Another glorious memorial day has come and gone, and summer has finally arrived. Ladies and Gents, grilling season is upon us!!
Lately I feel like chicken is starting to get a bad rap. Ok, fine, maybe not a bad rap (pork may win that contest right now), but it’s just not sexy anymore is it? Cheap, easy to find chicken just isn’t making the average food aficionado get excited. But why the hell not?! I’ve had some amazing roast chicken a few times in my life, the kind that’s finger smacking delicious you’d travel across town just to chow down on. Why the hell aren’t we trying to figure out how to make chicken like that before spending a fortune on fancy pants ingredients? It’s taken me a while to acknowledge this fact, but chicken really does deserve a spot on our food radar. How better to do that than by lighting up a hot grill and opening up a cold beer?
As per usual, I turn to my favorites: Childs, Pepin, Cook’s Illistrated to figure out how best to do a little BBQ. I was looking for insight into cooking cut up pieces as well as maximizing crispy skin texture. Cooks Ill. won out on this one because of the comprehensive breakdown of different chicken parts/grill methods. It also turned me onto a method I’ve been curious to try for a while now: brining. My friends, why do we not brine? Like the chicken this seems so unappreciated. What are we doing that makes us so busy that we cannot prep our meats an hour or two early by soaking them in a bath of salt water? Ok, fair enough, there are probably tons or reasons, but if someone came up to you and said that they had a magical way of seasoning, tenderizing and infusing moistness in your chicken, wouldn’t you want to take note? That’s right, a little salt water is magic.
6 bone in chicken thighs/legs
1 Tbsp salt per cup of water (brine)
Big pinch of each: cayenne, black pepper, cumin, chipotle powder, paprika
BBQ of your choice (optional)
Kitchen Soundtrack: Sublime – 40 oz. to Freedom
I elected to use pre-cut, dark meat chicken parts (legs and thighs) because I prefer their flavor and texture.. not to mention they’re dirt cheap. Trim any excess fat away that isn’t in direct contact to the flesh. Dissolve salt with water in a bowl large enough to easily hold your chicken. Place trimmed pieces in brine and put in the fridge for 1.5 hours (don’t worry about being exact about this).
Once brined and ready to go, remove from liquid and pat chicken dry. Take extra effort to get the skin as dry as you can, even work the skin away from the flesh and dry both sides. Throw the dry spices together in a bowl to make your rub.
Sprinkle about 1/3 of the rub on the the none-skin side of the chicken saving the last 2/3 for the skin-side. After flipping the chicken over for the skin side, be sure to work the rub under the skin as well. This way you’re locking in a lot of flavor with the meat as well as giving the skin a lot of tastiness.
Now you’re ready to grill or you can set chicken in a fridge to keep until ready. If you’re ready to grill, crank up your heat so that the chicken can get a solid sear on both sides. Place chicken skin side down on the hotter part of the grill. You want about 2 minutes on each side to get some grill marks as well as put a seal around the chicken so it locks all of the flavor inside.
Once seared on both sides, move your chicken away from the high heat to another area of the grill on medium low heat (with coals just move to the other side, with grill away from a high burner). Cook for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally until legs are tender and liquid runs clear when pierced (NOT red or pink!).
Chicken cooked? Now it’s time to get that skin crispy and delicious. Drop the heat to medium low and spread your chicken back out. If you want to use BBQ, now is the time to brush it on. Use the remaining heat to form a crust of BBQ around your chicken. Let cook on low for about 5-10 minutes longer, applying a few coats of sauce as you like.
Pull those puppies off and let them rest another 10 minutes. Don’t give your guests utensils unless they absolutely insist.