Let’s face it: Chicken is a grilling go-to for both weeknight and weekend cooking.
When it comes to weeknight cooking, boneless, skinless chicken breast is easy. But when you have a little more time, choose bone-in and skin-on chicken pieces. They are more flavorful and often cost less.
And pieces like chicken thighs are more forgiving.
If you pay attention to them on the grill and master a few easy steps, you won’t end up with chicken that’s charred on one side (with the skin burned way beyond golden-brown) and still raw in the middle.
The key to grilling skin-on and bone-in chicken pieces is to use a two-zone fire, where the heat is medium-hot in one part and then cooler in another. The cooler part can be an area with no heat source at all (indirect heat) or very low heat.
Grilling chicken, in this case thighs, skin side up first and over lower heat, lets some of the fat render from the skin. This tackles a few issues. It prevents flare-ups because the fat renders slowly. It also helps crisp the skin nicely. And when you start it over a lower indirect heat, you’ll avoid a charred mess.
Today’s recipe for Dixie Chicken Thighs is adapted from “The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit” by Adam Rapoport (Andrews McMeel, $45).
The recipe is simple and can be prepped in advance. Its bold and spicy flavor is thanks to a spice rub. The chicken gets a final brushing of spicy butter – which isn’t necessary, but sure does taste good.
In this rub recipe, the odd ingredient is cornstarch. In the book, Rapoport writes that using cornstarch in the rub “creates an extra-crisp coating by soaking up moisture on the surface of the skin.”
Dixie Chicken with Broccoli Pepper Slaw
Preparation: 15 minutes (plus standing time for chicken)
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Rub: 2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
1½ teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning with garlic and onion
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
Chicken: ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
16 bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs (about 6 ounces each) or substitute chicken breasts or legs or chicken leg quarters
1 sourdough baguette, cut on diagonal into ¾-inch-thick slices
Broccoli and Bell Pepper Slaw
In a small bowl, combine all the rub ingredients and blend well. Transfer 1 tablespoon spice rub to medium bowl; add butter and mix well. (Rub and seasoned butter can be made 2 days ahead. Cover separately. Chill butter. Bring butter to room temperature before using.)
Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs. Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Sprinkle spice rub over both sides of chicken pieces. Arrange chicken pieces on waxed-paper-lined baking sheets. Cover chicken with more waxed paper and let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.
Prepare a grill for two zones of heat, low-medium and medium-high heat. Reserve 4 tablespoons seasoned butter. Spread remaining seasoned butter on 1 side of baguette slices. Place bread slices on platter and cover.
Place the chicken on the grill, skin side up over indirect heat (the cooler part of the grill), cover and grill about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn chicken over. Grill until skin is deep golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Turn chicken again and move to the hotter part of the grill and continue grilling, skin side up, until cooked through (no red shows when chicken is cut at thigh bone), about 5 to 10 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to platter. Brush chicken with reserved 4 tablespoons seasoned butter.
Grill bread until just golden, about 2 minutes per side. Arrange toasts around chicken and serve.
For the Broccoli and Bell Pepper slaw, mix together one 10-ounce bag of broccoli slaw, 1 heaping cup of mixed bell pepper slices, 1 bunch sliced green onion and 1 cup favorite slaw dressing.
Adapted from “The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit” by Adam Rapoport (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $45).
Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis per 1 chicken thigh.
312 calories (61% percent from fat), 21 grams fat (10 grams sat. fat), 18 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 1,104 mg sodium, 78 mg cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.
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PHOTO (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): DIXIE-CHICKEN