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Need a killer grilled/bbq chicken recipe

Hey all, I'm unpaid catering a friend's housewarming party that has a Mexican-Southwestern theme. I want to do grilled/bbq chicken, but I've never grilled anything in my life. I'm a bit overwhelmed by whether or brine or marinate and pre-roast and what bits and pieces to use.

Does anyone have a hard-to-screw up recipe that might relate vaguely to the theme?

I'm trying to keep it really cheap, so I'll probably be buying whole chickens and breaking them down, or just going for whatever piece of chicken is the cheapest-per-kilo at the market (except liver :)

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Have you tried "Beer Can Chicken"? Very easy to do and is always the talk of the BBQ! A great way to do a whole chicken and makes nice crispy skin. You can do several at once on the grill depending on how many people you are feeding. If you don't want to do beer, you can always do a ginger ale or 7 up. The point is that it keeps the chicken moise from the inside out. Never had a bad chicken done this way. We got it from one of Steven Raichlen's cook books.


    6 Replies
    1. re: boyzoma

      Thanks for the recommendation! Do you think using wood is absolutely necessary? Where I live the food culture is ridiculously backwards, so I think i can only find those puck-shaped bricks...

      1. re: sufunsified

        Do you mean charcoal? If so, charcoal works just fine when you make a 2- zone set-up. Basically, you get the briquetts fully heated and place them on one side of the grill, the "hot" side.
        Cook the chicken on the other, "cool" side so you get all the heat you need without burning the chicken.
        Basically, grilling chicken should not be done over high heat. You want even cooking.

        1. re: sufunsified

          I don't think it is absolutely necessary for the chips - it just imparts a different flavor. As in all recipes, make it your own. I believe we did some without the chips as well a time or two just because we didn't have them. But the end results were always good.

          As monavano below says - just use some different spices. (good call monavano).

          1. re: boyzoma

            Aside from chips for smoky flavor, you can get that from spices such as smoked paprika, cumin and even chili spice.

        2. re: boyzoma

          I was going to recommend beer can chicken, too. Easy and fun. People get a kick out of it.

          To fit with the theme, maybe use cans of Corona or Dos Equis beer? We just tried one from Raichlen's book that uses lemonade instead of beer, and that works nicely too.

          He's got all kinds of rubs you put on there. I can check the book tonight to see if he has any kind of Mexican or Southwestern style rub.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Hmmm...I just looked at the book's index on Amazon and there's no southwestern or Mexican style rub in Raichlen's book. But, Google yielded this one pretty highly rated on recipezaar (I can't personally vouch for it, alas)... http://www.recipezaar.com/recipe/Sout...

            Maybe do a beer can chicken with the Southwestern rub?

            And, P.S. we do our beer can chicken on a gas grill, sometimes with, sometimes without the wood chips. The chips definitely add a nice flavor, but the chicken will still be moist and delicious without the chips, especially if you use a rub of some sort.


        3. Use all pieces-dark and white meat. The dark meat will take longer to cook, so get it on the grill first. When cooking chicken on the grill, an instant read thermometer is a great idea. You want to be really sure the meat is up to a safe temp.
          Cook over moderate heat-you'd hate to burn the chicken with char!
          Keep a spray bottle on hand-dripping chicken fat caused flares that can burn the meat.
          Put the pieces down in order according to dark vs. white meat and leavit-do not turn! The chicken will release in good time, but if you try to move it too soon,you may tear the flesh if it's tending to stick.
          If you are using a bbq sauce, slather it on about 5 min. before you expect the chicken to be done. The sugars need to caramelize in the heat-but they burn easily.
          For the theme of your bbq, I suggest you check out the Barefood Contessa's bbq sauce that she uses for chicken. It marries tex-mex flavors with Asian flavors and is really worth the effort. I like to add the juice from a fresh lemon as the sauce finishes.
          I just made her bbq sauce last night after noting half a jar of hoisin languishing in my fridge-I kind of riffed on it a bit, adding ketchup and of course, lemon, which I think gives the sauce zip and heightens the flavors. Use it as a guide to get an unbelievable flavor comination.

          Good luck, I hope this helps!

          1. This is a reply to a different post, but if you're up to making the sauce, you will KILL!

            I never would have dreamed of trying, but I saw an Emeril episode featuring:

            I make the chicken twice a year and a DOUBLE batch of the sauce about FOUR times a year. I can it in pints and my freinds beg me for them.

            I use this sauce on chicken and pork.

            You're 100% right..it's not that hard and the results are well worth it!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Monch

              Sounds interesting. How would you describe the flavor?

              1. re: Funwithfood

                Arrgh... I'm no wordsmith.

                The sauce is tangy/citrusy with a NICE little spicy punch at the end. It's really fairly thick.

                More than anything, in my opinion, the recipe's author really got the PROCESS right:
                1) Parboil in the poultry seasoning mixture
                2) Grill the warm pieces to bring them up to temp
                3) DUNK the pieces in the sauce
                4) THEN char the sauce onto/into the chicken

                More than one of my guests have claimed that this is the best chicken they've ever been served. High praise to the creator of this recipe!

            2. Chicken is not the easiest to master at the spur of the moment, but..... How large is your grill and is it gas or charcoal? How many people? I'd say that thighs would be the most forgiving and still have a meatiness to them. I'd definitely advise a test run prior to the big ta-da.

