Friday, June 6, 2014

Grilled Huli Huli Chicken

Grilled Huli Huli Chicken, a popular Hawaiian-style barbecued chicken, basted with a honey and brown sugar sweetened, soy and pineapple barbecue sauce.

Grilled Huli Huli Chicken

I don't know about y'all, but the last couple of months I have been busier than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs! Between buying a new house, moving, renovating the old house for sale and now that summer's rolled around, spending a lot more time with the grandkid's on summer vacation too... I truly don't know if I'm coming or going anymore. I sure could use a vacation of my own - Florida beaches here I come!

If you've ever been on a Florida vacation and done the luau show and dinner somewhere, you have likely had some form of this Hawaiian-style barbecued chicken. I've never been to Disney where we didn't go to one either at the Polynesian Hotel or up the road at the Wantilan Luau at Universal Orlando.

Luau shots from one of our Orlando vacations!
Yes, I know they are touristy and to some degree a bit cheesy, but I just love those shows and I really feel like I'm on vacation when I go to one.

Though recipes vary a little bit around the net, this is the way that I like to do it - beginning first with a simple brine and then applying the basting sauce - just a bit different from most recipes. Typically Huli Huli is made using whole leg quarters, though I prefer to cut them into individual thighs and drumsticks myself. Any cut of chicken may be used of course, even the ever popular boneless, skinless chicken breasts, although you will need to reduce cooking time significantly on those. Depending on their size, those generally will be cooked through after 6 to 8 minutes on each side. Here's how to make it.

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Recipe: Grilled Huli Huli Chicken

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Inactive time: 4 hours |Cook time: 30 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings


For the Brine:
  • 6 chicken leg quarters, cut up
  • 1 quart of water, or to cover
  • 2 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
Chicken Seasoning:
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, Creole or Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama) and garlic powder, to taste
For the Sauce:
  • 1 cup of pineapple juice
  • 1 (8 ounce) tomato sauce or ketchup
  • 1/3 cup of low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of hot sauce
  • Juice of one lemon

Whisk together the brine ingredients. Place the chicken in a non-reactive bowl or zippered bag and pour the brine over. Seal tightly and place in a bowl in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Remove chicken from brine; drain, but do not rinse. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and rub in a light dusting of black pepper, Creole and Cajun seasoning and garlic powder on both sides. Let rest while you preheat grill to high.

When ready to grill, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Leave one zone (one or two burners) on high, turn all other burners down to medium. Oil the grates, and quickly sear the chicken on the hottest part of the grill, with the lid closed, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Move the chicken to the cooler part of the grill, apply a generous basting of the sauce on both sides, and grill covered, about 25 to 30 minutes, turning and basting every few minutes, until thoroughly cooked through. An instant read thermometer should register 165-175 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh.

Cook’s Notes: Keep a spray bottle of plain water handy for any flare-ups. May substitute other chicken cuts; adjust cooking time accordingly. Chicken should register 165 degrees F for breast meat and 165-175 degrees F for thighs and legs on an instant read thermometer, inserted into the thickest part, and not touching any bone.

To Bake: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Heat 1-1/2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large cast iron skillet. Season chicken on both sides with pepper, Creole or Cajun seasoning and garlic powder. Brown chicken, in batches, over medium high heat on both sides; transfer to a foil covered, rimmed sheet pan. Brush both sides with the sauce and bake at 450 degrees F for approximately 35 to 45 minutes, or until juices run clear when pierced with the tip of knife, turning and basting often.


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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on June 6, 2014
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  1. What is not to love about chicken and pineapple? I really have to try this. Thank you.
    A quick word of caution on the use of a spray bottles for flair-ups. Many of the newer more common and popular grills, either propane or charcoal, are constructed using very poor quality materials. Many of these units use “porcelainized” grates, grills and “Flavorizer Bars” (flame and grease deflectors). When cold water (any temperature lower than that of the flame) hits the metal, it can, and most likely will, fracture the coating. This will lead to its premature failure. Most manufacturers warn about the use of a water spray bottle. Even cast iron can be affected. Cast iron is very brittle and can crack, or even shatter, if cooled too quickly. Stainless steel: There really is no such thing since its base metal is predominantly iron. It just means that it will rust at a much slower rate. That rate will be hastened, however, by the poor quality of the materials used in most grills today; and hitting them with cold water will also hasten their demise; unless, of course, you’ve got my dream grill, either a Vulcan or a Garland.
    BTW: Last year I buried a $600+ Weber Genesis for just this very reason (it was only 3 years old). I’m now working on a Char-Broil Commercial Infrared. So far, so good: No flair-ups… no matter what I do. But then-again, I’m plagued, once again, by cheap, thin materials. We’ll see what the future holds.
    God bless.

    1. Please forgive me for being so windy. I’m a big fan of the spray bottle, or at least I was. I’ve buried a number of rather expensive grills. I’d just like to save others the heartbreak and expense of my lessons learned. I’ve chefed professionally, but had also spent 30+ years in engineering. It’s probably why one of my favorite chefs is Alton Brown (very similar background).
      God bless.

    2. It's no problem at all. I have used a spray bottle on my gas grills, well, since I've been cooking. I guess I just have the cheaper kinda grill LOL! Appreciate your input!

  2. I'm making this this weekend. Looks fabulous. I have had the same issues as Chris in the past and will be using my Charbroil Convection grill for the same reason. I imagine this would be wonderful cooked on a Traeger.

  3. There are many Huli-Huli recipes out there but yours appears to be perfect. Most of the recipes out there never include the pineapple as an ingredient. We make Huli-Huli 10-12 times a year. We just can't seem to get enough of it. Thanks for keeping the tradition alive. I'm sure your fans will also get hooked if they follow your instructions.


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