Saturday, July 13, 2013

Recipe: Grilled Whole Chicken with Lemon

Based on a recipe for "Grilled Lemon Chicken with Rosemary" from the May 2013 Cook's Illustrated.  Using a whole 5-pound chicken we got 7 servings.

The 28 steps in the recipe here might look intimidating. The Cook's Illustrated recipe had 9 steps, I choose to write recipes where each step is one operation rather than combining them, so it's not as bad as it might look.

Read the story behind this dish in Sunday, Dinner for Two.


1 whole chicken (3½–5 pounds)
¾ cup sugar
Table salt and black pepper
2 lemons
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
fresh rosemary
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. Mince the rosemary leaves to make 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary.
  2. In a large bowl make a brine with 3 quarts cold water, ¾ cups table salt, and the sugar.
  3. Place the chicken breast side down and cut out and discard the backbone. Good quality kitchen shearers work well for this task.
  4. Flip the chicken over and press hard on the breastbone to flatten it.
  5. Remove and discard the skin (you can pull most of it off with your hands), leaving the skin intact on the wings.
  6. Turn the legs so the drum sticks point inwards toward the breast and tuck the wings behind the back.
  7. Cut ½-inch deep slits ½-inch apart on the legs and breast.
  8. To hold the chicken together, insert a skewer through both thighs and the bottom of the breast and a second skewer 1-inch lower through the thighs and drumsticks.
  9. Submerge the chicken in the brine and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.
  10. Zest the lemons producing about 2 tablespoons of zest.
  11. Juice one of the lemons.
  12. Cut the other lemon into quarters through the top and bottom of the lemon.
  13. In a small bowl, combine the zest, 1½ teaspoons minced fresh rosemary, 1 teaspoon mustard, and ½ teaspoon black pepper.
  14. In a small sauce pan over low heat, combine the butter, ½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, ½ teaspoon mustard, and ½ teaspoon black pepper, stirring occasionally until the butter has all melted.
  15. Remove the sauce pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
  16. Turn a gas grill on high and heat for 15 minutes with the cover closed.
  17. Remove the chicken from the brine, pat it dry, and place it breast side down on the counter or cutting board.
  18. Rub ½ teaspoon of the zest mixture into the thighs.
  19. Turn the chicken over and rub the rest of the zest mixture into the meat, working it into the slits.
  20. Turn off all but one of the burners on the grill, clean and oil the cooking grates.
  21. Place the chicken on the hot side of the grill, breast side down, along with the lemon quarters.
  22. Cover and cook until the chicken and lemon is well browned, 8-10 minutes.
  23. Remove the lemon quarters to a bowl and set aside.
  24. Turn the chicken over and brush it with one-third of the butter mixture.
  25. Cover the chicken loosely with aluminum foil, close the grill cover, and cook until well browned, 8-10 minutes.
  26. Remove the foil and move the chicken to the cool side of the grill. Brush with half of the remaining butter mixture, cover again with foil, and cook until the internal temperature of the breast is 160° and the thighs reach 175°, 8-10 minutes.
  27. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, brush on the remaining butter mixture, cover loosely with foil and rest 5-10 minutes.
  28. Carve and serve.

Cut the backbone out of a whole chicken, flatten by pressing on the breast bone, and remove all the skin except from the wings.
Insert two skewers to hold the chicken together, cut slits in the breast and thighs, then brine for up to one hour.
Zest two lemons, then quarter one of them and juice the other.
Mix lemon zest, oil, rosemary, mustard, and pepper.
Melt butter with rosemary, mustard, and pepper than stir in the lemon juice.
Rub the zest mixture over the chicken the grill, basting with the lemon juice mixture.

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