Easy, healthy, juicy, spice rubbed grilled chicken is a crowd please. Homemade spice rub with roasted spices gives the chicken a smokey flavor. This is a must have chicken recipe on your weekly menu and also on your BBQ menus!
Marinade and spice rubs are key to any grilled food. Beauty of spice rubs is, we can make it fresh just before rubbing it on to the meat or make it ahead of time.
Today’s spicy dry rub requires basic Indian spices available in any Indian kitchen and in most well versed western kitchens as well.
Homemade spice rubs
I usually use store bought spice mixes for marinades and rubs. Tandoori masala for tandoori chicken, garam masala and tikka masala for simple grilling. All that changed when I saw a recipe in New York Times food section a decade ago.
That recipe calls for preparing a spice rub by roasting spice powders, including cayenne powder. And all the spice powders are whole garam masala spices. That recipe is inspiration for this easy grilled chicken.
Unlike the NYT recipe, I roast whole spices and then grind those to a powder. Roasting spices takes the flavor quotient to the next level.
Why this recipe?
This is a simple grilled chicken recipe that you can put together in 1 hour, with minimal marination time. Actual cook time is 20-25 minutes depending on the grilling appliance.
Ingredients for the rub are commonly used for most spicy grilled meat. But the uniqueness of this spice rub is that whole spices are first roasted and then ground to a powder. Roasting bring out the aroma and flavors of each spice.
Prepare the spice blend head of time and this easy grilled chicken is ready in under 30 minutes. It is a great recipe for weekday dinners as well.
When meal planning for the week, rub the spice mix and refrigerate the chicken for a day or two. If the plan is to prepare it later in the week, freeze marinated meat and thaw it in the refrigerator a day before preparation.
Spice rubbed meat stays good in the freezer for 1-2 weeks, to up to a month. Put the meat in a freezer bag, date and label it for convenience.
In fact, these day I freeze marinated meats. Meat absorbs the spice flavors better and tastes lot better than the ones marinated overnight.
Chicken – Use small chicken drumsticks with skin. Make big gashes on the drumsticks for the spices to seep into the meat. Thighs and leg quarters also work but our preference is drumsticks.
Spices – Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin, peppercorns and fenugreek seeds. Of all the spices, fenugreek might not not be a common spice in non Indian pantries and you can skip it, if you can not source the seeds.
Dry Chilies – I use red chilies from Indian store. Use any dry red chili that is spicy hot or substitute with chili powder or cayenne pepper.
Other Ingredients – Ginger garlic paste, turmeric, oil, lime juice and salt are the remaining ingredients.
This is a simple grilled chicken recipe, so the preparation is also very easy. Prepare the spice rub, mix together rest of the ingredients to prepare a semi dry rub and rub it into drumsticks or thighs. Then grill in the oven or on the outdoor grill.
Spice Rub – Dry roast all the spices and red chilies on medium flame until toasted. Remove from pan and let cool (images #1-2). Grind the spices in a mixie or a spice grinder to a powder.
Prepare the rub – Make a semi dry rub by mixing together spice powder, ginger garlic paste, turmeric, lime juice and 1 tablespoon of oil.
Prep the Chicken – Make big gashes on each drumstick, wash and pat dry. Rub the prepared rub paste to each drumstick and keep aside for at least 30-45 minutes or marinate overnight (image #3).
In the Oven – Set the oven to broil mode. Line a grilling pan with an aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place a rack on it and line the drumsticks on it. Spray some PAM cooking or grilling oil. Broil for 24 minutes, turning around at 10 and 20 minutes point (images #4-6).
Outdoor Grill – Fire up the grill, place drumsticks on the grill and cook for about 8 minutes until skin is crisp. Flip the drumsticks and grill for another 6-8 minutes or until juices run clear.
Remove from the grill/oven, rest the drumsticks for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with some salad or a relish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Use a thermometer and if the temperature at the thickest part of chicken reads 165F, then it is cooked. Or cut the chicken at the thickest part and if the juices run clean, then the it is fully cooked.
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Detailed, Printable Recipe
Spice Rubbed Grilled Chicken
- Broil Pan or Roasting Pan
- Big Bowl
- Knife and Grilling Thongs
- Spice grinder
- ⅛ teaspoon Cardamom seeds or Seeds of one Cardamom
- 2 Cloves
- ¼ teaspoon Fenugreek Seeds
- ½ teaspoon Cumin
- 10 Black Peppercorns
- ¼ inch Cinnamon Stick
- 1 tablespoon Coriander Seeds
- 2 Dry Chilies use 3 for very spicy chicken
- 1 lbs Chicken Drumsticks or 5 Drumsticks
- 1 teaspoon Salt adjust to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1 tablespoon Ginger Garlic Paste
- 1 tablespoon Oil
- 1-2 tablespoon Lime Juice or Juice of ½ a Lime
- PAM Cooking Oil Spray or Oil for basting
- Dry roast all the ingredients listed under spice rub. Roast them for 2-3 minutes or until lightly roasted. When preparing in bulk, roast each spice separately. For the quantity listed above, you roast all at once.
- Cool the spices and grind them to a fine powder.
- In a big bowl take the spice powder, salt, turmeric powder, ginger garlic paste, lime juice, little oil and mix it.
- Wash and make 3-5 gashes on each drumstick. You can keep the skin or remove it. I made it with and without skin and but taste good, though we prefer with skin.
- Add drumsticks to the spice bowl and rub the spices into it.
- Let it marinate for at least 30 – 45 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator. If refrigerating the chicken, remove it from the fridge ½-1 hour before grilling to bring it to room temperature.
Broil in the Oven
- Place the rack of the oven in the middle and set the broiler to high.
- Line a grill pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place chicken drumsticks on the rack and spray PAM Cooking spray on drumsticks and broil for 10 minutes.
- Turn the chicken pieces, spray PAM cooking oil or baste chicken with oil and broiler for another 10 minutes.
- Turn the chicken pieces around and broil for another 2-5 minutes until chicken is fully cooked. I broiled it for 3 minutes.
- Check the doneness of the chicken using a thermometer. Internal temperature at the thickest part of the chicken should read 165F or when cut, juices from the chicken should run clear.
- Remove the chicken form the broiler, let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
On the Grill
- Fire up the grill, place the chicken on the grill and cook for about 8 minutes until skin is crisp. Flip the chicken and grill for another 6-8 minutes or until juices run clear.
- Chicken – We prefer small drumsticks for grilling. I buy a tray of drumsticks that weighs 1 – 1.3 pounds and has 5-6 pieces. You can use thighs or leg quarters.
- Nutrition – Nutritional information below are approximate values.
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This post was originally published in Oct 2013. Republished with new content and images.