Hawaiian Huli Huli Chicken from Cook’s Illustrated Summer Grilling, 2011

Is it even possible to dislike a dish with the name huli huli? Saying it makes me smile. The thought of eating something called huli huli makes me giggle. Ok, that’s not true. I’m not much of a giggler. The thought of eating something called huli huli makes me chuckle. That’s better.

It was Father’s Day yesterday so I wanted to make Hubby something that was truly special. He loves chicken and he loves spicy. When I saw the ingredients that went into Cook’s Illustrated Huli Huli Chicken, I knew I had a winner. Plus, after my debacle with charring the Charcoal-Grilled Bone-In Chicken Breasts, I had to redeem myself in some way.

The Process
I started this recipe early in the day so the chicken would have plenty of time to marinate. The marinade itself consists of grated fresh ginger and garlic cloves (I find that using my zester on garlic works much better than a press; nothing is wasted and it’s easier to clean) simmered with water and a lot of soy sauce. The directions say to marinate the bird for 1-8 hours. I let mine sit for about 6.

I used the single-level fire method (again, see the Charcoal-Grilled Bone-In Chicken Breasts recipe for an explanation of what that is), and carefully cooked the chicken until done, about 50 minutes, flipping it once. While it cooked, I made the glaze, which was a beautiful combination of pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, and Sriracha. I let the glaze simmer until it reduced way down to a nice thick consistency, which took quite a bit longer than the 20 minutes in the directions (more like 40 minutes).

Once the chicken was done, I removed it from the grill, brushed it with a good coating of the glaze and let it rest for a few minutes before serving with more glaze in a bowl.

The Verdict
I’ve never tasted genuine Hawaiian Huli Huli Chicken so I don’t know what it’s like when smoked with Hawaiian kiawe wood or turned on a rotisserie. I do know that this chicken was excellent. You want to talk finger licking good? Let’s talk. The marinade permeates the meat and makes it so moist and tender. The skin gets crispy just like its supposed to. The real magic happens when the glaze is added though. I love the sweet spiciness of this glaze and so did Hubby. We could have probably finished off a whole chicken between the two of us if it wasn’t for Dudette fighting for her share. Yes, even though she said that the chicken was spicy, she ate every bite of the drumstick (chicken with a handle to her). This is another keeper. Thank you Hawaii. You done good.

What I’d Do Different Next Time
The only thing I can come up with is to find kiawe wood because this is one of those recipes that is absolutely perfect as it stands.

Hawaiian Huli Huli Chicken
from Cook’s Illustrated Summer Grilling 2011

Chicken
2 quarts water
2 cups soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus extra for cooking grate
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 split chicken halves

Glaze
3 6-ounce cans pineapple juice
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
4 medium garlic cloves, pressed
2 teaspoons Siracha

2 cups wood chips, soaked in water for 15 minutes and sealed in a foil packet

For the chicken, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds). Combine the water and soy sauce in a zip top bag. Add the cooked aromatics and swish to combine. Add chicken and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 8 hours.

To make the glaze, combine all the glaze ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. With heat at medium, simmer glaze until thick and syrupy, 20-25 minutes.

Build a single-level fire on the grill. Place the foil packet directly on the coals. When coals are medium-hot, grill is ready. Clean grate.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Lay the chicken on the grill skin side up, but not right on top of the foil packet. Grill 20-25 minutes, until skin is nicely browned. Flip chicken and continue to grill, covered, another 20-25 more until internal temperature reaches 170-175.

Transfer the chicken to a plate, brush liberally with glaze and cover for 5 minutes. Serve the chicken with the remaining glaze on the side.

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