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Chef’s Tip: How to Make Flavorful Grilled Chicken

If you’re grilling chicken for a barbecue or potluck party, be sure to brine the chicken first to maximize the bird’s flavor. If you’re like us and are wondering about the best way to season chicken for the grill, then you’re in luck. We recently spoke to a grill master, Bounce Delray Beach’s chef Sean Olnowich, and picked his brain for the answer. Do we brine, then marinade or dry rub the chicken? Or do we perform a combination of these processes?

Olnowich stated, “My favorite way to brine and season chicken thighs before grilling is to soak in buttermilk that is seasoned with Cajun spice, Old Bay, and ancho chili powder.” Instead of using pickle juice to brine chicken, like what we do with our pickle juice-brined fried chicken recipe, Olnowich uses this flavorful buttermilk. He added, “The acidity and sugars in the buttermilk helps to both tenderize the meat and caramelize the skin.” In essence, this seasoned buttermilk serves as a brine and marinade for Olnowich’s grilled chicken. He also does not use a dry rub, like our easy 3-ingredient dry rub recipe, since all the spices and chili powder are already mixed into the buttermilk. 

Seasoned buttermilk serves as a brine and marinade for the most flavorful grilled chicken

grilling chicken

Ready to grill a batch of chicken using Olnowich’s chef-approved brining tip for flavorful chicken on the grill? Before you begin, check out our 12 tips for making the absolute best grilled chicken, and then pick a recipe from one of our 12 best grilled chicken recipes.

Next, season a batch of buttermilk, to taste, with Cajun spice, Old Bay, and ancho chili powder. A little salt and pepper wouldn’t hurt either. Be sure to give the buttermilk a good stir to incorporate all the flavor enhancers and additives. Then, soak your chicken in the marinade. A good rule of thumb to follow is to marinate your chicken anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. It’s also fine to marinate the chicken for longer, such as 8 hours to overnight. 

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Then, before you grill the chicken, be sure to brush it with oil and grill your chicken as you normally would. Thanks to the acidity in the buttermilk brine and marinade, your chicken will be tender and juicy. It will also pop with flavor from the spice, seasoning mix, and chili powder. Now, if you’re new to grilling chicken, check out Ina Garten’s tip for an evenly grilled whole chicken.

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