A Chicken in Every Pot, And on Every Grill!

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By Mike Stines, Ph.B.

Paraphrasing the 1589 coronation speech of King Henry IV of France, President Herbert Hoover promised during his 1928 campaign “a chicken in every pot” if he were elected. Today, a candidate would be wise to promise a chicken on every grill, especially if he were campaigning in the summer.

Chicken is so versatile that it should be no surprise to hear that Americans eat about 81 pounds of chicken per person, every year. Grilling or smoking is an excellent to prepare a succulent summer night’s dinner to enjoy on the deck or patio as the warm breeze carries the aroma throughout your surroundings and entices your neighbors to drop by for an unannounced visit.

But what kind of chicken do you want? Free range? Free roaming? Natural? Organic? Kosher? The choices are confusing and often ill-defined.

The only requirement the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires for chicken to be labeled “free range” is that the birds have access to the outdoors.Organic, a term defined by the USDA in 2002, is for chickens that have been raised without the use of antibiotics and grazed on pesticide-free soil. Organic poultry is also fed organically grown grain.


In order to be labeled “natural,” chicken cannot have any artificial additives. Yet “natural” chicken can legally be “enhanced” which means a solution of chicken broth and salt is added during processing. According to industry experts, most consumers favor enhanced chicken because it is moister than non-enhanced chicken. Enhanced with up to 15 percent of its weight with chicken broth, the sodium content is five times more than non-enhanced chicken, sometimes as much as 350 mg. of sodium.

Another term applied to poultry is “kosher.” Kosher means the poultry has been raised, transported and processed conforming to halachic requirements. One of the key kosher requirements is the removal of blood which is done by salting the carcass after the bird has been soaked in cool water for at least 30 minutes. Salting softens the meat and draws out all of the blood. The poultry is then rinsed three times to remove the salt and blood from the surface of the meat. Because of the lengthy processing time, kosher poultry is more expensive than non-kosher poultry.

Regardless of the type of poultry–free range, natural, kosher or organic–all poultry is inspected by the Food Safety Inspection Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Inspection of wholesomeness is required. Grading for quality is voluntary and paid for by the poultry producers.

USDA quality grades for poultry are A, B and C. Grade A is the highest quality and the only grade usually sold at retail. Grade A poultry is free from defects such as bruises, discoloration and feathers. It also has no broken bones and there are no tears in the skin. Necks, wing tips, giblets or ground poultry is not graded. Grade B and C poultry is usually used in products that include cut up, chopped or ground poultry.

Chickens are labeled and processed by their size and age at slaughter. A broiler/fryer weighs up to 3 1/2 pounds and is usually around 2 1/2 months old at processing. Most popular cuts of packaged chicken come from a broiler/fryer and more than 8 billion pounds of broiler/fryer chickens are raised each year. Roasters have a higher fat content and, as the name implies, are good for roasting. They usually range between 2 1/2 and five pounds and can be up to 8 months old. Stewing chickens (also called hens and fowl) range in age from 10 to 18 months and can weigh from three to six pounds. They are best cooked with moist heat such as in stewing or braising. A capon is a rooster that is castrated when young, fed a fattening diet and brought to market at about nine months of age. Ranging from four to 10 pounds, capons are full-breasted with tender, flavorful meat that is good for roasting.

Because of the potential salmonella contamination, all chicken should be properly cooked; cutting boards and knives should be washed with hot, soapy water after use. Do not allow raw chicken drippings to come in contact with any other food, especially food that will not be cooked before serving. Raw chicken should be refrigerated in its original packaging and wrapped in another layer of plastic wrap (or a plastic bag) on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. It should be cooked or frozen within two days of purchase.

Garlic Cilantro Grilled Chicken with Cilantro Barbecue Sauce Reduction

Marinated with garlic, cilantro and olive oil and then slow roasted on a barbecue grill, this chicken entrée is complemented by a garlic and cilantro reduction combined with your favorite store-bought or homemade barbecue sauce. Use an instant-read thermometer to assure the chicken is cooked to the correct temperature.  Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chicken
6 large cloves garlic, minced (Chef’s tip: To finely mince garlic, sprinkle chopped garlic with a little coarse kosher salt and mince with a sharp chef’s knife.)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3/4 cup good quality olive oil
6 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup chopped cilantro for garnish

Combine the garlic, cilantro, olive oil, jalapeños, salt and black pepper in a small mixing bowl.

Quarter the chicken removing any excess fat and reserve the backbone, neck and giblets for stock, if desired.

