Grilled Garlic Mojo & Sour Orange Chicken, photo by Sonia Mendez GarciaPhoto by Sonia Mendez Garcia

Grilled Garlic Mojo & Sour Orange Chicken

Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Servings: 4-6 people
This chicken recipe is a total success! Although it requires a lot of cooling and marinating time, don't let this stop you from making it!

After every grilling session so far this summer, I check another “must try” off my to-do list. When I bought this whole chicken, the plan was to prepare beer-can chicken, but when I realized I did not have what I needed, I went with Plan B! Oh, I am so happy there is always a Plan B. Lucky for me, I had just purchased a big bag of these huge garlic bulbs from Mexico. It was meant to be, because I was just complaining to anyone who would listen that I could not find any good garlic around these parts!

I try to keep a bottle of sour orange marinade in my pantry at all times for when the mood strikes, but preparing a homemade sour orange marinade is very easy. In larger cities, you may be lucky and find actual sour oranges from Mexico, but I won’t let that stop me. The only problem with this recipe is that I wish I could have grilled two chickens! It was very moist, and even though there was a large amount of garlic, it blended well from cooking and marinating in the citrus. I cannot wait to prepare this chicken recipe again!

Note: Once I understood that smoking meat with indirect heat on the grill was like slow roasting in the oven, it made the task less intimidating! When I refer to indirect heat, I am referring to the cool side of the grill. You would light or build your fire on one side.

Ingredients

  • For the Marinade
  • 3 oranges
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 limes
  • 2 large bulbs garlic minced
  • 3 serrano peppers minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds crushed
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano crushed
  • 1/2 tablespoon jalapeño powder optional
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup olive oil or canola oil
  • For the Chicken
  • 4 1/2 pound whole chicken butterflied or splatchcocked (see below)
  • 4 cups wood chips apple, cherry or hickory

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Directions

  1. In a large bowl, juice the oranges, lemons and limes. Add all of the remaining ingredients to make the mojo. I took advantage of the fresh cilantro in my garden and included it in my marinade. Season to taste with salt. In a large bowl, juice the oranges, lemons and limes. Add all of the remaining ingredients to make the mojo. I took advantage of the fresh cilantro in my garden and included it in my marinade. Season to taste with salt.
  2. Pour all of the marinade over the chicken so it’s completely covered. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.Pour all of the marinade over the chicken so it’s completely covered. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  3. Remove chicken from refrigerator 40 minutes before cooking. Carefully take it out of the marinade and place it skin-down onto baking sheet. Transfer the leftover marinade into a sauce pan and heat on medium/low, making sure it boils gently for a few minutes.
  4. Soak your wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Prepare your grill for indirect cooking to medium/high heat. After 30 minutes, drain wood chips and add close to heat source. I like to layer them directly near the hot coals. Close the lid for 5 minutes.Soak your wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Prepare your grill for indirect cooking to medium/high heat. After 30 minutes, drain wood chips and add close to heat source. I like to layer them directly near the hot coals. Close the lid for 5 minutes.
  5. Once chicken has had time to come to room temperature and your grill is hot and beginning to smoke, place chicken on direct heat (hot side) for 5 to 7 minutes just to brown and crisp the skin. Flip chicken over onto indirect heat (cool side). Close lid, open bottom vent on hot side halfway. Then open top vent, on cool side halfway.
  6. This whole chicken cooked for about 2 hours at a temperature of 250º F to 275º F. I basted it generously with the mojo marinade that I cooked on the stove top every 30 minutes. I also rotated the chicken halfway through the cooking time to make sure it cooked evenly. Leave it skin side up. Look for an internal temperature on the legs of 165º F to 170º F to make sure it’s done. (I use an instant-read digital thermometer when I grill.) Remove from heat, tent loosely, and let it set for 10 minutes before slicing. Pour any remaining marinade over the top before serving.

Chef Notes

If you would like to grill a whole chicken, carefully cut out the back bone and flatten. This will help the chicken cook more evenly. This method is called splatchcock. The apple and cherry are much milder for smoking than the hickory. We used hickory, but if you're not comfortable with or don’t like smoked meats, just skip this step.  

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