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Milk Street Bowtie Piri Piri Chicken

Piri Piri Chicken

Appears in July-August 2017

2½ hours 30 minutes active

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Piri Piri Chicken

Free

Piri piri can refer to a finger-staining chili pepper sauce—usually spiked with garlic, sugar and plenty of cayenne, lemon and paprika—or to whatever the sauce douses. Its origins are Portuguese, but today it is found in South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia. Ancho, chipotle and regular chili powders tasted off in this recipe, but New Mexico or California chili powders worked well. If you can’t find either, purchase whole chilies, toast and seed them, then finely grind them. Or simply leave out the chili powder and increase the paprika to ¼ cup. Fresno chilies are fresh red chilies similar in size and shape to jalapeños, but with pointy tips; if they are unavailable, fresh cherry peppers work well, too.

4

Servings

Tip

Don’t reduce the number of fresh chilies in the sauce; all eight were needed for flavor and color. To reduce spiciness, remove some or all of the seeds and ribs from the chilies before processing. And don't substitute Thai chilies for the Fresnos; they pack far more heat.

2½ hours

30 minutes active

3 tablespoons New Mexico or California chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 4- to 4½-pound whole chicken, spatchcocked
2 tablespoons white sugar
8 medium Fresno chilies, stemmed and quartered
3 medium garlic cloves
1/3 cup lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
Ingredients
  • 3

    tablespoons New Mexico or California chili powder

  • 1

    tablespoon ground cumin

  • 1

    tablespoon ground coriander

  • 1

    tablespoon sweet paprika

  • tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1

    4- to 4½-pound whole chicken, spatchcocked

  • 2

    tablespoons white sugar

  • 8

    medium Fresno chilies, stemmed and quartered

  • 3

    medium garlic cloves

  • cup lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons)

  • ¼
  • 1

    cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped

Directions
  1. 01
    In a medium bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika and 2 teaspoons salt. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the mixture to a small bowl, setting the rest aside. Loosen the skin over the chicken's breast and thighs by gently working your fingers between it and the flesh. Using a small spoon, evenly distribute the 2 tablespoons of spice mixture under the skin, then rub it into the flesh. Set the chicken on a baking sheet.
    See Demo
  2. 02
    In a food processor, combine the reserved spice mixture, the sugar, chilies and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the bowl as needed. With the machine running, pour in the lemon juice and vinegar; process until smooth, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Measure out ¼ cup of the sauce, reserving the rest for later, and brush evenly over the chicken, including the bone side. Let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
    See Demo
  3. 03
    Meanwhile, prepare a grill for indirect, high-heat cooking. For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents. For a gas grill, set half of the burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate. Set the chicken skin side up on the cooler side of the grill. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Using tongs, rotate the chicken 180 degrees to bring the far side of the chicken closest to the heat. Cover and continue to cook until the thickest part of the breast reaches 160°F and the thighs reach 175°F, another 25 to 35 minutes.
    See Demo
  4. 04
    Brush the chicken with 2 tablespoons of the reserved sauce, then use tongs to flip it skin side down onto the hot side of the grill. Cook until the skin is lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer skin side up to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Stir the cilantro into the remaining sauce, then baste the chicken once more. Serve with the sauce on the side.
    See Demo
  5. 05
    Oven-cooking method: Heat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spread 1 cup kosher salt over it. Mist a wire rack with cooking spray, then set over the salt. Arrange the seasoned, sauce-brushed chicken skin side up on the rack and let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Roast the chicken until well browned, 45 to 50 minutes. Brush with 2 tablespoons of the reserved sauce, then continue to roast until the thickest part of the breast reaches 160°F and the thighs reach 175°F, another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Stir the cilantro into the remaining sauce, then baste the chicken once more. Serve with the sauce on the side.
Tip: Don’t reduce the number of fresh chilies in the sauce; all eight were needed for flavor and color. To reduce spiciness, remove some or all of the seeds and ribs from the chilies before processing. And don't substitute Thai chilies for the Fresnos; they pack far more heat.
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Reviews
Michael L.
May 27, 2022
Love this on my Kamado Joe
This is my go-to grilled chicken. I don't finish it in the oven. I use the grill for the whole process.
Heidi P.
June 28, 2022
SO GOOD
First time grilling a chicken. It will not be the last! I took all the seeds and membranes out of 7 of the peppers and kept them for the 8th. The spice level was medium high. We were still able to add some extra sauce.
Gisela H.

I used one chili with all of its seeds, which provided a very flavourable and spicy dish without being burning hot.

Jonathan P.

This was excellent. Lots of flavor but not too spicy. I served it with an ice cold beer. Perfect Sunday night dinner. I would definitely make this again.

Carl M.

Absolutely delicious and easy to make. The leftover sauce went great over scrambled eggs in the morning.

Natalia S.

Amazing!!! I made this on gas grill. Perfection!!! I was busy so it saw out and marinated for 2 hours at room temp... (ops) it was AMAZING!!!! The sauce is perfection!!! I only left the Seeds in ONE of the Fresno chilies - the rest I removed seeds and ribs and it had a little kick to it but not overly spicy 🌶 sooooo good!!!!

Barbara C.

