PIA Piri Piri Chicken

I like Piri Piri Chicken a lot. It is spicy, savoury and so different from other barbecued chicken dishes. I have made several different versions over the years but I have never really put my mind to making the best I could using all the techniques. It was time to change that.

I decided to start by using a method that makes the best chicken. Unfortunately, that meant using my PIA (pain in the pants) method. It involves removing the skin, scraping the fat off and then replacing the skin. Then you cook the chicken in butter and oil before smoking or grilling. All of it is a royal PIA but it gives a wonderful moist chicken with tender skin that bites through when you eat the chicken instead of pulling off.

If you are going for the best, really go for it.

I decided to really layer on the flavours. Piri Piri is a dish that is served in many countries and with many variations. The one thing they all have in common is using a hot red pepper (usually one from Africa) for heat and colour.

Not many of us have access to African peppers, particularly if you live in the Canadian Rockies. In the past, I have done a dry version using cayenne for the hot pepper. I have also done wet sauce versions using jalapenos and or Sriracha for the heat. Both turn out great so why not use both?

I also note, some Piri Piri has a lot of lemon. I like lemon in my Piri Piri so it was going to be a flavour layer.

I started by making a dry Piri Piri Spice.

I mixed:

  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) paprika
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) oregano
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) cardamom
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) ginger
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) garlic powder
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) onion powder
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) cayenne

Then I wanted some Piri Piri Sauce. This recipe makes a little over 1 cup which is more than you need for this recipe but it is great as a sauce on many dishes. I put the following in a blender:

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice
  • 1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large or 1 small jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 8 ml (1 1/2 teaspoon) paprika
  • 3 ml (1/2 teaspoon) ground ginger
  • 3 ml (1/2 teaspoon) dried basil
  • 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) dried oregano
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) ground pepper
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) ground coriander
  • 2 to 10 ml (1/2 to 2 teaspoons) Sriracha

I processed until I had a smooth sauce.

Here is where I had a quandry. You’ll note there is a range of Sriracha sauce. I started with 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon). The mixture had a nice mild building heat. I would have liked more but I have to consider She Who Must Be Obeyed and settled on 3 ml (1/2 teaspoon). Keeping the woman in your life happy is a good thing.

If you use 10 ml (2 teaspoons) it will be fiery hot like the traditional Piri Piri.  I suggest adding 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) at a time and stopping when you get to a heat level you like.

Now I start to get into the PIA part. I had five chicken thighs. You could easily do up to 8 with this recipe. They were on sale. I suspect that is because they had been machine processed and looked like the chicken lost a knife fight.

I pulled the skin off the thigh and used a sharp knife at a low angle to scrape the fat off the inside of the skin. You will note the fat forms a paste that coats your knife. I suggest you make two scrapes and then wipe the blade or it will clog up with fat.

Rub some of the spice mixture onto the thigh meat. Wrap the skin around the thigh and sprinkle the skin with more of the spice mix.

Normally, I would put oil and melted butter in a roasting pan and then put the thighs in it. But I wanted more lemon flavour so I put 50 ml (1/4 cup) each of oil, melted butter and lemon juice in a small roasting pan.

I put the chicken thighs, skin side down, in the mixture.

I covered the pan with foil and put it in a preheated 275 F smoker. You could put it in a 275 F oven or over indirect low heat in a barbecue. Cook for 45 minutes.

Take the foil off the pan and turn the thighs in the oil mixture so the bottom side is dipped in the oil. Put the thighs directly on the grill, skin side up. If doing in an oven, put them on a tray skin side up.

Cook for 45 minutes and make sure the internal temperature is over 175 F. Brush both sides of the thighs with the sauce and put it back on the grill. Cook until the sauce is set, ten to fifteen minutes.

Remove from the grill and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

The Verdict

MMMM! These aren’t the sticky, sweet barbecue chicken you are used to. There are complex layers of savoury, lemon tart and spicy flavours. The spicy doesn’t hit you right away but slowly builds in your mouth. The chicken is moist and takes up the flavours beautifully. The skin is bite through tender and doesn’t pull of the thighs as you eat them.

If these weren’t a PIA I would make them often. Dang, I will likely make them often as they taste so good.

The Old Fat Guy

PIA Piri Piri Chicken

PIA Piri Piri Chicken

Ingredients

  • 6 to 8 chicken thighs
  • Rub:
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) paprika
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) oregano
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) cardamom
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) ginger
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) garlic powder
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) onion powder
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) cayenne
  • Sauce:
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice
  • 1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large or 1 small jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 8 ml (1 1/2 teaspoon) paprika
  • 3 ml (1/2 teaspoon) ground ginger
  • 3 ml (1/2 teaspoon) dried basil
  • 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) dried oregano
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) ground pepper
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) ground coriander
  • 2 to 10 ml (1/2 to 2 teaspoons) Sriracha
  • Pan Mixture:
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) oil
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) melted butter
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Mix rub ingredients together.
  2. Put sauce ingredients in a blender. Process until you have a smooth sauce. This makes about 1 cup of sauce which is more than you need for this recipe, but it is great used like any other bbq sauce.
  3. Remove skin from thighs and scrape the fat from the skin with a sharp knife.
  4. Sprinkle the rub over the chicken thighs. Replace the skin and sprinkle the skin with rub.
  5. Put the pan mixture into a small roasting pan.
  6. Put the chicken, skin side down, in the pan and cover the pan with foil.
  7. Put the chicken in a 275 F smoker. Alternatively, put the pan in a 275 F oven or over low indirect heat in a barbecue.
  8. Cook for 45 minutes.
  9. Remove the foil and roll the chicken in the pan to coat with the mixture in the pan.
  10. Put the thighs directly on the grill, skin side up. If using an oven, put them on a tray.
  11. Cook for 45 minutes. Make sure the internal temperature is over 175 F.
  12. Brush with the sauce and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce is set.
  13. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
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2 thoughts on “PIA Piri Piri Chicken”

  1. on your piri piri chicken how long do you cook it in the foiled pan till you pull out to put on the grill? Thank You, looks good. Alvin Ozinga.

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