Monday, August 28, 2017

Roadside-Style Grilled Chicken

Roadside-Style Vinegar Grilled Chicken, boneless, skinless chicken thighs marinated in a seasoned vinegar and oil mixture, then grilled. Saucing is completely optional!
Roadside-Style Vinegar Grilled Chicken from Deep South Dish blog. Chicken, boneless, skinless thighs pictured here, marinated in a seasoned vinegar and oil mixture, then grilled. Saucing is completely optional!

Roadside Vinegar Grilled Chicken

Outside of private parties, special events and festivals, you generally won't find food trucks around south Mississippi, and sadly, not in many other locations around the state either.

While I do recall back in my corporate career days, a truck that came around occasionally at lunchtime, it was really more like a traveling version of those breakroom vending machine lunches. You know the ones. Cold sandwiches mostly, cheese snack packs and maybe some microwaveable meals. Nothing wrong with that! I've eaten a few of those sandwiches myself, for breakfast even, when I was in a rush to get out the door some mornings.

Bonafide food trucks like you see in the big cities or on food related television though? Not so much. While I've been out of the corporate world since Hurricane Katrina essentially retired me, I've never seen one of those here. City ordinances are in control of whether they are allowed, where and even when, and are fairly restrictive, even in the rare cities that do allow them. Kinda sad really, as I'd love to be able to try some of the unique and specialized offerings that you see in those food trucks around the country.

Roadside chicken is one of those kinds of specialties, although most often, you'll find them being cooked up under a tent on the side of the road somewhere. Although I have seen a few stands with a smoker and grill going here and there on private property lots, they seem to come and go. When I learned of this phenomenon known as roadside chicken, I had no point of reference, so I hit the forums on the internet.

Anytime I have to do that it's a bit nostalgic. Do you remember when the internet was basically made up of only bulletin boards and forums? I do. There were no web pages, and then when there were, they were nothing like what you see on the web today, as Shockwave and Flash came much later, making webpages more interactive and exciting. Today, that's pretty much just taken for granted. The first web pages were more static, like typed sheets of paper on a computer screen - very primitive. Mercy am I getting old, or what?!

What I discovered is a grilled chicken that goes by many names and with some variation in the ingredients or amounts, may be known as Roadside Chicken, Fireman's Chicken, Street Chicken, Vinegar Chicken, No Sauce BBQ Chicken, and Mexican Roadside Chicken, though that version is a bit more fiery, often including ancho chilies and some hot spices. In some BBQ forums it's also called Pit Chicken. Roadside, it's often done on an open pit, with the grill master literally dipping the chicken periodically into buckets of a seasoned vinegar and oil mixture, all throughout the grilling process, in order to both help keep the chicken moist and boost the vinegary flavor.

Very often it's made with breast or leg quarters, or at home, often a whole, cut up or spatchcocked (butterflied) chicken, but you can use this on virtually any piece, simply adjusting your cooking time accordingly. I've caught boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders and thighs on sale a few times this summer, so that's what I had put up in the freezer and what I used here; thighs pictured at the top photo and tenderloins pictured below, finished with sauce.

If the breasts you want to use are the larger ones, use a mallet or blade tenderizer to flatten the thicker end, or cut lengthwise into cutlets, and generally they will cook about the same time as the boneless thighs. Bone-in pieces will require more time, so use a thermometer to monitor internal temperature to ensure they are cooked through.

This chicken is good cooked on a smoker, charcoal or gas grill, though I've been doing mine on my indoor grill this summer, since it's really been too hot for me to bear being outside grilling. I broke open my Traeger for the first time this summer last week to smoke two spatchcocked chickens, because the weather wasn't too overbearing those days.

With skin-on chicken and a regular gas or charcoal grill, because of the oil, I would recommend zone grilling - searing your chicken over direct heat first, then moving it over indirect to finish cooking, again monitoring the internal temperature to make sure you don't under or overcook. If saucing, do that in the last few minutes of cooking time.

It's delicious on its own, or finished with a little barbecue sauce in the last few minutes, as shown below. I like it both ways and even when grilled naked, I offer barbecue sauce at the table. Here's how to make it.

Roadside-Style Grilled Chicken, made with boneless chicken tenderloins and brushed with barbecue sauce the final minutes.

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Recipe: Roadside-Style Vinegar Grilled Chicken

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 15 min
Total time: 25 min
Yield: About 4 servings

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or tenderloins
  • 1-1/2 cups cooking oil (vegetable, corn, canola)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/8 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon white or black pepper
  • Homemade or commercial barbecue sauce, optional, to finish

Whisk marinade ingredients together; set aside and refrigerate 1/2 cup if you want to baste the chicken as it grills. Place chicken in zippered bag and pour remaining marinade over. Squeeze out air, seal and squeeze bag to coat all pieces of chicken. Place bag into a bowl, refrigerating for 2 to 4 hours. Drain and discard marinade.

Depending on size, cook for a total of about 10 to 12 minutes, searing first 2 minutes on each side, then continue cooking and turning, basting with reserved marinade, until cooked through and no longer pink. Use of an instant read thermometer is recommended. If saucing, brush with barbecue sauce in the last few minutes of cooking time.

Cook's Notes: Increase marinade as needed. Because this is written for boneless, skinless chicken pieces, if you can't get to this within a couple of hours, remove chicken from marinade and transfer to a sealed container to refrigerate until needed to avoid over marinating. I had garlic salt on hand, so that's what I wrote the recipe for. You may also substitute kosher or sea salt with a small amount of garlic powder instead.

You may also use other cuts of chicken, just adjust cooking time as needed, cooking by temperature to 160 degrees F for white meat, 170 degrees for dark. Zone cooking is recommended with skin on chicken to reduce flare ups and charring, using a thermometer to determine when done.


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Check Out These Other Grilled Chicken Recipes Too Y’all!

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Posted by on August 28, 2017

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