I love the smell of fresh chicken cooking over a charcoal fire and there’s nothing better than chicken that has been cooked to perfection over those massive charcoal pits that many volunteer fire departments have at their firehouse.
We have several fire departments, non-profits and even a few entrepreneurs located around Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County, PA that grill up this tasty treat at least a few times a month, but I always seem to forget the date, or smell the chicken and rush to get there but they’re already sold out.
I now have a solution. After a lot of searching for THE recipe, I finally found a darn good one.
Out of the respect I have for those that serve our community, I call this recipe Fireman’s Chicken. This small batch recipe has the same savory flavor, but you can cook it yourself on your own grill.
Start with the Chicken
This recipe makes enough marinade for 6 to 8 pounds of chicken. If you’re doing more than that you’ll want to double up on the ingredients.
You can use any cut of chicken, thighs, breasts, or chicken halves. The chicken halves are my favorite and closest to the chicken the fire companies serve. If you’re on a diet or otherwise trying to avoid the fat in the chicken skin, boneless breasts will also work nicely with this recipe.
Make sure the chicken is completely thawed.
Prepare the Fireman’s Chicken marinade – the recipe is at the bottom of the Blog
Place the chicken in plastic zip close bags and add the marinade and place the bagged chicken in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Chicken is pretty dense, so it takes that long for all the flavors to be absorbed by the chicken. If you don’t have that long, wait at least an hour before cooking.
Save about a cup of the marinade mix to fill a spray bottle. Use this to tame your flames as you cook the next day
NOTE: (Don’t use the leftover marinade from the bag. Throw this away.)
Cooking the chicken
I love food cooked over a charcoal fire. Charcoal produces a more intense flavor in my opinion. If you have a gas grill, consider getting some wood smoking chips and small metal or foil pan to burn them in to give your chicken the notes of a charcoal fire without giving up on your gas grill.
Make sure you have enough charcoal to last an hour. If using a gas grill, you’ll want to cook under a medium to low heat depending on the amount of flare-ups.
DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM YOUR CHICKEN COOK, AT LEAST NOT FOR LONG. CLOSE THE LID ON YOUR GRILL AS THE SMOKE WILL HELP TO SMOTHER THE FLAMES FROM THE FLARE-UPS.
PEOPLE WHO BURN THEIR CHICKEN WALKED AWAY, OR HAD TOO MUCH FIRE OR TOO MUCH TO DRINK AND THE FLAMES WON.
I burned a lot of chicken in my younger days because I wasn’t ready for the flare-ups that come from the chicken fat hitting the hot charcoal. A little flame is OK, a lot will ruin your cook. It’s best to have a spray bottle with extra marinade to settle the flames. If you don’t have any left over, you can substitute apple cider or apple juice or even water.
OK, so in certain cases when the flames were a bit nuts, I may have tamed those flame tips with a little beer. No one ever seemed to mind.
Keep turning and rotating and moving the chicken through the flames. It’s kind of a dance, a game of will between you and the fire.
This cook takes an hour on average. The more you cook the more time and charcoal it takes. Some people boil their chicken because they have undercooked chicken in the past. Watch your time and after 45 minutes you will notice less and less juice and grease dripping. This indicates that the cook is reaching the bone. At this point, I like to lower the charcoal grate to avoid burning the chicken. I close the lid and let it smoke and get happy for about 15 minutes.
Before lifting, cut all the way into your thickest chicken pieces with a knife to be sure there’s no pink left.
I never have any problem with my chicken being thoroughly cooked in an hour’s time.
We recently shot a video with Chicken Breasts and thighs - Both tasted very good. I personally enjoyed the skin on thighs. I did try half of a skinless chicken breast and it was darn tasty.
The next day I had some cold chicken to enjoy. The skin from the thigh wasn’t great, but the meat was very good. The chicken breast was amazing cold. It was very tender and flavorful and would have been great on a salad or in a sandwich, but nope, it tasted too good and I finished it before I could reach for the bread.
Fireman’s Chicken Recipe
16 ounces (2 cups) of Apple Cider Vinegar
8 ounces (1cup) of Cooking Oil
1 Tablespoon of Poultry Seasoning (I used McCormick brand.
1 Tablespoon of Kosher Salt (If you’re using regular table salt, cut that back to 1 teaspoon)
1 Teaspoon of Paprika
½ Teaspoon Coarse Ground Pepper
Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and stir until everything is completely blended.
Place the chicken in bags and add the marinade - Let set in the fridge overnight - 12-24 hours.
Cook thoroughly on the grill - it takes about an hour.
Serve with baked beans and potato salad.
If you have variations on this recipe that you’d like to share, please e-mail me a firstname.lastname@example.org
Of course you should still support your local fire department and get your chicken dinner when it's offered, but if you’re super hungry for it – now you have the technology to do it at home or on your next camping trip!
For the full how-to video please check out our You Tube Channel at this link https://youtu.be/dIA0TPw_5II