Great Grilled Chickens!


With everyone getting in on the grilling game it's no surprise that grilled chicken is more popular than ever. We like chicken because it's a healthy meat, but the truth is the least healthy bits of the chicken tend to grill up the best. While chicken breasts are a lovely neutral base on which to build layers of flavors, and grilling is all about layers of flavors, chicken breasts also have a tendency to grill up on the dry side.

I do love a good grilled chicken breast, but unless you're diligent in its preparation, brining the meat to keep it juicy and monitoring the cooking to prevent the meat from  burning and/or drying out, I find that dark meat, or at the very least a whole grilled chicken produces better results for my palate. Be that as it may, let's take a look at some of the best grilled chicken recipes for the coming summer. There's no better way to kick things off than with a look at proper brining technique.

Beer-Brined Butterflied Chicken

A brining agent, simply put is a salty solution, and it serves two purposes. First off it introduces liquid into the meat, which is done by created a difference in salinity between the meat and the brining solution. The meat tries to create a balance by sucking in some of the salt, and the solution it's dissolved in. The second purpose of course is to add flavor to the meat. Water soluble spices can also get sucked up by the chicken, yielding a moist, flavorful piece of chicken. In the case of this recipe beer is used as an ingredient for the brining solution, adding a bit of malty savoriness to the finished dish.

Take me to the recipe

Generally speaking brining does not introduce a lot of flavor into the meat it's used for, but rather reinforces the base of flavor on which to build. The next step used here to make for a particularly flavorful bird is the use of a dry rub, a classic BBQ master maneuver. In this case we find a slightly sweet and herbal rub being used to create a subtle, nuanced grilled chicken. With the beer used here it's certainly tempting to just drink more beer with your meal, but we're talking about wine here so let's find a suitable option. Subtle, slightly herbal, and with a nice hit of smoke. It takes me someplace a bit off the beaten path but Friulano from the Friuli region of Italy fits this bill perfectly!

Two to try:

Bastianich Friulano $17

Conti Formentini Friulano $17


Jerk Chicken

I wait all year for this. The chance to not only talk about Jerk Chicken, but to make it myself. Curiously, Jerk Chicken is all about brining in a way. The marinade used to season the chicken is in fact a liquid, based on pureed onions and citrus, but it serves the same purposes as the brine in the previous recipe. The chicken sucks up salt, water, and seasonings from the brine, along with the sugar that onions surreptitiously contribute to the marinade. The results are fabulous. Sweet, spicy, smoky, super complex and totally delicious!

Take me to the recipe

This recipe calls for chicken breasts, and I've already made my thoughts about those known. Do yourself a favor and substitute thighs for a truly terrific example of this iconic dish. It will also make the wine pairing a bit easier. And while we're at it, lets add some mesquite chips to the fire when we grill these bad boys up for another layer of enticing flavor. As far as the wine goes, I know it's hard to believe but I'm still recommending Petite Sirah. Look for a lighter version and serve it with a slight chill. The smoke will marry with the oak in the wine and the rich fruitiness of Petite Sirah melds seamlessly with the bold and spicy flavors of this recipe.  Trust me!

Two to try:

Concannon Vineyard Petite Sirah Selected Vineyards $10

Smoking Loon Petite Sirah $10

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Since we're talking about iconic, spicy chicken dishes how about a different take on an all-American classic? Grilled Buffalo wings! Yes they are not the originals, got that. But still, why would you want to pass up a chance to enjoy Buffalo-style (that better?) wings this summer?

Take me to the recipe

I'm a bit of a hot sauce addict and i wouldn't make this with anything but Frank's Original. Crystal is for putting into finished dishes like grits, Tabascco is for cooking, Frank's is for wings.  This is a pretty straightforward recipe and my only piece of advice is to cook the wings relatively low and slow so as much of the fat renders out as possible, resulting in crispier wings. Another dish that is great with beer, there is also a perfect foil for these spicy and greasy wings. Cold, crisp, light and slightly prickly Vinho Verde from portugal. A bracing wine if there ever was one, Vinho Verde handles these wings like nobodies business. Not even Frank's.

Two to try:

Jose Maria da Fonseca Twin Vines Vinho Verde $8

Casal Garcia Vinho Verde $8

Moroccan Style

If you're looking for a spiced, yet not spicy recipe for grilled chicken be inspired by this Moroccan example. With layers of spicy flavors and just a suggestion of sugar and heat, it's a fabulous recipe with which to introduce your palate to a bit of the exotic this year.

Take me to the recipe

This is actually a fairly difficult dish to pair with wine. It's complex and spicy, but with the subtle flavor of chicken underneath and finding a pairing that doesn't completely cover that flavor is the challenge. A really bold rose could be in order here, something with big flavors, but that retains the delicacy of a classic rose.  Or you can take a different tact and get a really fine bottle of Valpolicella, which has that delicacy but can also have a wonderfully spicy character on the palate along with pure, transparent fruit that marries well with the flavor profile here.

Two to try:

Tedeschi Valpolicella Classico Lucchine $15

Speri Valpolicella Classico Superiore la Roverina $16

Under a Brick

And then there is this. Under a brick. It is a classic, and plenty of people even marvel at this preparation in a restaurant not knowing how simple it actually is. Another slightly spicy dish, I prefer to jack up the heat here a little bit. Add in more crushed pepper flakes or vigorously rub a sliced jalapeno all over your bird before grilling. But then again I love me some spicy chicken.

Take me to the recipe

The cooking time for this recipe is too long, 40 minutes in total, but otherwise I like what they're doing here, though i don't need the suggested chimichurri sauce to finish this dish. Just lots of fresh lemon juice squirted over the hot bird just as it's removed from the grill works perfectly for me. Spicy, tart, crisp and smoky, it's as near perfection as you can get with a grill and a chicken. What to pair it with? I'm just going to go with one of my favorite wines since this will pair well with so many wines, particularly whites and roses.  Pinot Blanc is a wine we don't reach for enough, but it's perfect for this preparation with a flavor profile that will complement the flavors of the dish and enough body to make for a perfectly balanced meal.

Two to try:

Domaines Schlumberger Princes Abbes Pinot Blanc $16

Pierre Sparr Pinot Blanc $14

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