Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Favorite Grilled Chicken Marinade

The first chicken marinade I ever learned was to soak chicken pieces in a bottle of cheap Italian dressing.  I picked that up from my buddy, Carson.  We'd by whatever chicken pieces were on sale (usually leg quarter or legs), give it the ol' Wishbone marinade, and then grill it on a plain charcoal grill.  After a long day of surfing, that made for some fantastic eating. 

These days Carson and I have both moved on to kamado grills, like the Big Green Egg, and we've moved on to making our own marinades like this one.  This has become one of our favorites and after making this batch, Trevor said he'd even like to vend them at a BBQ contest or festival.   Smart kid, there's probably more money in that than competing anyway.  

The combo of buttermilk and non-fat Greek yogurt create a powerful marinade base with a unique tang and the seasonings add a ton of flavor.   You can add 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt and the marinade stands on it's own with no additional seasonings other than the marinade.  But I prefer to keep the salt out of the marinade and then give the chicken a good dusting of a basic BBQ rub before grilling.  

grilled chicken legs with a buttermilk marinade

NMT Grilled Chicken Marinade
makes:  enough for 3-4 pounds of chicken pieces
prep time:  10 minutes
cook time:  none for the marinade

3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lime juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dry minced onion
1/2 teaspoon dry minced garlic

Mix ingredients together and pour over chicken pieces in a large zip top bag.  Seal, refrigerate, and marinate 4-8 hours.  Remove from marinade and drain off excess marinade before grilling.    Omit salt from the marinade if using a BBQ rub in addition to the marinade.  Tip for crispier chicken skin:  Remove chicken from marinades and allow to air dry on a raised rack in the refrigerator for 1 hour prior to grilling.

I put this marinade to work this weekend and grilled some chicken legs on the Vision Grills kamado that I bought at Sams Club.  I've been keeping it next door because my neighbor has been thoroughly testing it out (full review coming soon). 
Vision grill kamado

Funny story - John was out of town so I wanted to let him know I would be using the grill so his wife wouldn't freak out if she heard someone banging around on their basement patio.  Plus, I often write "chix" as shorthand for chicken.   Dang auto-correct....

In my defense, child legs are the most tender, right?  Okay, back to grilling...

Can you tell it's pollen season?   Ah-freaking-choo.

grilled buttermilk chicken marinade, grilled greek yogurt chicken marinade
Taking a dip in the flavor bath.

I grilled these at 350-375°F.   More pollen too. 

grilled chicken legs with a buttermilk marinade
Cooked them on the raised cooking grate for a "raised direct" set up. 

Fired up and going - the rub I used this time is Ted Reader's Bone Dust.

checking internal temperature with a ThermoPop
Not ready yet.  Checking using the Thermoworks ThermaPop.

Cook time was about 35 minutes, turning every 5 or so minutes.

That's more like it!

grilled chicken legs on a raised rack resting pan
Didn't do any sauce or glaze, just the marinade and rub was plenty of flavor.

Food truck style grilled chicken legs

I served them with some Ranch dressing on the side for dipping but it went unused because the chicken legs tasted great on their own.

Do you have a favorite chicken marinade and if so, what is it?

Memphis In May Opportunity  (only 22 days away as of posting!)

As of this week there were still a few Team Memberships open on Too Sauced To Pork, the team I cook on for Memphis In May.  If you have ever wanted to see a BBQ spectacle like Memphis In May from an insider's perspective, this is the way to do it and you don't even have to cook if you don't want to.  Your Team Membership fee covers park entrance wristbands, 2 meals a day, and much more.  Shoot me an email if you're interested and I'll get one of the team founders in touch with you.  


  1. That grill looks pretty awesome, but the chicken's better! Have to try the recipe since we eat a lot of grilled chicken. I feel for you with the auto-correct since I've been mortified by it more than once. Funny though...

  2. I am going to have to try this chicken marinade this weekend, that looks like some yummy chicken.

  3. It's hard to knock the simplicity of the Italian dressing trick.

    Love the concept of this marinade. Must try this. But, seems like a lot of work for 5 drumsticks!

    Nice pics.

  4. The marinade looks great! Tadd & I are coming to Memphis in May on Friday - I will look for you!

  5. Marking this for later...

    And had a wildly inappropriate comment about child legs and leg of lamb but decided against it.

    Are you coming to the Royal this year??? Wish I was 50 miles closer and I would make the effort. WOuld love to be a part of Memphis... SOmeday

    Dave and Jackie!

  6. Your marinade sounds awesome to me and buttermilk makes chicken more tender. We've got that dreadful pollen too.

  7. @Brian - The recipe as written will handle way more than 5 drumsticks. I only did 5 because it was just Trevor and I eating lunch. The marinade quantity will handle 3-4 lbs of chicken pieces which would be a whole chicken cut up.

  8. Bookmarked! I may just make this for dinner tonight but I'll probably bake them because it's going to be a downpour tonight. Yes, I am a wimp.

  9. Absolutely going to make this, Chris. Great blog altogether, sir. Been awhile since I've poked around on Blogger. I'll need to check back often.

  10. The first chicken marinade I ever learned was to soak chicken pieces in a bottle of cheap Italian dressing. I picked that up from my buddy, Vickie. I must give this a try. That photo of those drumsticks is fabulous Chris. Pinning this one to try when we're not having high winds and threat of snow. Yup, you heard me. :/

  11. That sounds like a wonderful marinade. Printed out to try later this week.

  12. Any idea how this marinade might work with boneless skinless chicken breasts? We grill them quite a bit so we're always looking for someting different to try with them.

  13. MrBream - I have used this on skinless, boneless thighs and it works for that so I expect it would do well with the breast as well. Let me know.

  14. Turned out quite tasty! Popped up a little blog post about it...with credit where credit is due, of course.


  15. Gave it try this evening. Turned out quite tasty! Wrote up a little blog entry of my own...giving credit where credit is due of course...


  16. This marinade is going in the 'recipes to try' list for sure. I'm always wanting to grill chicken and can never think of simple delicious marinades to use with it. This here's a winner. And leave those child legs alone! :)

  17. My mother has used this since I can remember, and she always receives the compliments at mealtime. I like the taste of a delicious barbecue sauce for chicken on the grill.


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