The Best Spiced Chicken Rub (and how to extinguish a grease fire)

Last summer, my Aunt introduced me to the best spiced chicken rub ever at our family reunion in Bass Lake. One of the nights, my Aunt and Uncle barbecued a few chickens from their harvest and it was the best I’ve ever tasted. In. My. Life. They had raised the chickens themselves (organic and free range to the max), which makes the quality unbeatable. But, they also used a homemade rub that was total perfection.

Since the reunion, every chicken I have barbecued has been rubbed down with this rub. As instructed by my Aunt, who is basically a professional chicken handler, I always choose skin-on, bone-in… which could have something to do with the grease fire I started last week.

On Thursday night I barbecued chicken. I didn’t do anything different than my normal routine, except this time I managed to start a grease fire in my BBQ. It was actually a little bit scary. The BBQ was loaded with several large drumsticks, two ears of corn and a few hot dogs. The corn had been on the grill for about 10 minutes, the chicken 5 and the hot dogs about 2. The lid was down and I had walked into the kitchen to grab something. In that time, something sparked a fire that was large enough to come out of the sides of the BBQ. I ran out, turned off the grill, and lifted the lid. I was expecting the fire to die down immediately, since the gas was off. Instead it blazed. My kids had run out, a few neighbors were looking on and I was feeling a little panicked. I took a deep breath and made sure my head was on straight. Then I went into firefighter mode – I shut the lid, told the kids to get inside, moved the tree, and yelled to my onlooking neighbors, “Baking soda, right?!” They replied “YES!” I sprinted to my garage, where I keep my jumbo size Baking Soda, and back up to the BBQ. With a few handfuls of baking soda, the fire let up. Victory!

While it was no major catastrophe, it sure left one hell of a mess. The entire wall and window above the grill were charred. The grill was filthy, coated in grease and baking soda. Not cool. Fortunately, my amazing husband cleaned it up this morning. It was quite the chore too – he was scrubbing, spraying and sweeping for nearly 3 hours.

So, the moral of the story is: Baking Soda. Oh, and this delicious recipe…

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Recipe: The Best Spiced Chicken Rub

  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • zest of 1 whole lemon
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil

Mix all of these ingredients in a jar. The rub will keep for about a week in the fridge.

As far as preparing the chicken for the grill, I follow these steps:

  1. Start with bone-in, skin-on chicken. Either whole or pre cut.
  2. Rinse the chicken with water and pat it dry.
  3. Butterfly the whole chicken. Here’s a video that makes the process very clear – WARNING: do not watch if raw chicken handling grosses you out.
  4. Apply the rub all over the chicken. Really rub the heck out of it – all over, both sides, under the skin, over the skin, etc. You get it.
  5. I let it marinade for as long as possible, but often only have 30 minutes or so.
  6. Heat the grill to Medium (my Uncle would say Low) and cook, flipping once.

Cheers, to chicken!


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