Barbecuing Chicken Legs and Thighs

At the top of the list during barbecue season are the hamburger and hot dog. These two items make up a huge amount of the entrées consumed in summer. They are great any time of year, but the grill enhances their flavor more than any other meats.

I mean, anything will taste better cooked on the grill, but a nice rib-eye is going to also taste great if it is pan cooked or cooked on an electric grill in the house. The burger it seems was invented specifically to cook on the grill as a cheap alternative to steak and the world, or at least the backyard, is a much better place in which to eat it.

Besides hot dogs and hamburgers, steaks also are a popular grilling item. With the price of a good steak costing close to a small fortune and continuing to rise, the steak is something for a special occasion or at least for once in a great while. Then there are pork chops, which are reasonably priced and also great on the grill. Lamb chops are more for that special occasion, also.

The second biggest grilling meat is chicken. When grilling chicken, three parts come to mind: breast, leg and thigh. The breast is normally grilled with the skin removed and either marinated or with barbecue sauce. They can be grilled with seasonings, but that is not the norm. Legs and thighs on the other hand are a little more versatile. They are grilled with the skin on and can be marinated, covered with barbecue sauce or seasoned.

By seasoning under the skin, the chicken stays moist, but at the same time the seasoning gets steamed into the meat.

Seasoning the legs and thighs involves a method that adds flavor and is the way I would season them if I were cooking them in the oven. Did I mention seasoning also keeps the herbs from burning, which can cause bitterness? If you burn some herbs or spices – garlic is a great example – they can get bitter. This method of seasoning will reduce the possibility of burning the seasonings by a lot.

So what is this miracle technique for adding the seasonings? Just a little common sense. As I tell my ski students, there is no such thing as common sense until you’ve heard: “Wow, that is so simple. It’s just common sense.”

If there is the possibility of the herbs and spices burning on the skin, then don’t put them on the skin. Instead, peel the skin back, season the meat directly and then pull the skin back in place. For those who do not eat the skin, this is especially good. By seasoning under the skin, the chicken stays moist, but at the same time the seasoning gets steamed into the meat.

Now cook the chicken as you normally would. If you have a cover on the grill, use it and that will help prevent flareups, which can chare the skin. If you don’t have a cover, then when the fat drippings cause the fire to flare, move the chicken to another spot. Once the fat has been rendered out of the skin the flareups will stop.

When baking the chicken in the oven, get a pan hot on top of the stove and place the chicken thigh skin down and cook until the skin is golden. Then flip it over and place it in a 350 degree F oven to finish. If there happens to be skin all around, then brown one side and flip and place right into the oven. The second side will brown in the oven. This will lead to great-tasting and moist chicken. Enjoy.

Barbecuing Chicken Legs and Thighs

Chicken legs & thighs
Rosemary, poultry seasoning, salt & pepper
Garlic, fine diced, if desired

Peel the skin back and season the meat. Then pull the skin back over the meat. If there is skin on one side as many thighs come, cook the skin side down first to get it crisp. This also will serve to keep juices in the meat. If grilling, use a cover to keep the flareups down. If there is no cover, move the chicken around as the fire flares.

When cooking in the oven, start the chicken on top of the stove, browning one side or two if need be. Finish cooking it in the oven.


 

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Chef Smitty
Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.