We had our first 60 degree day of the year and we celebrated with smoke and fire-aka the best way. My husband has an obsession with all things fire and grilling, and we have quite a list of equipment that he lovingly stares at and daydreams about during long winter months. When we saw the forecast, we knew we’d be setting something on fire (though hopefully not the food we were to eat, I like my food grilled, not cremated.) Chicken is always the easiest. Not as unctuous as a 10-hour pulled pork, and not as labor intensive either, it’s our go-to when we want to fire up the charcoal grill and have an excuse to drink a few beers as we play with fire.
As always, the pre-prep (is that a double negative?) makes a big difference in this recipe. I rinsed the chicken, patted it dry, then salted it and seasoned it, setting it in the fridge for about 4 hours before we grilled. This gives time to flavor the meat, and not char as easily on the grill.
This particular seasoning is lemon zest and smoked paprika (and salt and pepper of course). This gives it a smoky and zippy quality (I can’t believe I just used the word zippy in a blog post).
I mix the smoked paprika, lemon zest, and pepper together, but I salt separately. Always separately. If you mix the salt with the other seasonings, you are more likely to under or over salt. I also separate the skin from the meat a bit and get some salt between to really flavor the meat.
After that sat in the fridge for several hours, I pulled it out and let it come to room temperature while my husband fired up the grill.
We always set up for direct and indirect heating, so you have a cooler spot to cook on if the heat is too intense.
If only you could smell the smells. It’s just as good, if not better than you imagine.
After the both sides get a bit of color, the chicken is moved to indirect heat for the actual cook. We used some soaked hickory chips at this point to add another layer of flavor (even though charcoal on its own is really delicious) we had the time and inclination to add chips.
Next, we let it cook! about 15 minutes before we did the first baste with barbecue sauce.
The sauce leans a little sweet on it’s own, but in combo with the smoked paprika and lemon zest, it’s perfectly balanced. This sauce is onion and garlic sauteed in olive oil, one cup of ketchup, 1/2 cup lemon lime soda, a tablespoon of brown sugar, two tablespoons of whole grain mustard and the juice of the zested lemon. Cook this for about 10-15 minutes until the mixture reduces and is thick. It’s sweet and tangy and awesome.
If you barbecue regularly, you know not to add the bbq sauce until the end of the cooking process because the sugar will burn and blacken very easily.
We did a really healthy coating on both sides and let it cook for 3-4 minutes to caramelize a bit and really stick to the chicken. We did a temp check at this point and realized the chicken was perfectly cooked, so we added another thin layer of sauce, gave it another 2 minutes to thicken, then pulled the chicken to rest.
If you don’t, I really recommend checking all grilled food with a thermometer. It’s the best way to not under or over cook your food. Had we followed recipe directions, we would have cooked this chicken another 5-10 minutes and we would have eaten dry, charred food. We pulled this at just the right moment and let it rest a good 10 minutes before eating. It was so moist and delicious, and I’m not meat-psychic, so I use the tools that help me achieve the best result.
I threw a quick coleslaw together to accompany. I’m not much a coleslaw-lover, especially the overly sweet, mayonnaise laden variety that is popular in Hoosier country. I’m much more a fan of a savory-leaning style, so I improvised, and it was awesome.
I used green cabbage and red onions as the base. As a dressing, I stirred some mayonnaise (just enough to bind everything), red wine vinegar, whole grain mustard, a touch of honey, some italian parsley, and lots of salt and pepper.
We also had some baked beans in the freezer from a batch done not long ago for a pitch in, so I defrosted those and we enjoyed quite the feast.
Bring it on summer. Bring it on.