I don’t pretend to remember a lot about my younger days, but occasionally seeing certain things will trigger a memory or two. A small fishing pond, a country road lined with hardwood fence posts and barbed wire, and then, well, there’s that whole can of spam thing, haha. But whenever I spy a pack of chicken leg quarters at the grocery store, I do think back to the old style backyard cookout. It seems they were always a staple at our backyard cookout, the aroma of chicken skin burning amongst the customary surroundings of chain link fences, manicured zoysia lawns, and brick lined flower beds. The leg quarters were always positioned alongside a pork steak or two on a traditional round, open grill that could be raised and lowered by cranking a little handle sticking out of the side. Some models even had a curved piece of steel that could be hooked on the outside of the grill forming a wind screen of sorts. That’s what we had, and it was useful for keeping a fire somewhat controlled, although it didn’t prevent the flare-ups and the burning of chicken skin now did it, hehe? That’s why the handy Tupperware squirt bottle filled with water was always nearby as well. So whenever I see chicken leg quarters now, I take a little mental trip back to those days, hanging around that open grill, hoping to get a taste of a piece of meat that may have dislodged itself from the bigger piece, or maybe was torn off while moving the chicken around the grill. Grills have changed dramatically since then, but that smell of chicken skin crisping up hasn’t, and to this day still brings on those memories. We’ll grill things a little differently today, but still in the spirit of the old-time backyard cookouts. We’re grillin’ a couple of good ol’ Chicken Leg Quarters, in a backyard complete with a chain link fence, but without the manicured zoysia lawn or brick lined flower beds.
The chicken was first patted dry and left in the fridge to really get the skin dry and free of excess moisture, giving it a crisp skin when grilled. Then, it’s generously coated with a mixture called Northwoods Seasoning, from Penzey’s Spices. It’s a great mix of some really pleasing herbs and spices, and can be magic on the right piece of meat or poultry. This is one of those times. Rub it on, rub it in, and make sure you get it under the skin as well, to make sure all the chicken gets its share of the lovin’.
A nice hot fire with a couple chunks of hickory wood will do this chicken good, especially when built for indirect grilling at about 300-350 degrees on the cooler side. I wanted to add in little bit of that pit style flavor and aroma, so a piece of foil was laid under the chicken, capturing the juices and allowing them to sizzle and smoke their way back up to the meat.
Then, instead of standing around and watching the grill with refreshment in hand, you know, honing my craft, hehe, I just put the lid on and let it do its thing for about 20 minutes. After 20, time to flip and rotate, kinda like that one weird relative that always threatened to run away and join the circus. In another 20, your chicken will be just about done, so now we can put those chicken quarters skin side down directly over the coals to crisp that skin and reach the 165 degree finish line.
This is when the grilled chicken juices falling on the hardwood flare up, mixing with the wisps of hickory wood smoke once again bring back memories of those old cookouts. Mouths start to water and hopes start to raise that this chicken will be juicy and flavorful, and it was.
The ways we grill may have changed from the old days, but the reasons remain the same. A great, satisfying meal, surrounded by friends and family, in the place you call home.
Because Life Is Better Wood Fired