The Meatwave

Citrus Chicken

Citrus Chicken View Recipe

Wednesday was a beautiful day, one of those that lets you know summer is on its way, but spares you of the oppressive heat and humidity that is soon going to be endured. Believe it or not, summer doesn't always make me hungry for big chunks of barbecued pork, but instead I find myself wanting something a bit lighter and brighter. For most people I'm guessing this means a nice salad or pasta primavera, but in the land of The Meatwave, it means chicken. There didn't seem to be a more fitting meal for this beginning of summer than a nice citrus rubbed barbecued bird.

Citrus Chicken

Those who know me can attest to my long love affair with the chicken, especially those of the fried variety, but our long history doesn't mean the relationship is easy. For some reason chicken has mocked me again and again when I try to bring it to the grill or smoker. It's always something: skin burnt or not crispy, too dry, not cooked enough, etc. Even with the constant torture I've endured, I still go back and try to make things work over and over again.

Chicken Temp

It's taken a long time, but I'm starting to get a better handle on this rocky relationship and here's what I've learned so far:

1. Chickens like to take a swim (an hour in a brine will do it)

2. Chickens like to dry off (air dry overnight in the fridge)

3. Chickens like it hot (stay away from low temps and go for 325-350 degrees)

4. Chickens are only casual smokers (too much smoke can kill a chicken, so use just 1-2 chunks of a light wood, like apple or cherry)


Lessons learned aren't always so easy to follow and I went a little crazy with the smoke tonight, putting a bit too much for this bird to handle, but not so much to kill the meal, thankfully. The citrus rub is a great taste to start the summer with, and it gets even better if you throw in some roasted potatoes tossed with lemon and garlic. I'm hoping that the chicken and I get even closer as the summer progresses and we continue to learn from each other to further enhance this tasty affair.

Print Recipe

Citrus Chicken

  • Yield 2 to 4 servings
  • Prep 20 Minutes
  • Inactive 9 Hours
  • Cook 45 Minutes
  • Total 10 Hours 5 Minutes


  • For the Brine
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 quarts water
  • For the Paste
  • 2 tablespoons juice from 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 3 1/2 lb whole chicken
  • 1-2 chunks of cherry wood


  1. Mix the brine ingredients and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Put the chicken in the brine and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse, and dry with paper towels. Place the chicken on a plate and back into the refrigerator to air dry overnight.
  2. Place all of the paste ingredients into the bowl of a mixer and puree. Rub or baste chicken all over with the paste.
  3. Light 1 chimney of charcoal, and when ready, dump out and place 1-2 chunks of cherry wood on top. When the wood is lit and smoking, assemble the grill and let the temperature come between 325-350 degrees.
  4. Place the chicken on the grill, cover, and cook between 325-350 degrees. Cook until the deepest part of the breast registers 160 degrees on a thermometer, about an hour.
  5. Remove the chicken from the grill and allow to rest for 10 mins before carving.

Adapted from The Cook's Illustrated Guide To Grilling And Barbecue

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