Yum Peaceful Cooking: Cambodian Grilled Chicken

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cambodian Grilled Chicken

I learned a new word. A very weird sounding word that means something totally unexpected.


If you had to guess, what would you think that word means?

Me? I dunno....it just sounds.....soooo not very appropriate for anything that has to do with food. But it does. Honest.

After deciding I wanted to try a recipe for Cambodian Grilled Chicken from the book Planet Barbecue,  I started reading the instructions. There were very few ingredients...most of which I already had. But when the instructions said to "spatchcock the chicken"...I was a little nervous to say the least.

Do what to the chicken?!!

Wikipedia: "A spatchcock is poultry or game that is prepared for roasting or grilling by removing the backbone and sternum of the bird and flattening it out before cooking"

(Who invents these words, anyway?!)

Ok...so it's a NOT so fancy word for butterflying a chicken.

Basically what you do is rinse and dry the chicken. Turn the chicken over on its tummy....ok....breast side down, and using a pair of kitchen shears, cut out the backbone.

 Step one accomplished.

Btw...if you're into making chicken broths and stock, save that back bone for your next batch.

Now we spread that chick open and proceed to remove the sternum by running a knife (recommended knife: pairing) along the edge of the sternum....run your thumbs along the cartridge and pop that baby out.

Now....there's a flap of skin laying over each thigh......using your paring knife, cut a little hole, about an inch long in the skin, then insert the end of each leg into a hole. Turn the bird over and snip off the tips of the wings.

And there you have it. A spatchcock.

Personally, I'd rather say I butterflied the damn thing.

The purpose of going to all this trouble? It speeds up the grilling time.

Now lets get cooking.

Cambodian Grilled Chicken
Printable Version

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 - 4 lbs), spatchcocked
5 garlic cloves, cut in half
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce (or more soy sauce)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, crushed gently
2 teaspoons annatto seed (achiote) or sweet paprika

Do you have a mortar and pestle? If not....just use a mini food processor or something.

To make the marinade:
Place the 5 cloves of garlic, sugar and salt in your mortar. Pound away until you have a smooth paste (it smells amazing!). It only takes a minute. Seriously...it's quick and easy. Add in the soy sauce and fish sauce (in my case, I omitted the fish sauce and used more soy sauce due to allergies) and work it together. Pour over the chicken and rub it in good....getting it all over.

Cover the chicken and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours. (I highly recommend the 4 hours if you have the time....the flavor will be more intense)

For the glaze:
Heat the oil in a small saucepan, over a medium heat. Add the gently crushed garlic and cook for about a minute....until the garlic just begins to brown. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and place in a heat proof bowl. Add the annatto seeds to the oil in the sauce pan and cook for about 2 minutes...until fragrant and brown. Strain the oil over the bowl with the garlic and set aside until ready to grill.

If you're using paprika powder instead of annatto seeds, then remove the oil from the heat...add the paprika and pour into the bowl with the garlic.

Once the chicken is ready to grill....or maybe when you're ready to grill the chicken...heat the grill to medium. You can either use direct or indirect heat....depending on how you like to roll. I think Sir Sportsalot is all about direct heat. I'm convinced indirect heat would be a better choice. 

Discard any excess marinade. Brush and oil the grill grate. During the last 10 minutes of grilling, brush the chicken with the glaze, on both sides. Grill for 12 - 20 minutes per side or until the meat is done (ie: meat thermometer reads 170' F, the juices run clear....you know the drill). 

Let the chicken rest a bit before serving. 

Now...this recipe also includes a "dip". I didn't care for it, but just in case you want the full experience and to be able to judge for yourself....here's the dip:

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice


Now...this is not a pretty picture. The skin...I don't know what happened to it. But it's almost all gone (and I love grilled chicken skin, so you can imagine my disappointment). I think this may have been the result of direct heat (and indirect attention). But still....the chicken was extremely tender and had great flavor. 

Sooo...I made it again. Only this time I used bone-in, skin on, chicken thighs (it's what I had on hand) and baked the thighs in a 350' oven for about an hour

Sure...there's not a single grill mark. I know....it doesn't have that smokey grilled flavor. But guess what? If it's winter and you can't grill, or maybe you don't own a grill, or what if you live in an apartment....well, this here is your alternative. It totally works and is still a wonderful dish.


  1. Oh wow!! Looks amazing! I want some!

  2. But that is one fine looking chicken, with or without grill marks! I love chicken dishes...great marinade by the way.

  3. I made this same dish and we really enjoyed it. I followed his recipe mostly but used my normal cooking method for spatched chicken.

    Love the color on your thighs, they look perfect (even if they were oven cooked, ha ha)

  4. I knew there was a reason I bought a rotisserie. I'm sure there is no way I could spatchcock a chicken. Although, after reading these ingredients and your terrific instructions, I sure may give it a try!

    It sounds awesome, Danielle and looks fabulous!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing...

  5. Those chicken thighs have amazing color! I could go for a piece right now!

  6. Tried it and it is delicious. Just with out the lime diping sauce.


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