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Grilled Five-Spice Chicken

Unspeakably popular at Vietnamese restaurants, grilled five-spice chicken is easy to replicate at home. You can also use the marinade on chicken parts as opposed to a whole chicken, but a butterflied bird is quite dramatic and no trouble to maneuver on a grill. The chicken skin will char easily if placed directly over the coals or gas flame, thanks to the sugar in the marinade, so be sure to grill it over indirect heat. The exterior will still develop a honey brown gloss thanks to the soy sauce and five-spice powder, and the interior will remain juicy as can be.–Janet Fletcher

LC Screw-Your-Courage-to-the-Sticking Place Note

There’s no shame in asking the butcher to butterfly a chicken for you. That said, you can, of course, butterfly it yourself. All this requires is a sturdy pair of kitchen shears and a little know-how (see the first step of the recipe that follows).

Grilled Five-Spice Chicken Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 35 M
  • 8 H, 20 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons peeled, minced lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  • 1. To butterfly the chicken, first reach for poultry shears or a chef’s knife.

    If using poultry shears, place the chicken breast side down on a cutting board and cut from the neck to the tail along both sides of the backbone to release it. Turn the chicken breast side up and press on the breastbone with the heel of your hand to flatten the bird. Cut off the wing tips and discard.

    If using a chef’s knife, place the chicken breast side up on a cutting board and insert the chef’s knife into the body cavity. Cut along each side of the backbone to release it. Press on the breastbone with the heel of your hand to flatten the bird. Cut off the wing tips and discard.
  • 2. Place the garlic, shallot, lemongrass, ginger, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped. (If you don’t have a food processor, bash the ingredients together in a large mortar or use the flat side of a chef’s knife to mix them together on the cutting board.) With the motor running, add the soy sauce through the feed tube and puree until the paste is as fine as possible. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the fish sauce, five-spice powder, and pepper.
  • 3. Place the flattened chicken in a large baking dish or in a large resealable plastic bag, pour the marinade over it, and turn the bird to coat on both sides. Cover with plastic wrap or seal the bag and refrigerate. Marinate for 6 to 8 hours, turning at least once or twice.
  • 4. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 1 hour before you plan to grill. Prepare a moderate charcoal fire for indirect grilling or preheat a gas grill to medium 375ºF (190°C), leaving one burner unlit for indirect grilling.
  • 5. Remove the chicken from the dish or the bag, reserving the marinade. Brush the skin side of the chicken with some of the marinade. Place the chicken, skin side down, over indirect heat. Cover the grill and cook until the skin is richly browned and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • 6. Brush the meat side of the chicken with the remaining marinade, then turn the chicken, skin side up. Cover the grill and continue to cook over indirect heat until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced or an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone registers 165ºF (74°C), about 15 minutes longer. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving and exclaiming how this is the juiciest chicken you’ve ever pulled from the grill.
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