Recipe first, tidbits second. Enjoy!Print
Whole Grilled Chicken Marinated With a Little Something From the Backyard
Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, this charcoal grilled whole chicken is loaded with flavor thanks to a simple marinade featuring mint and wood sorrel. Spatchcocked for optimal grilling, this chicken is well worth the time it takes to prepare and offers an opportunity to appreciate the wild edibles all around us. In a world where we buy everything at the supermarket, surprise friends and family with how delicious “weeds” can be.
- Prep Time: 4 hours
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 5 hours
- Yield: 5 servings 1x
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Grill
- Cuisine: American
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 mint leaves, chopped
- 1 bunch wood sorrel*, chopped
- 3 tsp salt
- 1 spatchcocked chicken*
*See notes below
- In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, black pepper, cumin, garlic, mint leaves, and wood sorrel. Stir until well mixed; set aside.
- Rub salt all over spatchcocked chicken.
- Place chicken and marinade in gallon Ziploc bag, seal bag, then gently shake to spread marinade all over chicken. Place bagged chicken in refrigerator for at least 3 hours (but no more than 24 hours) for optimal flavor.
- Remove chicken from fridge and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Prepare grill for medium indirect heat. Gas Grill – turn all burners to medium high-heat until grill is hot, about 15 minutes, then turn off middle burner(s) and reduce all other burners to medium. Charcoal Grill – bank two chimney starters full of lit and ashed-over charcoal briquettes on either side of grill and place a drip pan in middle; wait until grill is hot, about 15 minutes.
- Place chicken on grill skin side up over indirect heat. Cover grill and cook until internal temperature of chicken reads 165 degrees F, about 1 hour.
- Remove from grill and let rest 5 minutes before carving.
- WARNING: Foraging for Wood Sorrel – Foraging is fun when done responsibly. If you’re new to foraging, I highly recommend reviewing Good Life Revival’s Seven Rules of Foraging before collecting your wood sorrel to ensure you do so in a safe manner.
- Don’t know how to spatchcock a chicken? – No problem! Follow these easy steps and you’ll have your chicken ready for the grill in no time.
- Ziploc bag alternatives – If you don’t have a gallon Ziploc bag, a large covered bowl or baking sheet work just as well.
- Grill Style and Size – Your indirect heat source setup may look a little different than described in the instructions depending on the style and size of your grill. Just be sure to grill the chicken over medium indirect heat.
Keywords: Charcoal Grill, Whole Chicken, Marinade, Wild Edibles
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This Recipe’s Roots
When the very same brother-in-law who squeezed lemon juice all over my unsuspecting lamb ribs moved cross country and couldn’t fit his brand new charcoal grill in the moving truck, he left it to yours truly. For the better part of a year it lived in our garage until we decided we needed the space back and tried to sell it. Despite its immaculate original packaging and quality brand, no one bought it. Fed up with having to leap over the damn thing every time we wanted to leave the house I finally said screw it and put it together.
It now has a place of honor on our patio and is used (and cleaned!) regularly. We keep it covered from the elements and even bring it inside for bad storms.
If you knew what happened to our last grill you’d understand how big of a deal this is.
I was never big into grilling until we switched from gas to charcoal. With our gas grill I was always afraid of blowing myself up (ridiculous, I know) and rarely used it but the charcoal grill is an entirely different animal. The process of getting it started is no different than lighting a campfire (read: doesn’t involve a large, explosive tank of fuel) and the difference in flavor is unreal.
As for the “inconvenience” or “extra work” that comes with a charcoal grill, I’m rarely in a rush when it comes to food so I really don’t mind. Getting the grill going is part of the fun.
In fact it was while I was waiting for the charcoal to heat up last summer that I had the idea to add wood sorrel and mint to our chicken marinade. Our backyard is loaded with the fragrant plants and I figured the kids would get a kick out of eating something they picked themselves. Now every time we make this recipe they’re in charge of picking the mint and wood sorrel.
Taking a Closer Look
Ever draw a shamrock as a kid for St. Patrick’s Day? Then you already know what wood sorrel looks like. Oxalis acetosella, of the family Oxalidaceae, is a medium sized wild edible weed that grows in most areas across Canada and the United States. It has three heart shaped green leaves and small yellow flowers. If you live in the U.S. odds are you have some of these plants in your backyard.
The leaves, flowers, and immature seed pods of the plant are all edible and have a surprisingly lemony taste. The plant does contain oxalic acid (hence its name) which consumed in large quantities can inhibit calcium uptake so use it sparingly.
This recipe only calls for a little wood sorrel so not to worry!
The smell and bright colors of this chicken marinade are something else. I like to munch on mint leaves while I make it. Can you ever really go wrong when you start with olive oil, lemon, and garlic?
If you’re short on Ziploc bags (which we seem to be more often than not), place the chicken on a large roasting sheet and pour on the marinade. Cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. The bag is better for a more even marinade but this method works just fine in a pinch.
While the chicken is bathing in flavor, get the grill going. I’m a purist and like to start it with paper and briquettes sans chimney and lighter fluid. It takes longer but grilling for our family is an experience, not a means to an end. And given my fear of grilling with propane is it really any wonder that I wouldn’t want to be screwing around with lighter fluid?
This recipe calls for indirect medium heat so it’s best to set up two piles of briquettes on either side and place the drip pan in the middle. See the instructions above for tips on how to set up medium indirect heat on a propane grill. If you have a smaller grill you may need to get creative with how you arrange things.
As you can see, plain old paper works just fine to start the briquettes. That charcoal is roaring!
Once the grill is nice and hot throw the chicken on over the drip pan (or over the indirect heat area on your propane grill) skin side up. It’s not a huge deal if a few drips miss the drip pan. So long as you catch the majority of liquid you shouldn’t have any flame flares ups burn your beautifully marinated chicken.
The next step is to close the lid and wait an hour for the magic to happen. During this window of time it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the grill, not just for fire safety, but for miscellaneous grilling debacles.
Like dogs who think a little too highly of themselves and like to lick the utensils then steal food staged to go on the grill next.
Especially unexpected rain.
Whether you thought you could squeeze a grill session in before the forecast turned to crap or the weather man was wrong again, there’s always a chance of adverse weather. If you were fortunate enough to get the grill hot before it started raining, you should be fine – if not, it’s probably best to change your food plans. (Although those of you with propane grills may get the last laugh on this one since you don’t actually have to start a fire in the rain.)
Whatever twists your grilling adventure has in store, I hope the final result is something positively delicious like this whole grilled chicken marinated with mint and wood sorrel. I mean just look at that crispy skin (if I do say so myself).
And as crispy as this chicken is on the outside, it’s just as juicy on the inside.
What I Like Most About This Recipe
There are two things I particularly love about this recipe.
Number one – time does most of the work. All the time spent marinating in the fridge and on the grill is completely hands off. For maybe 20 minutes of actual work picking the mint and wood sorrel, spatchcocking and marinating the chicken, and firing up the grill, you get an incredibly flavorful entrée. Charcoal grills really are magical when it comes to flavor.
Number two – it’s fun to use herbs from the backyard! There’s something thrilling about picking “wild” plants and eating them. Like it instantly transforms you into an explorer ready to take on backpacking the world with nothing more than a knife and water bottle. (Ok, not really, but it definitely feels like it.)
Half the fun of this recipe is enjoying the great outdoors – the food Mother Nature has to offer us, the fresh air, and the thrill of cooking over a fire. Pour yourself a drink and take a few minutes to enjoy the process, not just the final product.
And for goodness sake, save the chicken spine to make homemade chicken stock.
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