Sunday, April 17, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

What comes to mind when you think of big, organized (or semi-organized) cookouts? 

I think of "roadside chicken" which is a tangy grilled chicken.  It's what is often served at BBQ fundraisers for churches and youth organizations.

Back in the 1970's (right after the dinosaurs had died off), CSX hosted a big company cookout every year for the employees and families and they served this style of chicken.  We'd drive over to Burnett Park and you could smell the chicken grilling and see the puffs of white smoke as soon as you got out of the car.  Even as a 10 year old kid, I remember liking that chicken because it was different than the typical sweet BBQ sauce chicken that I was used to.

I was reminiscing about those cookouts this morning and decided I was going to cook it for dinner, complete with roadside chicken, grits, beans, and hush puppies.
bbq chicken dinner, barbecue chicken dinner
Yes, I actually used serving trays to replicate the "cookout" feel.

Roadside Chicken 
Adapted from The Virtual Weber Bullet

4 ea chicken leg quarters
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp celery salt

Mix the marinade and reserve 1/3rd cup for basting.

Marinate the leg quarters with the 2/3rds cup of marinade in a Glad™ gallon zip top bag for 4-6 hours.

Preheat your grill to 350f.  Set up the grill for direct heat with a "raised grid".

The raised grid is a compromise between direct and indirect heat.  It gets the food to cook 2-3 inches higher than it normally would.  This lessens the direct heat from below so the bottom your meat is less likely to burn.  At the same time, it exposes the top of your chicken to the higher convection temps (heat rises) getting a nice browning of the skin.  Here are some ways you can make a "raised grid".
  1. Make your own raised grid with a few cheap parts from the hardware store.
  2. Use the top rack that is integrated into the lid of most gas grills, instead of the main grate.
  3. Use a grill grate raised up by two fire bricks
  4. If you have an adjustable charcoal bed, lower it.  
  5. Use an inverted spider rig.
  6. Skip using a raised grid but CLOSELY manage your vents to control flare ups and flip the chicken every 5-7 minutes until done.
Grill the chicken leg quarters skin side down for 5 minutes.

Flip and sprinkle with parsley.  Use more than you THINK you'll need because the basting will wash 1/3rd of it off.

Baste with the reserved mixture every 10-15 minutes.  The regular basting is important because it builds layers of flavors onto the chicken.  Cook until the thigh registers an internal temp of 180f.  This took 55 minutes tonight.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes and then serve.

bbq chicken dinner, barbecue chicken dinner

The skin was crispy and the chicken delivered a tangy taste.  Just what I was looking for in my nostalgic pursuit of cookout chicken.   


  1. I love that you used a takeout tray! For some reason, it does lend a certain extra appeal to it. Looks delish!

  2. It sounds delicious Chris - I've only made it one time with a similar recipe and liked it. I like the addition of cayenne to your recipe.

  3. We used to stop on the way home from Rehoboth Beach, DE at a roadside stand where the volunteer firemen were making this kind of chicken. It was heaven.

  4. Just after the dinosaurs? Too funny. I've never had roadside chicken. Sounds really good.

  5. We still have plenty of roadside BBQ chicken stands here in Maryland. Operating primarily on weekends by fire departments, churches and other civic groups.

    It is a cheap and delicious meal, especially if you are traveling though. Sure beats fast food!

    Chris, you've presented a great tutorial for preparing this roadside treat. I've often wondered how I could re-create this meal, and thanks to you, I think I can pull it off now.

    And it looks like you nailed the basting sauce. I can smell it from here.


  6. I second that, Brian! Living in Maryland, we have lots of roadside chicken stands. The chicken is always amazing! I have never tried to re-create the chicken at home, but thanks to you I can! Thanks, Chris!

    Kim in MD

  7. I wish I was having this chicken dinner right now for breakfast. Seriously.

  8. Maybe that's why the chicken crossed the road? Looks delish!

  9. Fun to fix food from our childhood - and though I've never had this, it sounds pretty darned good. I'm one of those people that has cut unnecessary fat every which way, but crispy chicken skin on a leg quarter is something I've never been able to give up. Love this post, Chris.

  10. this looks wonderful, and can i just say, those are some impressive grill marks!

  11. Oh, man, that looks good. I would travel from Chandler, AZ for that!!! :)

  12. That first pic looks like the most upscale tv dinner ever!

  13. Yum! Just found your amazing blog and am a new follower!
    - Jessica @

  14. OMG Chris! Your picture of this meal is outstanding! It looks like it should be gracing the cover of a book or magazine. Look at those grill marks. Makes me wanna take a big ol' bite:)

  15. OH MY GOSH!!! I wish you could pop over to Socal and do some bbqing!

  16. I lurve those trays, and I wish I had grilling skills. I need to have the husband clean off that thing so we can get outside. Lovely meal.

  17. you had me at the merest mention of hush puppies. that the chicken is handsomely marked and crispy is a giant bonus. god, i love me some hush puppies.

  18. Never heard of "roadside" chicken where I am...not sure why the first thing I thought of was "roadkill" LOL. Is it the tangy sauce? Your chicken looks delicious!

  19. That looks so good! The marinade sounds wonderful! Love the tray :)

  20. I LOVE this kind of chicken! My family uses the white Cornell BBQ sauce (not sure if it's from Cornell University or not, but I have the recipe written down on a notecard somewhere and I need to make it soon!). I think it's pretty close to the recipe you have here. That grill-mates thing you mentioned to me sounds awesome-- clearly I need help in the burger-making department!! Mmmm, I can almost smell this chicken through my screen!

  21. Great pics and post, as always. Love the tray.

    We call it oil drum chicken because whenever we travel in the Caribbean there's always somebody grilling up a batch of this over a halved oil drum. Love the stuff.

  22. Love it and I bet it tasted even better in the styro trays ;-)

  23. Tried this one out last night...great chicken. May just become our go-to chicken marinade/baste...

  24. My dad has been trying to recreate roadside chicken for years!!! I subbed some pickle juice for some of the vinager since he swears that's the secret ingredient:-) came out awesome....making it again for a family BBQ! Thanks for this recipe!!!!


Comments are moderated and won't appear immediately.