Marinating chicken in a bottle of Italian dressing must be among the most popular kitchen convenience ideas ever to come out of the Kraft test kitchen. Seal everything up in a plastic bag, pop it in the fridge for a few hours, throw the chicken on the grill. Couldn’t be easier for sure, but if you ever make your own salad dressings, then the bottled stuff, even as a marinade, can taste a little cloying and empty.
Instead, swap the bottle for a knock-out, change-up to your summer grilled chicken routine with a Mediterranean-style marinade of fresh lemon juice, lots of fresh garlic, a little oil, a few herbs, and salt and pepper.
Lemon Garlic Chicken suits every part of the bird so cook what you like–whole chicken halves, leg/thigh combos, breasts, even wings. The keys to this great summer main dish or party platter are a strong punchy marinade that’s well absorbed in the chicken and a solid method to get the meat cooked right.
Grilling chicken has it’s hazards – blackening and burning when the skin gets too much heat and drying out the meat or not quite cooking it to a safe doneness, especially at the leg-thigh joint. Plus, chicken has the challenge of containing two distinct parts–the dark leg/thing meat that needs to reach about 175°F, while the white breast meat that only needs to hit 160°F. If any of these experiences have resonated with you in the past, you’ll love our hybrid indoor/outdoor method.
First, oven roast the chicken for 30 to 40 minutes and then finish it on the grill right before your serve it. This way the bulk of the cooking is safely done with consistent, controllable oven heat, and the chicken picks up the best part of the grill – a crisp smoky skin. Plus, if you baste the chicken generously with the pan juices as it finishes on the grill for ten or so minutes, the lemony, garlicky smoky haze that takes over the backyard is really quite impressive, even a few doors down.
Our recipe calls for our favorite dark meat, but substitute your preference. Make extra because it’s usually better the next day.
- 4 pounds chicken legs and thighs (about 4 each)
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 12 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Handful of chopped fresh rosemary and oregano (sprinkle in dried herbs if that’s what you have)
- Lots of freshly ground black pepper
- Place the chicken in a large sealable plastic bag.
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour the mixture into the bag and seal the bag.
- Massage the bag to distribute the marinade throughout the chicken parts.
- Place the bag on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and refrigerate overnight or 24 hours for maximum impact.
- While marinating, periodically massage the bag and turn it over to keep the chicken pieces well coated.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Remove the chicken from the bag and place the pieces in a roasting pan tossed with a little of the marinade.
- Discard the remaining marinade.
- Bake the chicken for about 40 minutes and remove from the oven.
- Grill the chicken over medium-high heat while basting with the marinade and juices from the roasting pan.
- Turn the pieces frequently and don’t let them burn. Grill until the skin is nicely charred and crisp.
- Grill the raw marinated chicken over medium heat, basting with the marinade and turning frequently, until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear (about 175°F on an instant read meat thermometer).
- Increase the heat to medium-high near the end of cooking to nicely char and crisp the skin. Discard the remaining marinade.