Place the chicken in a food-safe resealable bag and add half of the marinade (about 1/3 cup) completely coating the chicken. Reserve remaining marinade. Marinate the chicken, refrigerated, for 4 to 6 hours. Remove chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Discard the used marinade.

In a small saucepan over medium low heat, cook reserved marinade until garlic is soft, about 5 minutes. Add barbecue sauce and simmer over medium heat until reduced by 1/3, about 15 minutes, stirring often.

Preheat the grill for medium high (350 degrees F.) indirect cooking. Sear chicken quarters over the hot side of the grill and then move the pieces to the cooler area of the grill keeping the thigh pieces closest to the heat source. (Carefully watch the chicken during the searing process as the oil will tend to cause flare-ups. If that happens, move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill until the flames subside.) Cook the chicken quarters bone side down, covered and rotating occasionally, for 1 hour. After cooking for 1 hour, lightly brush chicken with reduced garlic cilantro barbecue sauce and continue cooking for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked to 165 degrees F.

Remove the chicken from the grill, tent with aluminum foil and keep warm in a low oven (up to 20 minutes) until service.

Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Mild

Summer Salad with Barbecue Chicken

Summer is the time for refreshingly cool salads accompanied by grilled meats or vegetables. This recipe uses grilled chicken to complement garden-fresh greens to make an easy summertime dinner without heating up the kitchen or the cook! Add whatever other fresh ingredients you find at the farmers’ market.

1 large grilled chicken breast, sliced
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 cup shredded carrot
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and diced
1/3 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup chopped sweet bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 Hass avocado, cubed
1 plum tomato, seeded and sliced
1/4 cup crumbled colby cheese
Coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Caesar salad dressing (or your favorite dressing)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the lettuces, carrot, jalapeño, onion, bell pepper and celery. Toss well to combine.

Divide the lettuce mixture onto 2 chilled service plates. Top the lettuce with equal amounts of avocado, tomato and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the dressing and layer the sliced chicken atop the salad.

Yield: 2 to 4 servings
Heat Scale: Mild

Spatchcocked Orange-Smoked Cajun Chicken with Rosemary Giblet Gravy

To spatchcock a chicken (or any poultry), place the bird breast side down on a cutting board and, using kitchen shears, remove the backbone by cutting along both sides of it (reserve the breast bone for stock). Using a large chef’s knife, score partially through the breastbone. Turn the chicken breast side up and press down on the breastbone, flattening the bird. (If desired, cut a slit near each breast and tuck the legs into the pockets.)  In addition to creating a unique presentation and making the bird simpler to carve, spatchcocked poultry requires less time on the grill. That means that the breast meat won’t be dry when the legs and thighs are completely cooked. If you prefer crisper skin on the chicken, spatchcock and season the chicken. Place it on a baking rack over a sheet pan, skin side up, and leave it in the refrigerator, uncovered, for several hours before cooking.

1 (6-pound) whole roasting chicken
1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Cajun spice (see below)
2 orange wood chunks
1/2 cup BBQr’s Delight orange pellets

5 to 8 pounds all-natural lump charcoal

For the Rosemary & Giblet Gravy:
Giblets, neck and reserved backbone

1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed rosemary, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken stock (see below)
1/2 to 3/4 cup half-and-half
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

For the Cajun Spice:
This seasoning blend will keep stored in an airtight container about one month. It may also be used to season baked potatoes, vegetables and a variety of meats.

5 tablespoons sweet paprika
1/4 cup coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated garlic
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dried parsley

Combine ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.

Prepare the stock by placing the giblets, neck and reserved backbone in a medium saucepan. Add the chopped onion and celery. Cover with cold water and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Add salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon rosemary. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain the chicken stock into a mixing bowl. Remove and reserve giblets for gravy.

Prepare the gravy. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add the remaining rosemary and cook briefly. Add the flour and make a blond roux. Add the cooled chicken stock, whisking to combine. Add 1/2 cup of half-and-half and bring to a simmer. (Add additional half-and-half, if necessary, for the correct consistency.) Add the chopped giblets. Season the gravy to taste with salt and black pepper. Keep warm until service.

Prepare the Grill Dome. Fill the Grill Dome firebox with hardwood lump charcoal (a combination of pure oak, hickory and maple). Using an electric igniter or three pieces of fire starter, light the charcoal. Allow the temperature to stabilize at 360 degrees F. to 370 degrees F. (This will take about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of your Grill Dome and the amount of fuel. For my Grill Dome ET, the bottom vent should be open about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch and the top vent about 10 percent to maintain the desired temperature.) Add two chunks of orange wood and 1/2 cup of BBQr’s Delight orange pellets (in an aluminum foil pouch or smoker tray) to the charcoal.

