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Ginger beer can chicken

Diana Henry / 21 July 2015

This is a fun way to cook a whole chicken on the barbecue, perfect for summer entertaining.

Diana Henry's ginger beer can chicken
Diana Henry's ginger beer can barbecued chicken

Marinating time

32 hours

Cooking time

40-45 minutes




For the tomato sauce

  • for the tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 400g can of tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ tsp soft light brown sugar

For the ginger beer chicken

  • 1.8kg (4lb) chicken
  • 400ml (14fl oz) ginger beer, plus 300ml can of ginger beer
  • 125ml (4fl oz) good-quality tomato sauce, preferably home-made (see above)
  • 40g (1½ oz) root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 6 garlic cloves, grated
  • 4 red chillies, stalks removed, finely chopped (I leave the seeds in)
  • ¾ tbsp smoked paprika
  • leaves from 8 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 tbsp soft dark brown sugar


This is honestly a basic guide from which you can spin off in all sorts of directions.

First of all you can use different beers (I have even used honey porter in the past), or a mixture of beers. Make it spicier, use different herbs, add mustard, citrus juice, whatever. Play around.

The only thing that’s important is the beer and the technique of cooking. A few have complained that the method doesn’t actually work, that you don’t need to put the open beer can inside the bird, but part of the fun – in my house anyway – is in getting the bird on and off the barbecue with the can in it. And it’s always damned delicious, moist and smoky.

You do need tomato sauce, not ketchup. Use regular beer if you prefer, but my kids love this version.

Serves 6

To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a saucepan and gently sauté the onion until soft but not coloured.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the tomatoes, 125ml (4fl oz) of water, the seasoning and sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, making sure it doesn’t become too dry. Leave to cool, then purée.

Mix 100ml of the beer in a large bowl, big enough to contain the chicken, with all the other marinade ingredients. Put the chicken in the bowl, too, and rub the marinade all over it inside and out. Cover loosely with foil or cling film and put in the fridge for eight hours. Then remove from the fridge and pour over the remaining 300ml of ginger beer plus 100ml of the canned stuff (keep the rest in the can).

Cover, return to the fridge and marinate for 24 hours, turning every so often.

Prepare a lidded barbecue to the stage where the coals are hot but no longer flaming. 

Shake the marinade off the chicken and pat dry with kitchen paper. Season. Place the chicken on the opened ginger beer can so the can is in the cavity.

Place the can and chicken on to a rack off the barbecue, then put the rack on to the barbecue so that the base of the can is on the rack and the chicken is sitting upright. Be careful. It’s a little tricky to balance everything as you put the rack down on to the barbecue (because it’s hot) but persevere and get help!

Close the lid and cook for 40–45 minutes, then pierce the chicken between the leg and the body: the juices should have no trace of pink. If it’s not finished, continue to cook.

Carefully take the chicken off the can, carve and serve.

Extracted from A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, £20


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.