Aren't Fresno chilies much hotter on the Scoville scale than the cherry peppers recommended as a substitute? I substitute jalapeños for Fresno, which I can't usually find in my neighborhood.

Lynn C.

Hi Barbara -

You can certainly substitute with jalapeños for the Fresno chilies but, since we wanted the traditional red color here, we chose to go with red cherry peppers. The cherry bomb varietal, which is the most commonly sold, ranges between 2,500 and 5,000 on the Scoville scale. Fresnos vary wildly and can be between 2,500 - 10,000, though most land somewhere in the middle to lower end of that range.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

David E.

I can't wait to make this soon but I'd love to have a rough indication of the grill temperature. "High-heat" indirect grilling means what? 300? 350? I smoke at about 220 but at a temperature like that I wouldn't get any char when I move the chicken to the hot side of the grill. But I worry that 400 or above would cook the breasts too quickly. (I know that oven temps for a spatchcocked roast chicken can provide a rough guide but it's not as easy to regulate a charcoal grill.)

Lynn C.

Hi David -

We didn't check the internal temperature of the grill during testing, but we expect that the temperature inside the grill should be between 350 and 375 degrees. Make sure to use a grill thermometer that can slip through the lid vent (so you don't have to remove the cover) for the most accurate internal grill temperature.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Christopher H.

The chicken is currently on the grill, so I can’t weigh on on the finished product but wanted to weigh in on the sauce. It’s positively delicious and I could see using it on just about anything or even as a dipping sauce for chips, veggies, etc

Christopher H.

Just to follow up, the finished product was fantastic, this one will definitely be going in my regular rotation!

Peter Chris S.

This was amazeballs. The cilantro in the sauce brought a vibrant freshness that put everything over the top. Chicken was moist, flavorful, and zesty. Next time I'll probably seed the Fresnos so my son doesn't run to the fridge for water every 5 minutes (he loved the flavor, but not the spiciness).


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Piri Piri Chicken

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

2½ hours

30 minutes active

Tip

Don’t reduce the number of fresh chilies in the sauce; all eight were needed for flavor and color. To reduce spiciness, remove some or all of the seeds and ribs from the chilies before processing. And don't substitute Thai chilies for the Fresnos; they pack far more heat.

Ingredients
  • 3

    tablespoons New Mexico or California chili powder

  • 1

    tablespoon ground cumin

  • 1

    tablespoon ground coriander

  • 1

    tablespoon sweet paprika

  • tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1

    4- to 4½-pound whole chicken, spatchcocked

  • 2

    tablespoons white sugar

  • 8

    medium Fresno chilies, stemmed and quartered

  • 3

    medium garlic cloves

  • cup lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons)

  • ¼
  • 1

    cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped

Step 1 of 5

Mix the spices

3
tablespoons New Mexico or California chili powder
1
tablespoon ground cumin
1
tablespoon ground coriander
1
tablespoon sweet paprika
2
teaspoons kosher salt
1
4- to 4½-pound whole chicken, spatchcocked

In a medium bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika and 2 teaspoons salt. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the mixture to a small bowl, setting the rest aside.


Loosen the skin over the chicken's breast and thighs by gently working your fingers between it and the flesh. Using a small spoon, evenly distribute the 2 tablespoons of spice mixture under the skin, then rub it into the flesh. Set the chicken on a baking sheet.

Step 2 of 5

Pulse the sauce

2
tablespoons white sugar
8
medium Fresno chilies, stemmed and quartered
3
medium garlic cloves
cup lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons)
¼
cup red wine vinegar

In a food processor, combine the reserved spice mixture, the sugar, chilies and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the bowl as needed. With the machine running, pour in the lemon juice and vinegar; process until smooth, scraping down the bowl once or twice.


Measure out ¼ cup of the sauce, reserving the rest for later, and brush evenly over the chicken, including the bone side. Let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Step 3 of 5

Prepare the grill and begin to cook

Meanwhile, prepare a grill for indirect, high-heat cooking. For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents. For a gas grill, set half of the burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate.


Set the chicken skin side up on the cooler side of the grill. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Using tongs, rotate the chicken 180 degrees to bring the far side of the chicken closest to the heat. Cover and continue to cook until the thickest part of the breast reaches 160°F and the thighs reach 175°F, another 25 to 35 minutes.

Step 4 of 5

Brush the chicken once more, make the sauce, and serve

1
cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped

Brush the chicken with 2 tablespoons of the reserved sauce, then use tongs to flip it skin side down onto the hot side of the grill. Cook until the skin is lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer skin side up to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.


Stir the cilantro into the remaining sauce, then baste the chicken once more. Serve with the sauce on the side.

Step 5 of 5

Oven-cooking method

Oven-cooking method: Heat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spread 1 cup kosher salt over it. Mist a wire rack with cooking spray, then set over the salt. Arrange the seasoned, sauce-brushed chicken skin side up on the rack and let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Roast the chicken until well browned, 45 to 50 minutes. Brush with 2 tablespoons of the reserved sauce, then continue to roast until the thickest part of the breast reaches 160°F and the thighs reach 175°F, another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Stir the cilantro into the remaining sauce, then baste the chicken once more. Serve with the sauce on the side.

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