We posted a shawarma recipe last grilling season, making a lamb kebab version (Close to the Real Thing Shawarma Recipe). Now we’ll be making this Grilled Chicken Shawarma over and over again – juicy, tender, full of flavor chicken that’s really easy to make. And the leftovers work on so many levels.
We love the food in Turkey, with everything being very fresh and full of flavor – but true Turkish food is tough to find in our area (Tampa Bay area). So, true to our roots, we did a deeper dive into how we can replicate some of the flavors we experience in Turkey. One constant with their food, which adds a slight touch of exotic flavor, is their spice combinations. We use a close replica for this recipe – the Serious Foodie Moroccan Spice Blend – but we might be adding the more authentic Shawarma blend soon.
Shawarma is a type of roasted meat which originated in the Middle East. It’s been popular in this region of the world since the 19th century and is now enjoyed worldwide. Shawarma can be made with lamb, chicken, turkey, beef or veal and is generally prepared on a spit. Meat is stacked vertically and cut off for serving, as it cooks. This version of grilled chicken shawarma is a bit different than the traditional Turkish version, but this one is a lot less fussy, and easy to make.
There are three grilling techniques to this dish that you’ll want to put on repeat this summer: (1) spatchcock (butterfly) your chicken, (2) flavor the meat with seasoning under the skin (as well as on top), and (3) grill under bricks. You’ll be amazed about how your chicken will taste when you apply these three methods next time you grill. This works with any poultry, as well as boneless leg of lamb.
Spatchcock chicken sounds weird, and might initially sound scary (“Pass the scalpel, Nurse, so I can remove the spine”), but it is really easy. And you get some chicken bones to make fresh, homemade stock (more on this in a later post. Homemade stock changed our culinary lives). Check out this article on Kitchn for a really nice how-to lesson on spatchcock chicken.
We learned to use bricks on the grill during a visit to Tuscany, where roasted meats are part of the culture. You can use almost any brick – we just went to the local Home Depot to buy standard red bricks (8 inches long x 3 5/8 inches wide x 2 1/4 inches high). Double wrap each brick every time you use them so that they don’t get greasy. Otherwise, it’s pretty simple: Just place the chicken skin-side down on a well-oiled grill, place the bricks on top, and wait for the delicious result. If you want to see an Italian version of brick chicken, check out the Pollo al Mattone recipe on Serious Eats.
This Grilled Chicken Shawarma pairs wonderfully with a simple Turkish Shepherd’s salad (tomato & cucumber salad – check out this NY Times recipe) and it’s fantastic with a Turkish flatbread called Bazlama. We’re pretty obsessed with our bread making, and this simple flatbread is now in our rotation. Check out this video:
- 3-4 lbs chicken
- 1 jar Serious Foodie Moroccan Spice Blend If you have the ingredients, there are lots of recipes to make your own blend. But ours makes it a lot easier for you.
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 8 ounces whole milk Greek yogurt
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lemon, halved
- Pat dry the chicken. Spatchcock the chicken - the how-to article at Kitchn will show you how - it's easy.
- Mix about 4 tablespoons of the spice blend, and the garlic, with the yogurt. Save 1-2 ounces for later, as a sauce. Carefully lift the skin under the breast, and under each thigh, then place this yogurt mixture under the skin of the chicken. If you have any remaining, flip the chicken over and place the remaining yogurt mixture in the cavity. Salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with some of the spice blend. Let the chicken sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or refrigerate for 4-18 hours (which we prefer. If you refrigerate, bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking, about 45 minutes ahead of cooking).
- Pre-heat your grill for high, indirect heat (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on 1 side of grill; for a gas grill, leave 1 or 2 burners off). Rub the chicken with some olive oil on both sides.
- Tuck wings slightly under breast. Place chicken, skin side down, over indirect heat, set bricks on top, and grill, covered, until skin is golden and crisp, 25–30 minutes. Using tongs, remove bricks; turn chicken, skin side up.
- Replace bricks and continue grilling until chicken is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh registers 165°, 25–30 minutes longer.
- Serve with the Turkish bread (or pita which you can get at most grocery stores), the Turkish Shepard's salad (or just tomatoes & cucumbers), and the remaining yogurt/spice blend/garlic mixture. Makes a great sandwich.