How to Blacken Chicken Like a ProBrooke McLay
You’ve been to restaurants. You’ve seen blackened chicken on the menu, and maybe you’ve maybe even ordered this high-flavored, moist, spicy meat. But, for most of us, that’s where our relationship with blackened chicken stays…at the restaurant. But no more! It’s time to bring this Cajun classic home, and the best part: you can make it on your grill in minutes, using spices you’ve already got in your pantry.
In fact, for just nine bucks, you can blacken enough chicken to feed your family. And what is better than a delicious meal and an affordable meal?
In my opinion, too many people make blackening meats a terrifying process. They demand high-quality (even commercial grade) equipment, insisting that no other method can possibly duplicate the process. The “process” of blackening any meat (chicken, fish, steak) is basically to coat the meat in massive amounts of butter, dredge it thickly in gorgeous spices (typically oregano, thyme, cayenne, and other peppers) then cook the chicken at a high enough heat to char the milk fats and spices. This can certainly be done on commerical grade equipment. Some people swear by the cast-iron skillet method. But I think commercial equipment is too out of my price range, and cast iron skillets bring you too close to over charring the meat, leaving it tough and chewy.
Enter the grill. Grilling offers the perfect alternative to making incredible blackened chicken at home. The combination of flame-kissed, butter marinated, spice laden meat is as good (if not better) than the overpriced meals you can buy at any local restaurant.
Blackening chicken on the grill is simple, fast, and easy if you follow my three basic tips. And, when served over this Strawberry Pepita Salad with Sweet Cilantro dressing I’ve cooked up for you…well. You may just let loose with that classic, Cajun adage, laissez les bon temps rouler! Let the good times roll!
How to make perfect blackened chicken on the grill:
Tip #1: Use real butter. Margarine may be cheaper, but it doesn’t blacken the way that pure butter does, with it’s glorious milk solids. Go for the grocery splurge, throw a stick of the yellow stuff into your cart, and prepare to be amazed.
Tip #2: Don’t go skimpy on the spices. The following recipe for blackened chicken offers approximate amounts of each spice. If you like cayenne pepper more than black pepper, feel free to heave an extra sprinkle of it into your spice mixture. Whatever your taste preferences dictate is a-ok with this recipe. Like more celery salt? Go for it. Think oregano is the bee’s knees? Smash an extra heap in the rub mixture. And, when it’s time to rub the spices onto the chicken, do it heartily. Heavily. Passionately. Live, baby, live. That’s the true Cajun way.
Tip #3: Preheat the heck out of your grill. When it comes time to slap that spiced chicken onto the grate, it’d better be so hot the mascara starts to sweat from your lashes. This, in and of itself is a good tip, but the real secret comes after you’ve plopped your chicken over the crazy-hot coals (or propane-heated metal). At this point, turn the heat down until it’s nearly touching the lowest setting possible, then close your grill cover. Close it, I say! This step is vital in causing that gorgeous charred look and flavor to seep over the outside of your chicken, while still maintaining a piece of meat so moist and spicy that it’ll make you weak in the knuckles.
With grill apron on, tines in hand, the above “pro” tips read and taken to heart, you are officially ready to become a chicken blackener. I now gift to you the recipe. Blacken. Eat. Enjoy!
Blackened Chicken Spice Rub
1 1/2 t. celery salt
1 t. cumin
1 t. smoked paprika
1 t. ground oregano
1 t. chili powder
1 t. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. thyme
½ t. ground mustard
½ t. white pepper
½ t. black pepper
½ c. melted butter
2-4 chicken breasts, sliced butterfly style down the center
Heat outside grill to preheat, closing the lid and allowing the grill to become as hot as possible. In a small bowl, stir all spices together. Place chicken in a shallow baking dish, and pour melted butter over the chicken, rubbing to coat well. Sprinkle spice mixtures generously over chicken, ensuring all sides are well coated. Place chicken on hot grill, then turn the heat immediately down to the lowest setting possible. Allow to cook for 5-6 minutes. Flip chicken, allowing it to grill on the other side until cooked through.
Serve with baked sweet potatoes, traditional potato salad, or coleslaw.