Barbequed Chicken is complicated. It is one of those foods that never quite lives up to expectations. Nothing smells better than barbequed chicken on a hot summer day. We anticipate a spicy, sweet, sticky sauce covering juicy chicken with just the barest hint of crisp skin. We wait, patiently by the grill, as the chicken is turned, and mopped, and turned and smells better and better. It is almost more than a mere mortal can stand.
Then, crushing disappointment. Too often, barbequed chicken is charred black on the outside, and nearly raw near the bone, or dry and stringy and smothered in sauce that is too sweet and undercooked. We dream of succulent, evenly cooked meat covered with a deep amber sauce that is sweet, spicy and tangy. We get, dry overcooked chicken with bland sauce or raw chicken with burned, bitter skin.
If, like me, you’ve ever been the victim of Barbequed Chicken Bait and Switch, take heart. Barbequed chicken is a myth.
I suppose myth is a strong word. The problem is Barbequed Chicken is an oxymoron of the most extreme. Barbeque is a cooking method that requires a tough cut of meat to be cooked low and slow for several hours (if not days). Barbequed Chicken is traditionally slathered in sauce and cooked over hot coals; not barbeque at all. Nor should it be.
Barbequed Chicken has the potential to live up to our wildest expectations. First, choose the right chicken. Studies have suggested (and we agree) that pasture raised chicken is tastier and healthier than chicken from factory farms.
Local farmers, like Hanna Hands Farm, offer pasture birds and when you choose local, farm-raised meat, you do more than provide the tastiest and healthiest meat for your family, you help support and grow your local economy. So choose chicken from local farmers, it’s worth it.
After you’ve chosen the perfect bird, follow these steps for perfect barbeque chicken. First, take the heat off. Placing raw chicken over high heat leads to flare-ups and burned skin. Make a “cool zone” in your charcoal grill by spreading coals around the perimeter of the grill, a doubled banked fire. An aluminum roasting pan, nestled between the piles of hot coals catches any drips and eliminates flare-ups.
Second, caramelize the sauce. Since the chicken is not cooked over direct heat, the sauce can be applied earlier; this gives the sauce a chance to caramelize and deepen in flavor. When the chicken has been cooking for about 30 minutes in the “cool zone” move the chicken to the border between the zones and began the Sauce Application.
Finally, mop and flip. Flip the chicken just as one layer of sauce dries, usually about 5 minutes. Then add another coat; flip again; coat; flip, etc. The result is Barbequed Chicken cooked through, but still juicy; caramelized sauce with no char or bitterness.
Barbeque Sauce is as personal as it gets. Outside of the politics and religion, I know of no other subject that inspires more hullabaloo. The good news is Barbeque Sauce is so easy to make and customize; consider making your own and calling a cease-fire on the Barbeque Wars.
Making your own sauce is fun, sure, but it also helps you avoid almost all of the questionable ingredients found in commercial sauce. Taste and adjust as the sauce simmers adding more heat, more sweet or more tang as you like. This recipe creates a sweet, thick smoky sauce. If you like a thinner, smoother texture, strain the sauce right after cooking.
Green Bean Salad may seem a bit mundane for our Barbequed Chicken Masterpiece, but if you’ve ever eyed a warm bowl of potato salad sitting on a picnic table with distrust, you know why I like it. The chance of food born illness is drastically reduced.
Crisp-tender green beans are dressed with a summery vinaigrette and tossed with chunks of feta cheese. Thinly sliced shallot adds a bite and pistachios provide the crunch. It’s safe; it’s delicious, and it can be served cold or at room temperature.
There is no need to compromise your expectations when it comes to Barbequed Chicken. Re-think the process, make the sauce and grill with care. Your Barbeque dreams can come true.
Everything but the Kitchen Sink Barbeque Sauce
Yield: 4 cups
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup root beer (don’t use diet)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
½ cup molasses
1 6-oz can tomato paste
½ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Creole Mustard
1 Tablespoon Tabasco Sauce
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
¼ -½ teaspoon liquid smoke
Set a large saucepan over medium-high heat and heat the oil until hot. Add the chopped onion and sauté for 5 to seven minutes.
Stir in the broth, root beer, apple cider vinegar, corn syrup, molasses, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard, Tabasco sauce, garlic powder, soy sauce and black pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer and continue to simmer (uncovered), stirring occasionally, for about 4 hours, or until thickened.
Stir in the liquid smoke and cool to room temperature, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Store, airtight and refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Yield: 4 servings
Salt and Pepper
3 pounds of bone in, skin on chicken pieces
3 cups of homemade barbeque sauce
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Set aside 2 cups of barbeque sauce for cooking and reserve the remaining cup of sauce for serving.
Open the bottom vents and place a roasting pan in the center of the grill. Arrange the charcoal on either side of the roasting pan and light the charcoal. When the coals are hot, cover the grill and heat for 5 minutes.
Oil the cooking grate and place the chicken, skin side down, in the middle of the grill over the roasting pan. Cover and vent; cook until the chicken begins to brown, 30-35 minutes.
Slide the chicken to the side and position in a straight line at the very edge of the hot coals so that the chicken is in a single line between the hotter and cooler parts of the grill.
Brush the chicken with the barbeque sauce and continue to cook, uncovered, turning and applying more sauce every five minutes. Cook until the sauce becomes sticky, about 20 minutes.
Slide the chicken over the hot coals and brush again with the sauce. Continue to flip and brush until the chicken is well glazed and the internal temperature registers 165°F for breasts and 175°F for dark meat.
Transfer the chicken to a platter and tent with aluminum foil. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving with the remaining sauce.
Green Bean Salad
Yield: 8 servings
¾ cup light olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 clove of garlic, put through the garlic press
Salt and Pepper
2 pounds of green beans, trimmed
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
4 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
Combine the olive oil, vinegar, and garlic in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to combine; taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Set the dressing aside.
Arrange the green beans over a steamer basket placed over boiling water and steam for 10 to 12 minutes or until crisp-tender. Immediately plunge the beans in a water bath to stop cooking. Drain and pat dry.
Combine the beans, shallot, and cheese in a large bowl and toss well. Pour the vinaigrette over the bean salad; add the pistachios and serve.