Southwestern Barbecued Chicken

In selecting the chicken, remember that bone-in chicken with the skin on stands a better chance of becoming the succulent, juicy, crisp and brown entree you had in mind when you decided to barbecue chicken in the first place. Just this once, curb your habit of grabbing those boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

The Marinade

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
This is enough for about 8 pieces of chicken.

Trim any excess skin off chicken pieces. Marinate bone-in and skin-on pieces 8 hours or overnight. Skinless, boneless pieces (if you insist upon them) should be marinated no more than 1 hour. This marinade does its job during the marinade process; drain the chicken pieces and, with paper towels, blot marinade from surface of chicken before putting on the grill.

How you cook the chicken is at least as important as what marinade or sauce you use. Barbecuing is a slow process. Too hot a grill will result in dried out chicken. If you have a covered grill, get one of those inexpensive oven thermometers and set it inside the grill. If your fancy-schmancy grill already has a thermostat, so much the better. The ideal cooking temperature for barbecue is between 350 and 400°F (that's medium-hot coals in grilling parlance).

Also, put on your shopping list some of those hickory, mesquite or apple wood chips and some heavy-duty aluminum foil.

The challenge in barbecuing chicken is that, if you put it on the grill right over the coals, the oils and sauce from the chicken drip onto the coals and ignite. The resulting flames char the chicken on the outside before the meat is done on the inside. So we're not going to do that. Before we get to the process, however, let's mix up the sauce.

Southwestern Barbecue Sauce

  • 10 cloves garlic, baked (at 350° for 30 minutes, then peel)
  • 2 cups catsup
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 cup sweet or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee powder or granules
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Slowly bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Pour mixture into blender container. Process until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Remove about 1 cup sauce to use during the barbecue process. Serve remaining sauce with chicken (it may be refrigerated up to a month). Makes about 5 cups.

The Barbecue Process

These instructions assume that you have some kind of hooded grill. (If you had planned on doing all this on your patio hibachi, I recommend that you just drop by KFC.)
  1. Put about 2 cups of your wood chips in the center of a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fold over the edges and seal the top and sides, making a packet. Make several small holes in the top.
  2. Remove food rack from grill.
  3. Place 40 to 50 charcoal briquettes on either side of the grill, leaving an empty space in the center. If grill uses lava rock, position the rock on either side in the same manner. Put a drip pan in the empty space. Place foil packet with wood chips on briquettes (or rocks) and ignite charcoal. If using a gas grill, let it preheat for 20 minutes. Allow charcoal to burn for 30 minutes or until the flames disappear and coals turn white. Place your oven timer in the grill where you can read it.
  4. Coat food rack of grill with cooking spray and place on grill.
  5. Be sure excess skin is trimmed from chicken pieces and that any marinade is blotted from surface of chicken.
  6. Arrange chicken, skin side up, on rack, directly over hot coals (check with your oven timer -- should be between 350 and 400°F). Cook, with grill lid down, for 15 minutes.
  7. Turn chicken and cook, again with grill lid down, for 10 to 15 minutes, still over the hot coals. Pieces should be golden.
  8. Move chicken pieces over drip pan (skin side down), and brush with barbecue sauce. Cook, with grill lid down, for 5 minutes.
  9. Turn chicken skin side up. Brushing frequently with barbecue sauce, cook, with grill lid down, for about 25 minutes.
Steps 6 and 7 ensure that your chicken develops a golden crust, which holds in the juices, while Steps 8 and 9 guarantee that it is fully cooked.

Cooking time totals about 1 hour. So, remember to start thinking about getting the fire ready about an hour-and-a-half before you want to eat.

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