When I was growing up, there weren’t many cooking tasks that fell to my dad, but that just meant the things he did make were—and still are!—his specialties. He’s the matzo ball master in our home, the expert hamantaschen baker for Purim, and, most importantly, the family grilling expert. Although we always had a gas grill, Dad has never been one to compromise on taste; his trick for great grilled chicken—a foil packet of soaked wood chips thrown right onto the grates—is a low-effort way to infuse grilled foods with plenty of delicious smoky flavor.
Of course, this technique isn’t quite the same as cooking chicken in an actual smoker, but for those of us without the extra barbecue gear, this trick makes a big difference. Now that I live on my own in Manhattan, I’m very lucky to live in an apartment with an outdoor space for a grill. My smokerless smoked chicken recipe is a celebration of the many chickens Dad grilled for us over the years. This one is spatchcocked—meaning the spine is removed and the bird is pressed flat —which makes it perfect for grilling, and results in faster and more even cooking. This step is easy to do at home, you can also ask your butcher to do it for you.
I dry brine my chicken in the fridge for at least 24 hours, then use yellow mustard to bind a sweet and tangy dry rub all over. I also like to whip my own sweet-and-savory barbecue sauce, which runs double duty as a finishing glaze and a dipping sauce. When I’m grilling over charcoal, I don’t even bother with Dad’s foil packet—I find it works just as well to throw some hardwood hickory or fruitwood pellets directly over the coals, enveloping the bird in a thick, fragrant smoke. This method results in an absolutely superior (and easily scalable) grilled chicken, perfect for summer and fall cookouts.
For the chicken:
- 1 Tbsp. mustard powder
- 1 Tbsp. pimentón (smoked paprika)
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- One 4-lb. chicken, giblets removed
- 2 tsp. yellow mustard
- 1½ cup wood pellets (for charcoal) or wood chips soaked for 1 hour (for gas)
- Neutral oil
For the barbecue sauce:
- ¾ cup ketchup
- ¾ cup pineapple juice
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. molasses
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 tsp. kosher salt