the allspice berries. This is a much used spice in Carribbean food, probably because it does what it says on the tin and tastes like a combination of many other spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
It is the main ingredient in my version of jerk seasoning and it’s at it’s best if you buy it in dried whole berries and grind it freshly but if you can’t find any you will definitely get the ready ground version in any supermarket. The amchoor is dried mango powder and adds a tart, tangy flavour to the rub. This may be hard to find – although I have noticed Tesco sell it online, at least – but you could always substitute a quarter of a teaspoon of dried ginger to do the same job.
It doesn’t have to be a can of Red Stripe but seeing as it’s sold in almost every corner shop near me I thought why not? I do love a theme so it seemed obvious to me that if I was making beer can chicken with jerk seasoning then that beer had to be Red Stripe!
1 medium chicken
1 can of Red Stripe
Couple of bay leaves
2 small Scotch Bonnet chillis
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of oil
3 teaspoons freshly ground or ready ground allspice
1 tsp amchoor
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (or however much you prefer)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Half dozen sprigs thyme, leaves picked
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 teaspoons brown sugar
Enough oil to make a paste when mixed with all the above.
(Before you begin working with the bird, get a sharp knife and cut the bottom of it’s back bone off as far as you can. This will help the lid of your BBQ sit snug over it once you start cooking. Red Stripe cans are quite tall and even a big BBQ will struggle to acommodate the height of one combined with a chicken sitting on it).
OK, start by making the wet rub and massaging that into the inside of the chicken. Simply put all the wet ingredients into a small blender and whizz until you have a smooth paste. I’ll give you one very important piece of advice here though and I urge you to heed it: wear gloves! Scotch Bonnet chillis, whilst not the world’s hottest, are still bloody hot and if you accidentally get them anywhere near your face or anywhere else (!) they will burn like hell. When you are applying this to the inside of the chicken, hold one teaspoon of it back and add that to your dry rub.
Next make the dry rub by combining all the ingredients – including your one teaspoon of wet rub – with enough oil to make a paste and apply this to the outside of the chicken. Rub it in well. You will find on some parts of the bird, like the breast, it doesn’t rub in so well so you’ll have to sort of pat it on. A small amount will fall off but enough will stay put to give you a fantastic flavour.
If you have time, leave the chicken to marinade for a few hours but don’t worry if you haven’t got that luxury. When you’re ready to get it onto the BBQ, tip half the beer out of the can (down husband’s/wife’s/partner’s/own neck, usually) and pop the bay leaves into the beer. When your coals are ready to cook (you’ll need a good amount for this) put your gloves back on and wriggle the chicken onto the beer can before carrying it carefully outside to place on the BBQ. I was worried it would fall over but it was surprisingly sturdy, despite me not realising that it was too tall even for a large Weber BBQ lid to enclose it fully at first (it sank down as the chicken cooked) and having to balance the lid precariously on the chicken-and-can structure. It cooks really quickly, I’d say give it half an hour and then pop your burgers or ribs, etc around it for the last ten minutes.
It’s fun and games getting it off the BBQ and onto a chopping board to carve once it’s cooked and the only real way to do it is to use clean oven gloves and chuck ’em in the wash straight after. Don’t be afraid to give it a go. What’s the worse that can happen? If you don’t get it quite right there’s usually an oven it can go in to finish off and if you do get it right – and I promise it’s easy – it looks damned impressive to the other BBQ guests!