I adore a good barbecue sauce. One that sticks to your fingers and cheeks while balancing sweet, spicy, smoky, and tangy flavors. When I stumbled across a 7-minute recipe for Chipotle-Maple Barbecue sauce in the June 2013 issue of Food and Wine magazine, I thought it had potential. And with chipotles in adobo and maple syrup in the cabinet (two ingredients that I always keep on hand), it didn’t take much convincing for me to whip up a batch for grilled chicken.
A couple of years ago, my grilling underwent a giant shift. I learned about brining and gone were the days of dried out chicken breasts and cardboard-like pork tenderloins. Soaking the meat in a liquid with salt and, often some sugar, for just a few minutes before cooking transforms the end product keeping it juicy and succulent despite the dry and scorching heat of the grill. The discovery of brining was a game-changer for me and since learning about it, I have always gone to the trouble of this extra step.
This dinner was no exception and the chicken soaked in a salt and sugar brine for 1 hour before grilling. While the chicken soaked, I pre-heated the grill over high heat. Once hot, I ran a steel-bristled brush over the grates to make sure they were clean before brushing them lightly with canola oil. I reduced the temperature to medium low and added the chicken pieces, patted dry and seasoned with a little pepper (there’s no need to add extra salt if you’ve brined them), to the oiled grate skin side-down. I covered the grill and cracked open a beer for the wait.
Fifteen minutes later, I opened the grill and found my chicken ready to turn. The skin was crisp and thanks to the sugar in the brine even a little charred in a few places. Upon flipping the chicken, I brushed the tops of the chicken with some of the chipotle-maple barbecue sauce and covered the grill before returning to my beer. After fifteen minutes, I checked the chicken pieces, this time turning them over with tongs and brushing both sides with barbecue sauce to make sure that dinner would be properly messy. A quick check with the thermometer (which registered 165 degrees) confirmed that dinner was ready. I threw paper towels on the table with a simple caprese salad and cracked fresh beers. Dinner was served.
Note: Whether you buy store-bought barbecue sauce or make your own, be sure to separate the sauce you intend to brush on the meat while it cooks in a different container from the sauce that you plan to serve with dinner to avoid cross-contamination. Discard any leftover sauce or, if intending to use again, bring to a boil before serving.
Chipotle-Maple BBQ Chicken – Chipotle-Maple BBQ Chicken
I adapted the chipotle-maple sauce from a recipe that I found in the June 2013 Food and Wine magazine. The original recipe called for 2-chipotle chilies en adobo – I added six. Add as many as you like, but be sure to taste as you go along to prevent the sauce from being too spicy.
For the chicken:
1 whole (3 ½ to 4 lb) chicken, cut into 6 pieces or the equivalent amount of bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
2 quarts cold water
½ cup salt
½ cup granulated sugar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Canola oil, for grill
For the sauce:
2-6 chipotles en adobo (seeded, if desired)
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup ketchup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
Combine the water, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the chicken pieces and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Do not brine for longer as the chicken will be too salty.
Preheat the grill over high heat while the chicken is brining.
In a blender or small food processor, combine the chipotles en adobo, the garlic, ketchup, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and maple syrup. Blend until smooth. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir in the butter and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour about ½ cup of the sauce into a small bowl to use for brushing the chicken while it cooks. Reserve the remaining sauce for serving.
When the grill is hot, use a metal brush to clean the grates. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Season the chicken to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Brush the grates with a little canola oil and reduce the heat to medium low.
Add the chicken, skin-side down, to the grill. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken over and brush the tops of the chicken with barbecue sauce. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes. Uncover the grill and brush the chicken again with barbecue sauce this time on both sides and cook for another two minutes. Check the temperature of the chicken. If 165 degrees or higher, remove the chicken from the grill. If the temperature is less than 165 degrees, continue cooking, turning as needed, until the temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees. Serve the chicken immediately with the reserved sauce and plenty of napkins.