Great Barbecued Chicken (With or Without a Barbecue!)

Rain or shine, on the grill or in the oven, this recipe promises to give you fabulous barbecued chicken. If your family is anything like mine, you’ll be turning to this recipe often. So set aside some time to make a big batch of the barbecue sauce, then reap the benefits all year long. Actually, this butterflied chicken is pretty terrific, even without the sauce!

For the chicken

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Shopping List

Meat & Seafood
2 chickens (3 1/2 pounds each) rinsed well, dried thoroughly and butterflied

1 rounded tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 scant tablespoon minced rosemary needles
4 cloves garlic, minced

Spices & Baking
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To season the chicken

To season the chicken, pour about 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl and add the minced garlic, lots of black pepper, and half the minced herbs, reserving the rest for later. If possible, allow the garlic to steep in the oil for a couple of hours, covered, at room temperature. Position a small wire-mesh sieve over another bowl and strain the oil, pressing on the garlic to extract as much flavor as possible. Use the garlic pulp in another recipe or discard it. Line a large baking sheet with wax paper and lay the butterflied birds perfectly flat on it. Sprinkle both sides of the chickens lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Brush the chickens liberally with the garlic-flavored oil.

To cook the chicken using an outdoor grill

To cook the chicken using an outdoor grill, either heat a gas grill to the highest setting, covered, or heat a charcoal grill (and replenish coals as needed).

Lay the seasoned birds skin-side down on the hot food-grill. Cook the chicken, uncovered, over direct heat, for 3 to 5 minutes or until the skin becomes golden. Turn the chickens skin- side up (being careful not to tear the skin) and sear them on the other side. If using a gas grill, lower the heat to medium-low-- if using a charcoal grill, move the chickens to the side, over indirect heat. Sprinkle the remaining herbs and some salt over the skin and cover the grill. Cook the chickens until almost cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Uncover and, using a long basting brush, baste the skin side of the birds, liberally, with barbecue sauce. Lower the lid and raise the heat in a gas grill to high or transfer the birds back over direct heat in a charcoal grill. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more or until the chicken is perfectly tender and somewhat charred looking, without becoming burnt. (Alternatively, if not using barbecue sauce, cook the chickens for 40 to 45 minutes over indirect heat, after the initial sear.) Remove the chickens from the grill and allow them to sit, undisturbed, for 5 minutes before cutting them into sections.

To divide the chickens

To divide the chickens into quarters and serve, use a sharp carving knife to cut each bird in half, vertically, down the length of the breast. Slide the knife blade in between the thigh and breast, completely separating the leg from the breast. Do this on the other side and then again, with the remaining chicken. Serve the chicken hot or at room temperature, passing a bowl of warmed barbecue sauce at the table.

Oven-Barbecued Variation

Line a large (preferably dark) baking sheet with 1-inch sides with aluminum foil, shiny-side up, and place it in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400F, preferably for 1 hour. When ready to sear, turn on your exhaust fan. Place either a large well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, a heavy nonstick pan, or a large stove-top grill pan on the stove, over medium-high heat. (Or, straddle an extra-large grill pan over two burners.) When hot, raise the heat to high and, depending on the size of your cooking vessel, lay one or both of the seasoned chickens in the pan, skin- side down. Sear the skin until golden and starting to crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully turn the bird(s) and brown them on the other side. As each chicken is browned, remove it to a tray, skin- side up.

Transfer the chickens to the preheated baking sheet, toe-to-toe (working quickly, so the oven doesn’t cool down). Sprinkle the remaining herbs and some salt on top of the skin and shut the oven door. Reduce the temperature to 375F and roast the chickens for 40 minutes. Using a pastry brush, apply a liberal coating of barbecue sauce to all exposed areas of the chickens and push them back into the oven and shut the door. Raise the oven temperature to 450oF and continue to roast, until the chickens are perfectly tender and somewhat charred looking without becoming burnt, 8 to 12 minutes. Alternatively, if not applying sauce, cook for a total of 45 to 50 minutes at 375F.

Timing is Everything

The chickens can be butterflied and seasoned one day ahead and refrigerated, well covered.

The barbecue sauce can (and should) be made in advance, and kept refrigerated in a securely covered jar.

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