Chicken is easily the most searched for ingredient on New York Times Cooking, and it stands to reason: It’s economical, it’s widely available, it’s better for the climate than other meats. And it’s endlessly adaptable, a blank canvas for all sorts of preparations and vibrant, delicious seasonings. In the cold weather months, that means cozy soups, braises and burnished roasts. But in the summer, grilling becomes the method of choice, as it gets you out of a hot kitchen, and adds a layer of fire-kissed flavor and texture to the otherwise mild-mannered meat. You can always salt the dickens out of chicken, grill it well and get tasty results, but if you’re looking for something a bit more exciting, here are 12 of our favorite grilled chicken recipes that will keep you busy and full through Memorial Day weekend and beyond.
1. Mayo-Marinated Chicken With Chimichurri
J. Kenji López-Alt has a clever trick for keeping grilled chicken breasts tender: He slathers them with mayonnaise, then lets them marinate up to 24 hours before grilling. In this recipe, he mixes the mayo with a little chimichurri, but you can flavor it with almost anything. Pesto, salsa verde, bottled barbecue sauce, jarred Thai curry paste, teriyaki sauce or mole work equally well.
Recipe: Mayo-Marinated Chicken With Chimichurri
2. Grilled Soy-Basted Chicken Thighs With Spicy Cashews
This salty-spicy-sweet recipe from Sam Sifton is a reader and staff favorite. Boneless chicken thighs rest in a combination of sesame oil, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and black pepper. Then, while grilled, they’re basted with a mixture of soy, ginger and brown sugar, creating a shiny, impossibly delicious lacquer. Make a double batch of the Sriracha cashews for snacking later.
Recipe: Grilled Soy-Basted Chicken Thighs With Spicy Cashews
3. Grilled Chicken and Corn With Tartar Butter
Tartar sauce is typically served with fish, but this smart, complete meal from Kay Chun will make you rethink that idea. She uses a homemade tartar butter made with butter, pickles, capers and fresh parsley to season grilled boneless chicken thighs, corn and okra.
Recipe: Grilled Chicken and Corn With Tartar Butter
4. Ginger-Lime Chicken
Kenji’s mayo chicken (above) inspired this lively recipe from Ali Slagle. She added ginger and lime zest to the mayonnaise for a light and bright flavor that you’ll crave again and again. (For those without a grill, she offers stovetop instructions.)
Recipe: Ginger-Lime Chicken
5. Tajín Grilled Chicken
Tajín is a Mexican seasoning made with dried, ground red chiles, sea salt and dehydrated lime juice. In this recipe from Rick A. Martinez, Tajín is combined with agave syrup, orange juice, orange zest, chipotles, adobo, garlic and olive oil to make a glossy, smoky-sweet sauce for grilled chicken.
Recipe: Tajín Grilled Chicken
6. Grilled Chicken With Parsley-Olive Sauce
Marinating chicken before grilling can add loads of flavor, but, if you don’t have the time or didn’t plan ahead, you can still make a great grilled chicken dish. Ali Slagle actually prefers not marinating, but grilling, then seasoning enthusiastically after, a technique she employs in this recipe. Grill the chicken, toss with olives and olive brine, lemon zest and juice, fresh parsley and chile, and let it rest for 5 to 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe: Grilled Chicken With Parsley-Olive Sauce
7. Grilled Roast Chicken With Spinach-Ricotta Crostini
Grilling a whole chicken may not be something you’ve ever considered, but Melissa Clark is a fan. “You get the incredibly succulent meat and brittle-crisp, burnished skin of a roast chicken, combined with the deep smoky flavor of the grill,” she wrote. To make it, splay the chicken to ensure even cooking, then use your grill like an outdoor oven and cook it in a skillet on the grates. (The skillet helps to distribute the heat and catches the juices, so they don’t burn in the fire.) Use those schmaltzy juices to cook spinach that you’ll pile on top of ricotta toasts.
Recipe: Grilled Roast Chicken With Spinach-Ricotta Crostini
8. Barbecued Chicken
Sam Sifton’s recipe yields perfectly burnished barbecue chicken with a sticky sweet sauce, thanks to a basting technique he picked up from the chef and outdoor cooking maven Adam Perry Lang, who thins out his sauce with water, then bastes the chicken over and over. This allows it to reduce and intensify rather than seize up and burn as a thicker sauce might. One more thing: Be sure to move and flip the pieces fairly frequently to keep them from burning.
Recipe: Barbecued Chicken
9. Grilled Za’atar Chicken With Garlic Yogurt and Cilantro
In this recipe, Melissa Clark marinates boneless chicken thighs in a zesty marinade of za’atar, yogurt, garlic, lemon zest, cilantro, oregano, salt and black pepper before grilling them until charred with crisp edges. Yes, you can use boneless chicken breasts in place of the thighs, but keep an eye on them; the yogurt will help keep them moist, but they’ll still cook faster than the dark meat.
Recipe: Grilled Za’atar Chicken With Garlic Yogurt and Cilantro
10. Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
Anchovy-marinated chicken and romaine lettuce are grilled in this backyard version of the classic salad from Florence Fabricant. Grilling the lettuce might seem like an odd choice, but it’s a brilliant trick that leaves the green leaves charred and crisp, and the insides tender and barely sweet while maintaining the lettuce’s signature crunch.
Recipe: Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
11. Grilled Chicken Breasts With Turmeric and Lime
“Simple to prepare. Outstanding results.” “This recipe is easy peasy, and totally delish!” “Perfect in every way!” This old-school recipe from Pierre Franey first ran in The Times more than 30 years ago, but it’s still a reader favorite. Marinate boneless breasts in a combination of turmeric, rosemary, garlic, lime juice and olive oil, grill (or broil), then brush them with melted butter. (Keep in mind that when this recipe was developed, boneless chicken breasts weren’t nearly as enormous as most are today, so adjust your grilling time accordingly.)
Recipe: Grilled Chicken Breasts With Turmeric and Lime
12. Yakitori (Grilled Chicken Skewers)
Yakitori is Japanese skewered and grilled chicken that can use approximately 30 different chicken parts, from momo, or chicken thigh, to nankotsu, or chicken cartilage. In this recipe, Melissa Clark calls for marinating chicken thighs, gizzards and livers in a savory-sweet sauce of ginger, sake, mirin, soy sauce, garlic and a touch of brown sugar, then grilling or broiling and scattering with chopped scallions. Serve it alongside something fresh and green.
Recipe: Yakitori (Grilled Chicken Skewers)
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