Rotisserie Chicken Legs, Churrascaria Style
Steven Raichlen’s Planet Barbecue has a bunch of great rotisserie recipes from Brazilian churrascarias. One recipe he didn’t include in the book, but that he showed a picture of, is frango – rotisserie chicken legs. I’m always looking for a new way to cook dark meat chicken*, and I love my rotisserie, so I knew I had to give it a try.
*If you only knew the power of the Dark Side …wait, I promised I’d stop.
My big question was: Is it worth it to use the rotisserie with chicken legs? I have a good recipe for cooking chicken pieces on the grill. Is it worth the extra effort to skewer all those legs onto the spit? The answer: oh my, yes. The extra work results in juicy chicken legs, with the evenly browned and crackling crisp skin that only comes from rotisserie grilling.
The only problem I had to overcome was: how do you keep something as small as a chicken leg attached to the spit? As it turns* out, eight chicken legs was more than two spit forks could hold on to. I could get the main spit, and the fork prongs through the two end legs, but the four legs in the middle were only skewered in one spot by the spit. The result was the four outside legs, held by the forks, would rotate without any problem, but the four middle wound up hanging loose while the spit rotated inside of them. Not exactly what I was hoping for; if the middle legs weren’t turning, then so much for the browning of the rotisserie!
*Get it? Turns? On the Rotisserie? OK, I’ll stop that too.
**In Brazil, they use sword-shaped skewers (where the wide, thin blade holds the chicken steady), or twin skewers (where the two spit prongs hold the chicken steady.)
To fix this problem, I simulate twin skewers using my extra set of spit forks. I put a new spit fork on for every two legs. The result was four forks and eight legs. Easy!
- Grill with Rotisserie attachment (I used a Weber Summit with an infrared rotisserie burner. Here is the current version of my grill.)
- Aluminum foil drip pan (9″x12″, or whatever fits your grill)
- Eight chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks, still attached)
- 4 tsp of kosher salt (roughly 1/2 tsp per leg)
1. Skewer and salt the legs: Skewer the legs on the spit, two legs for each spit fork. I skewer the legs at a 45 degree angle, slightly to the thigh side of the leg. It’s OK if the legs overlap slightly, but try to keep a slight gap between the legs so they brown properly. Salt the legs heavily, then let rest at room temperature while preheating the grill.
*See the pictures below for an explanation of this process – it’s tough to describe, but easy to show.
2. Prepare the grill: Set your grill up for rotisserie cooking at high heat. For my Weber Summit, this means removing the grates, turning the two outer burners (burners 1 and 6) to high, and turning the infrared burner to high. Then I put my drip pan in the middle, over the unlit burners, and let the grill preheat for ten to fifteen minutes. (See here for more rotisserie setup details.)
3. Cook the legs: Put the spit on the rotisserie, and start the motor turning. Cook the legs with the lid closed for 30 to 45 minutes, checking every ten minutes or so, until the legs are well browned and 180F in the thickest part. Legs are tough to overcook, so I would favor browning over temperature – you can go as high as 190F without overcooking them.
4. Serve: Remove the spit from the grill, and remove the legs to a platter. Let them rest for ten to fifteen minutes. Serve whole, or cut the legs into drumstick and thigh portions before serving.
*Tempero: I love the simplicity of this recipe, but it would be every bit as authentic if you brushed the chicken legs with a tempero sauce. Combine the following: the juice of three limes, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and 3 cloves of minced garlic. Brush this on the chicken a few times during the last ten minutes of cooking.
*Thighs only: Instead of legs, just use chicken thighs.
*Wood smoke: Add 1 cup of soaked wood chips, wrapped in foil (gas grill) or a fist sized chunk of wood to the fire before the chicken legs.
*The beauty of this recipe is simplicity. You have chicken, salt, and a rotisserie. It doesn’t get much more elemental, and the results are amazing. My lovely wife said “these are as good as the wings from your rotisserie chicken!” From her, this is high praise, since she always goes for the wings first.
*Traditionally, the meat is carved off the spit at the table by a server. This isn’t realistic with my Summit’s spit fork – it’s almost four feet long. I’d rather just remove the legs from the spit and serve them individually.
*If you don’t have the extra spit forks for your rotisserie spit, you can try one of two things. First, just pack the legs closer together, until they hold each other in place while the rotisserie spins. This will leave you with uncrisped skin where the pieces are touching, but still gives you pretty good chicken. The better option is to use your spit forks to attach the end pieces, then run a regular kebab skewer through the thigh portion of all the legs to pin them all together. Depending on the length of your skewers, you may have to use more than one to do this.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Don’t have a rotisserie? Try my Grilled Chicken Pieces Basic Technique instead.
Want to cook the whole bird? Use my Rotisserie Chicken recipe.
Click here for my other rotisserie recipes.
Steven Raichlen: Planet Barbecue (From his pictures in the Brazilian grilling section)
|Check out my cookbook, Rotisserie Grilling.|
Everything you could ask about the rotisserie,
plus 50 (mostly) new recipes to get you cooking.
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