Prepare chicken. Lightly rub the chicken with olive oil and season with Cajun spice (or your favorite poultry seasoning).

Once the Grill Dome temperature is stabilized, place the chicken, skin side up, on the cooking grate and smoke-cook, with the Grill Dome cover down, for 50 to 60 minutes or until the thigh has an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. (If desired, the chicken may be brushed with your favorite barbecue sauce during the last 10 minutes of cooking.) Use an instant-read or rapid-response digital thermometer such as a ThermaPen to be sure the chicken has reached the correct internal temperature.

Remove the chicken from the Grill Dome, tent with aluminum foil and allow the bird to rest for 10 minutes before carving (the thigh and breast temperatures will continue to rise another 5 to 10 degrees during the resting period). Carve into individual portions (leg, thigh and breast) and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Heat Scale: Mild

Apple Planked Buffalo Wings

Created at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., more than 40 years ago, Buffalo Wings have taken on a life of their own and there are hundreds of variations from the original recipe. Unlike the Anchor Bar Buffalo Wings that are deep fried, these wings are infused with flavor by marinating and then plank-cooking on apple wood. (This recipe requires advance preparation.)

16 whole chicken wings
1/2 cup Frank’s® Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce
2 teaspoons Bellycheer® Jalapeño Pepper Sauce
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 apple wood planks
3/4 cup blue cheese dressing
Celery sticks

For the Basting Sauce:

8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup Frank’s® Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Rinse and dry the chicken wings. Cut the tips off the wings, reserving for future stock use. Cut each wing into two sections by cutting between the joint.

Make the marinade. Whisk together the hot sauce, jalapeño sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire, garlic, salt and black pepper. Using a resealable food bag or non-reactive mixing bowl, marinate the wings in the refrigerator four to six hours turning frequently.

Soak two apple wood planks in water for two hours.

Make the basting sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Whisk to combine and keep warm.

Prepare the grill for indirect cooking and place the apple wood planks over direct heat for five to 10 minutes or until they begin to char and smoke.

Flip the planks over so the charred side is up and move them to the indirect side of the grill. Remove wings from marinade, discarding the marinade. Place chicken wings on planks in a single layer. Lower the cover and cook 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn wings and cook another 20 minutes. Liberally baste the wing with basting sauce and cook another 10 to 15 minutes or until done. Remove wings from grill and coat with remaining basting sauce.

Serve with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.

Yield: 4 appetizer-size servings
Heat Scale: Mild to Medium

Smoked Chicken Thighs


Many contend the thigh is the tastiest part of the chicken and often the moistest piece of meat on the yard bird. But smoked thighs tend to have rubbery skin because of the low cooking temperature. This two-stage cooking method gives the thigh a crispier skin while keeping a moist and smoked flavor. Smoked chicken will often have a pink tinge even when properly cooked so be sure to use an instant-read thermometer to check that the chicken is correctly cooked.  Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

8 chicken thighs
1 1/2 cups Wishbone® Zesty Italian dressing (or similar)
Poultry rub (whatever kind you like)
1 cup apple wood chips, soaked in water for 1 hour
1 cup cherry wood chips, soaked in water for 1 hour
1 cup barbecue sauce

Place the chicken thighs in a resealable food-grade plastic bag and add the Italian dressing. Marinate the chicken, refrigerated, for at least 6 hours. Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding marinade. Liberally sprinkle the chicken with the rub.

Prepare the Grill Dome (or whatever smoker you may be using) for 225 degrees F. indirect cooking and add 1 cup of drained apple and cherry wood chips to the glowing charwood. When a good smoke develops, place the thighs on the cooking grate, skin side up, and cook for 1 hour. Add the remaining cup of drained wood chips and smoke-cook for another 30 minutes. Then increase the Grill Dome’s temperature to about 375 degrees F. and continue cooking the thighs for another 30 minutes or to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Brush the thighs with your favorite barbecue sauce during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Remove the chicken from the cooker, tent with aluminum foil, and allow the chicken to rest for five minutes before serving.

Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Mild

Mike Stines, contributing editor for Fiery Foods & BBQ Central, has been conferred a doctorate of barbeque philosophy (Ph.B.) degree from the Kansas City Barbeque Society. He is the author of Mastering Barbecue. His web site is www.CapeCodBarbecue.com.

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