Grilled East Nashville Hot Chicken

July 1, 2020 Updated: July 1, 2020

Grilled East Nashville Hot Chicken

Being a longtime resident of East Nashville, I’m hesitant to even include this recipe. I still have not come to terms with Nashville’s rapid ascent as a city, or the fact that hot chicken has become our food of export. Most folks incorrectly liken hot chicken to buffalo-style chicken. Classic hot chicken includes a paste—almost a batter—of molten butter or oil, sugar, and spice that’s a deep heat that hits you more in the gut than tongue. The classic hot chicken is fried, but this grilled spin is awesome. Serve the usual way, with soft white bread and tart dill pickles, and it’s a taste of home, no matter where you’re from.

Serves 4

Hands-on Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours, 35 minutes, including 8 hours marinating

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  • 2 cups dill pickle juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 (1-ounce) white sandwich bread slices
  • 20 dill pickle chips

Place the chicken, pickle juice, water, and 1 tablespoon of the salt in a large ziplock plastic bag. Seal the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 8–12 hours. Remove the chicken from the bag; dis-card the marinade. Set the chicken aside at room temperature.

Open the bottom vent of a charcoal grill completely. Light a charcoal chimney starter filled with charcoal. When the coals are covered with gray ash, pour them onto the bottom grate of the grill. Adjust the vents as needed to maintain an internal temperature of 400 degrees to 450 degrees F. (If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high [400 degrees  to 450 degrees F].)

Combine the oil, sugar, cayenne, paprika, and black pepper in a small grill-safe saucepan; place on unoiled grates. Cook, uncovered and stirring often, until tiny bubbles form and the sugar melts, 3–4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the chicken with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Coat the top grate with oil; place the chicken on the oiled grates. Grill, covered, until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of the chicken registers 160 degrees F, 10–12 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Dip the chicken, one breast at a time, in the oil-sugar mixture. Place two bread slices on each of four serving plates; top one slice on each plate with a chicken breast and five pickle chips.

Recipe excerpted from “Serial Griller: Grillmaster Secrets for Flame-Cooked Perfection,” copyright 2020 by Matt Moore. Photography copyright 2020 by Andrea Behrends and Helene Dujardin. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.