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Big's Chicken comes bedaubed in "White Gold," a mayo-based Alabama barbecue sauce.

Image: Michael Novak 

Between grilling unusual cuts of beef and dreaming up new surf-’n’-turf combos as a chef at Laurelhurst Market, Ben Bettinger got to thinking about smoked chicken. Last year he started a barbecue chicken side project in the indie steak house’s parking lot and perfected his recipe: a hickory-bathed bird with chile heat radiating from its crispy skin, and bedaubed in “White Gold,” a mayo-based Alabama barbecue sauce. Now those delicious charred birds have their own roost: Big’s Chicken, a country-shack-vibe eatery that the Laurelhurst crew recently opened on NE Glisan Street. Grab an order, or grill the backyard barbecue stunner yourself. Most of the ingredients for the rub and sauces are probably already in your pantry.

Big’s Chicken

Serves 6–8

  • 2 whole chickens, 3–3½ lbs each, spatchcocked (using kitchen shears, cut out the chicken’s backbone. Flip it over, breast side up, and crack the breast plate by pressing down firmly with both hands)
  • Dry spice rub*
  • Fresno pepper sauce**
  • White Gold sauce***
  • Mesquite charcoal (Bettinger likes Lazzari)
  • 2 cups fruit-wood smoking chips (Wood chips and Fresno peppers available at Sheridan’s Market)

Marinate Rub chickens with the dry spice. Place each chicken in a 1 gallon plastic bag, and pour ¼ cup of the Fresno pepper sauce into each bag. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 12 hours. One hour before cooking, remove chicken from bag to dry out and come to room temperature.

Smoke Light a full chimney of charcoal, distribute to one side of the grill, and cover, keeping the vents open. Once grill reaches 250 degrees (about 10 minutes), sprinkle smoking chips around the coals (not directly on top). Place chicken on a rack over cool side of the grill (not directly over the charcoal). Smoke the chicken for 1 hour and 15 minutes, rotating the birds once or twice, or until the leg reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees.

Grill Place chickens on a cutting board and let rest 15–30 minutes. Meanwhile, remove rack, light another full chimney of charcoal, distribute normally, and replace rack. Cut the chickens into 8 pieces: breasts halved down the center and quartered, legs and thighs separated. Brush generously with White Gold. Transfer to the grill, bone side down, and cook for a total of 12 minutes, brushing and flipping the chicken every 4 minutes, until gently charred and crisp. Remove from grill and serve with more White Gold and remaining Fresno pepper sauce.

* Dry Rub

Combine 2 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp paprika, 2 tbsp chile flakes, 1 tbsp ground black pepper, 1 tbsp cayenne pepper, 2 tsp onion powder, 2 tsp garlic powder, and 2 tsp yellow curry powder.

** Fresno Pepper Sauce

Grill or broil ½ lb Fresno chile peppers, tops and seeds removed, until blistered but not black. Combine in a blender with 1 cup white vinegar, 1½ tsp honey, and 1–2 cloves garlic, and blend for 45 seconds, or until smooth. Fresno pepper sauce will keep, refrigerated, for a month.

*** White Gold

In a bowl, whisk 2 cups mayonnaise, 2 tbsp French’s Classic Yellow mustard, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp dried oregano, and 1½ tbsp apple cider vinegar until combined.

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