Spice-rubbed Grilled Chicken
This is the summertime version of Classic Roast Chicken. This recipe is just as much about lifestyle as it is about flavor. It’s about sitting out on the front porch with the other moms watching the kids play. Suddenly, I look at the time and realize, ohmigosh, it’s five o’clock. I run to the grill and light the coals with my beloved propane starter. I pour a glass of wine, spatchcock a chicken, cleave the breast, rub it with spices, and before you know it I’ve got my bird on the grill and I’m back out with my girlfriends- breaking up squabbles about who spilled the bubbles and finding out the real reason why the folks on the next block put their house on the market.
You can use any spice mixture. I’ll also sanction going store-bought here, though I often make my own. Some great choices for this would be harissa (a Moroccan mixture), vadouvan (a French curry blend) or the spice mixture from the Dean & Deluca chicken recipe. Steven Raichlen has a plethora of recipes for great spice mixtures in his classic “Barbeque Bible.”
If you go store-bought, be sure to check the ingredient label. Look for a comprehensible list of ingredients. Salt might be the first ingredient and that’s okay. Salt is important for this dish because it draws natural juices to the surface of the meat- enhancing the Maillard reaction. Also, beware of MSG on the ingredient list.
One whole chicken, rinsed, spatchcocked and patted dry
Up to ¼ cup spice mixture, add 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt if the mixture isn’t already salted
Optional: Hickory, mesquite, apple or other wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
Prepare the grill
- Light the coals.
- When they’re good and hot, spread the coals along either side of the grill.
- Place a 9×13” pan (disposable aluminum lasagna pans are great) in the center of the grill. Pour about 1”of hot or boiling water into the pan.
- Replace the grill grate and allow it to heat up.
Prepare the chicken
- Place your chicken breast-side up on a cutting board. Cut through the skin and meat in between the breasts. You’re creating two perfectly symmetrical halves.
- Flip the chicken over. Identify the center of the breasts. Using a sturdy knife, cut through the bone to separate the two halves.
- Rub the spice mixture liberally all over the bird. Put on as much as you can get to stick without caking.
Cook the chicken
- Place the chicken halves skin-side up on the grill over the water pan. The water pan catches the grease and prevents flare ups. The off-set positioning of the coals allows the chicken to effectively roast on the grill.
- Add wood chips directly to the coals 2-3 times while cooking to enhance the smoke flavor.
- Chicken is done when the breast meat is about 160-degrees. Cut the skin between the thigh and breast and peek in the space in between to see that the juices are clear and meat looks cooked. You do not want to see red, bloody looking juices. The thigh may pop right out of the socket when you try to loosen it. Fret not.