During the week, it’s quick and easy to grill some boneless, skinless chicken breast. But on weekends, when you might have a wee bit more time, choose bone-in and skin-on chicken.
Chicken thighs and leg quarters often cost less than breasts and are more forgiving on the grill, if you pay attention. The key to cooking these pieces is mastering a two-zone fire. Once you do, you won’t end up with chicken that’s way too charred on one side and still raw in the middle.
For a two-zone fire, you need the heat to be medium-hot in one part of the grill and then cooler in another. The cooler part can be an area with no heat source at all (indirect heat) or very low heat.
Grill today’s chicken quarters skin-side down first and over medium-high heat to get nice grill marks. Turn them over and continue grilling over lower heat, which will help render more fat, prevent flare-ups and crisp the skin. Close the lid and grill until the chicken pieces are cooked through.
Spicy Garlic Chicken Leg Quarters
Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 15 minutes (plus marinating time) / Total time: 50 minutes.
From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
8 chicken leg quarters (about 10 ounces each)
Oil for grill grates
FOR THE MARINADE:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons minced sweet onion
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
FOR THE GLAZE (OPTIONAL):
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup orange marmalade or apricot jam
Trim any excess skin from the leg quarters. Using a sharp knife, score several slits on the skin and a little through the flesh of the chicken. Place the leg quarters in a large, plastic, sealable bag.
In a bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning for a flavor balance. It should be a little spicy and garlicky followed by a hint of sweetness. The mixture will be almost paste-like.
Pour the marinade over the chicken in the bag, massaging it into the meat. Seal the bag and refrigerate chicken at least four hours or overnight.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling. Remove the chicken from the bag and blot dry with paper towel.
If using the glaze, place glaze ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk until the marmalade is melted; set aside.
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grill grates and heat another 5 minutes.
Place the chicken pieces over direct heat on the grill skin-side down first. Do not crowd. Grill until you get nice char marks, about 8 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over, reduce the heat to medium and continue to grill until the pieces are thoroughly cooked, 15 to 18 minutes depending on how big the leg quarters are.
If desired, about 5 minutes before the chicken is done, brush the skin side with the glaze, turn over and grill a few minutes on the skin side. Serve immediately.
Nutritional analysis per 1 leg quarter with skin and glaze: 328 calories (49% from fat), 18 grams fat (5 grams sat. fat), 10 grams carbohydrates, 30 grams protein, 220 mg sodium, 105 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.