Discover one of the great regional styles of barbeque with this Memphis style chicken.
This Memphis style chicken recipe is typical of the style of barbeque that Memphis is famous for. What’s notable about Memphis style barbeque is the lack of sauce. While BBQ sauce may seem mandatory to most if it’s to be considered barbeque, the folks in Memphis would disagree. It’s all about the rub in Memphis.
Traditional Memphis style barbeque consists of pork that is slow smoked and served “dry”, that is with just a rub. While some joints will offer sauce, some rib shacks don’t even have any sauce in the place.
You see, in Memphis it’s their belief that a quality piece of meat that is cooked properly will shine in its own natural flavor. In other words, they let the meat do the talking. No sauces are needed. Of course, a bit of smoke, a tasty rub and an occasional basting only enhances that flavor.
Although pork may be boss in Memphis, their chicken is damn good as well. Applying the same philosophy as they do to their pork, one can only imagine that the chicken must be mighty tasty.
This Memphis style chicken recipe is an altered version of my Memphis rib recipe that I posted over at TopRibs.com. I felt the rub should be diluted a bit due to the more delicate flavor of chicken over that of pork. I think you’ll like it and may even realize that a great barbequed chicken doesn’t necessarily need a sauce. Nope, we don’t need no stinkin’ sauces!
Even though traditional Memphis style barbeque doesn’t usually include a sauce, the pitmasters in Memphis began to offer the option of “dry” or “wet”. Wet meant slathered with sauce and dry was just the rub with sauce on the side. My Daddy told me sauce came about because of the “constant demands of those damn Yankees.” But, then again…that’s my Southern gentleman, Daddy. But, let’s face it, the majority of the world expects a sauce with their barbeque. Of course, if Memphis was going to concede to the sauce game, it had to be a great sauce. It also had to be a sauce that Memphis could call their own. It had to be Memphis style!
While this Memphis style chicken recipe is quite tasty on its own, I’ve included my recipe for a pretty darn good Memphis style sauce, as well. You can decide whether to serve your chicken wet or dry. I tend to just give it another brushing of the mop sauce just prior to serving with the sauce served on the side.
Next time a batch of grilled chicken is on the menu, give Memphis style a try. You may be reminded just how good chicken really is.
- Trim chicken pieces of any excess skin and fat. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Brush all sides of the chicken with the vegetable oil and generously sprinkle Memphis rub, coating all sides and even under the skin where possible. Slightly pat chicken to assure a good rub adhesion. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Preheat a grill to medium-low heat (250°F / 130°C) and set up for 2-zone cooking.
- Prepare the mop sauce by combining the BBQ sauce and vinegar in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well blended.
- Place chicken on the cooler side of the grill, skin side up. Arrange chicken so that breasts and wings are furthest from the fire, followed by legs with the thighs being closest to the flames.
- Place smoking chips on the coals. If using a gas grill, wrap them in foil with several pierced holes and place on top of the burners. Cover and allow to cook, while maintaining (250°F / 130°C).
- After an hour brush all sides of the chicken with the basting sauce, but return chicken to the skin side up position. Rearrange chicken pieces if it seems any are in danger of burning or under cooking. Cover grill and continue cooking.
- After 15 minutes, check chicken with an instant read meat thermometer. You're going to shoot for 160°F (70°C) for the breasts and 180°F (82°C) for the other pieces. Rearrange chicken and replenish charcoal as needed. Continue to cook until desired temperature is reached. Total cook time is usually about 2 hours.
- Prior to removing chicken from the grill, place directly over the fire for about 5 minutes per side or until slightly seared and grill marks are prevalent.
- Brush again with the mop and dust with remaining Memphis rub. Remove from grill and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Brush again with and remaining mop sauce, if desired.
- Serve it "dry" with Memphis BBQ sauce on the side or brush it on to serve it "wet".
- Cue up your favorite Elvis songs and enjoy your Memphis style chicken.