This is the grilled chicken of my childhood. My dad loved to cook out, and it’s one of the ways I picture him – standing over the grill in a white t-shirt. Like this:
After dinner, while the coals were still hot, we would find the perfect sticks and toast marshmallows.
I like how so many of my good memories – the ones that are always with me, that let me taste/see/smell again – are about simple, everyday things. Nothing fancy.
That’s also The Family grilled chicken – uncomplicated, but in a good way. It’s juicy with just the right amount of salty tang from Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice, and is the opposite of the bland/dry/tough grilled chicken we’ve all broken our plastic utensils in.
My dad always made grilled chicken with this sauce that you brush on the chicken as it grills (no need for a marinade/planning ahead – score!). The sauce is super simple: a barely simmered mixture of butter, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, season salt and pepper.
Jay is the griller around here (my responsibility begins and ends with melting the butter and seasoning the sauce, and that’s the way I like it), and he likes to lightly rub the raw pieces of chicken with olive oil and give them a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper so they don’t stick to the grill. You need a medium-hot fire (400 degrees if your grill has a temperature gauge). Details on how to get these lovely grill marks are in the recipe below!
Wait to brush the sauce on until the chicken is almost done. My dad always used a thermometer and a timer to get great results on the grill, and that’s how Jay does it, too. Chicken needs to be cooked to 160 degrees, and Jay recommends brushing on the sauce when the chicken is at 140.
Brush one side of the chicken, then close the grill for a few seconds, then brush the other side. Flare-ups from the butter are normal and help give the chicken a nice crust while the inside stays moist!
When you take the chicken off the grill, brush it with the remaining sauce while it rests on the platter. (Unlike a marinade, the sauce never encounters raw chicken so it’s okay to do this.)
I love the smokiness from the grill and the richness of the sauce-and-juices that accumulate on the platter. I occasionally dabble with other recipes, but we make grilled chicken this way 9 times out of 10. Intentional leftovers make awesome salads, quesadillas, and pizzas later in the week!
And now go make some marshmallows.Print
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- season salt (like Lawry’s) and pepper, to taste
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low. Stir in lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste. (Think in terms of how many pieces of chicken you’re making – if you would normally do 2 shakes of salt and 2 twists of pepper on one piece of chicken, multiply that by your total number of pieces.) Allow the sauce to bubble for a minute or two, or just leave over low heat until you’re ready to brush it on the chicken.
- Lightly coat the raw chicken pieces with olive oil (and a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper) so they don’t stick to the grill. Grill them top side down at 400 degrees (a medium hot fire) for 2.5-3 minutes, then rotate 90 degrees for grill marks. After 5-6 total minutes on the first side, flip them over, moving the pieces that are cooking slower to the hotter part of the grill.
- Grill another 5-6 minutes on the second side (rotating 90 degrees halfway through). At about the 5 minute mark on the second side, check the temperature of the chicken with a meat thermometer. When the internal temperature reaches about 140 degrees (chicken should be 160 when it’s done), brush the chicken with the sauce. The fire will flare up, which is a good thing because it will give the chicken great color. Control it by closing the lid and vents for about 15 seconds, then open and flip the chicken and brush the other side, noting which ones are getting a nice crust, and moving the pieces if necessary to hotter/cooler parts of grill.
- Once the color looks good, take them off and brush them again with the remaining sauce while the chicken is resting on a platter. (Since the outside of the chicken is fully cooked when you start brushing them, there’s no risk of contamination from raw chicken.)
My dad always dipped the chicken pieces in the sauce one at a time before putting them on the grill (instead of using olive oil), then brushed them during the grilling process. Jay prefers to be able to use some of the sauce at the end, so he uses the method above!
Also, please don’t freak out about the quantity of butter. A lot of it drips off, and adds more flavor than fat to the finished chicken!