Grilling can seem like a lot of hard work if you are not in-the-know. Growing up in the South, I spent most of my youth presuming it was a man's activity — all of those 'secrets' and 'rituals' seemed best left alone by the ladies. And while, yes, when it comes to charcoal grills, smokers, and Big Green Eggs, there can be a certain amount of finesse involved, the actual act of cooking over fire doesn't have to be engulfed in a shroud of mystery. With this fabulous chicken recipe, grilling can be for everyone!
My fiancé and I inherited a crusty old relic of a grill with our rental home, but it was already inhabited by a colony of creepy crawlies and not particularly suitable for meal prep. Last year I finally took it upon myself to purchase a new gas grill. My specifications before buying were that it be impressive enough to wow the boys, but simple enough for a novice like me. (Read: turns on with the twist of wrist.)
After a couple of test-drives of our outdoor addition, I went from being a total newbie to a grilling machine. Cooking with gas gave me the confidence I needed to explore uncharted cooking territory, and now I get out there with the best of them. Mastering a few basic recipes to keep in your back pocket should be everyone's goal — a crisp filet of fish, a perfectly cooked steak, and a moist and juicy piece of chicken.
This recipe for grilled chicken legs is one of my all-time summer favorites and should be in every cook's repertoire. It was inspired by a recipe for oven-baked drumsticks in the Nantucket Open House Cookbook, one of my warm weather entertaining stand-bys. The beauty of this recipe is in its simplicity. A mix of cooking oil, Dijon, and white wine take chicken from "same old, same old" to absolutely sublime.
I love these just as much hot off the grill as I do room temperature at a summertime picnic. (They are fabulous for tailgating, too.) The legs pair perfectly with any fresh summer side, and a glass of rosé doesn't hurt either. If you don't have a grill don't worry. You can make these in the oven with absolutely no fuss. No matter how you cook them, they are guaranteed to become an instant classic!
Grilled Chicken Legs with Dijon & White Wine Glaze
Serves 6 to 8
For the brine:
1 gallon (16 cups) water, divided
1 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
6 whole chicken legs (drumstick and thigh intact)
For the chicken:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup neutral cooking oil, such as canola or safflower
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the brine, in a large stock pot, cover the chicken with about 12 cups of cold water. In a microwave-proof bowl, heat 4 cups of water until almost boiling. Add the salt, sugar, and peppercorns; stir until completely dissolved. Add the salted water to the stock pot with the chicken. Cover and refrigerate the chicken for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.
When ready to cook the chicken, preheat the grill. For gas, close lid and turn all burners on high for about 12 to 15 minutes. Once hot, scrape grates clean using a wire brush if necessary.
While grill is preheating, remove the chicken from the brine, rinse in cold water, and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. In a small bowl, whisk the Dijon, cooking oil, and wine until combined. Brush the tops of the chicken with a coating of the sauce and season generously with salt and pepper.
Leave half of the burners on high heat and turn remaining burners down to low. Place the chicken, seasoned side down, over the hot burners. Brush the exposed sides with another layer of sauce and season with salt and pepper. Cover the grill and sear until browned, about 5 to 8 minutes. Flip and sear on remaining side, another 5 minutes.
Transfer chicken to the cooler side of the grill. Brush with another layer of sauce. Cover and adjust flames to maintain a temperature between 300 - 325°F. Cook the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165°F with an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat, 25 to 35 minutes. (If necessary, remove a piece from the grill and peek into the center with a knife. There should be no visible redness.) Serve warm or at room temperature.
- To cook in the oven, place chicken legs skin-side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush the tops with mustard sauce and season with salt and pepper. Cook in a 350°F oven until the internal temperature reaches 165°F with an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat, 45 to 50 minutes.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)