              I always brine chicken with a simple, base brine of 2 cups water to 2 tablespoons Kosher salt - increase in multiples as needed. After that, add in molasses, peppercorns, garlic, herbs...... whatever floats your boat. The brine itself will impart a nice flavor, but nothing that you add is going to overwhelm the meat. Brining also gives some insurance to moisture in the event you overcook a bit.

              As to grilling the meat, a gas grill would be much easier to regulate by keeping a fairly constant medium/med-low temp as well as not having to add additional coals if grilling a large quantity of meats. I cook bone-in, skin on breasts for about 40 minutes total. I'd imagine thighs would take about 30. A thermometer would be a good investment to guarantee proper doneness, but keep in mind, as in the oven, you'll get some carry-over cooking even when removed from the grill. Good luck and enjoy the grilling experience!

              Edit: I'd also add that it's been my experience when brining chicken pieces for more than an hour can give a funky, chewy texture to the meat. So set a timer.

              1. Puree equal parts olive oil and white vinegar with garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. You can also add a little sugar. Rub all over a spatchcocked chicken, making sure to get paste beneath the skin as well. Marinate overnight or at least a couple hours. Grill over a hickory fire and serve with aji verde and/or chimichurri.

                1. This is my go-to grilled chicken recipe, perfect every time.

                  1. If you are using whole chickens, I strongly suggest you "spatchcock" them (aka butterfly) for ease of grilling. Brine them in a solution of water, kosher salt and some brown sugar. Alton Brown has a good brine recipe.

                    By keeping the chicken intact (albeit butterflied), they will stay juicier, have less of a tendency to dry out, will be easier to cook through (vs burned skin and raw interior). You can google pictures to see exact technique.

                    I would put a dry rub on the chicken as well, after brining. This may seem excessive, watch for too much salt, but it will ensure tasty, juicy poultry. If you have never BBQed, you want to stay away from the sauce until literally moments before you serve. You will risk charring/burning the chicken skin because the sauce usually has sugar in it.

                    Also keep a spray bottle filled with water close by for grill flare ups. An oven thermometer would also be helpful, to help you gauge how long long the chicken will cook.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Diane in Bexley

                      When doing them on my grill I too spatchcock them but really don't brine chicken that often. I season with what ever flavor profile I'm shooting for and then do them on indirect heat on the grill. With only one burner on my grill will be around 250-300. I lay the bird skin side up and cook 2/3 of the way and only flip to darken and crisp up the skin more. This is where you need to be very careful about flare ups but on indirect heat it's not such a problem. I find a standard 4 lb bird will take about 50 min to get the thigh to 170. If doing a BBQ sauce I would sauce at the end and flip the bird a couple of times while glazing the sauce on over low heat.

                    2. I did the Rick Bayless recipe for Roadside Chicken yesterday for Memorial Day. It was ridiculous simple and really good. You don't need fabulous grilling skills, in fact, it's a good recipe for a novice griller.

                      It used to be on his web page but I've not been able to find it for a while. But it is on-line in other places, so here's a link to it - http://www.chefs.com/RecipeDetails.as...

                      The hardest ingredient to find is the Mexican canela (Penzey's has it). If you can't find it, use a little bit of regular cinnamon, but not as much as is called for in the recipe. The hardest prep piece is cutting the back-bone out of the chickento spatchcock it. Once it goes on the grill, it's leave it and forget it for 45 minutes.

                      Good luck, I'm sure whatever you do will be just fine.

                      1. Here is a dry rubbed barbecue chicken recipe. The dry rub tastes like barbecue sauce. I use bone-in split breast chicken and cook it over indirect heat on the grill. It is the juiciest, tastiest chicken ever.


                        1. Spicy Beer-Can Chicken: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/sp...

                          I'm a day late, but this is my fav, and it has never failed me. I originally found it in the mag Grilling, The Best of Fine Cooking, Summer 2008 (one of the best mags I've ever purchased).

                          1. Sufunsified,

                            Have no fear, BBQ grillin isn't that hard to get right..

                            When it comes to the chicken to use, I wouldn't go with a whole chicken unless cost is a major concern. The reason I say that is because there is a major difference between types of chicken. I would personally go for the free range or cageless chcikens. Less hormones and less additives make for much better eating.

                            As far as a sauce or marinade for a Mexican-Southwest sauce goes... I'd whip up some chipotle to flavor the bird.

                            I have only made the sauce from scratch once but there are many fantastic chipotle sauces avaialble in your local grocery store or even better, try Trader Joes brand. It's really yummy on the grill.
                            Hope that helps a little. I'd sure be interested in hearing what you decided to come up with for your friends house warming party.
                            Cheers To Great BBQ!

                            1. Not to hijack this link but: I've got cut-up chicken pieces in a tandoori marinade that I plan to grill tonight. The recipe calls for whole game hens and I am trying to adopt the cooking time. I plan to grill (gas, not charcoal) using indirect heat. Question, what temperature setting should I use and for how long? I'm thinking medium-high (about 400 degrees) for about 1/2 hour. Any suggestions?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: masha

                                You've got it right. When you are making tandoori you want high heat to cook the item quickly. Personally I also like some char, which I think adds a delicious smoky element to the already complex seasoning.

                                1. re: masha

                                  I know that Tandoori Ovens cook at very high temperatures (up to 900 F) but Cook's Illustrated's recipe for Oven Tandoori Chicken cooks the chicken pieces initially at 325 F and finishes under the broiler to char the chicken. To use this recipe for a gas grill, you can cook at a lower temperature and finish the chicken in a hotter grill (all burners on high).