Memorial Day BBQ: Buttermilk & Sage Brined Chicken

This Memorial Day weekend many grills will be fired up and friends will gather.  I love simple recipes for the grill that make you look like a grilling star.  In the past I shied away from grilling chicken because it was a challenge to keep the white meat from drying out.  The heavens shone down when I discovered the brining method.  The brine mixture makes the meat tender, juicy and flavorful, and makes the chicken almost foolproof on the grill.  I like using chicken with the bone in (because it has more flavor) and with the skin on to help keep the meat moist.  I know it’s not good for you to eat the skin but I can’t resist it when it becomes a crispy, sweet piece of goodness from basting with the barbecue sauce – just like candy!

There are many variations of how to make a brine mixture – after several trial and errors, I have created my own version of buttermilk and sage brine.  Most brines use lots of salt to tenderize the meat but I chose the buttermilk because it does the same thing without as much sodium.  All you’ll need is a large glass bowl, some buttermilk, fresh sage sprigs, garlic cloves, salt and some pepper.  The chicken gets marinated overnight in the brine mixture, which imparts a wonderful depth of flavor to the meat.  If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand not to worry – you can make it yourself: for every one cup of milk (use 1% fat or higher) add 1 tablespoon of vinegar, stir and let sit for five minutes and you have buttermilk.  For the vinegar, I prefer apple cider vinegar but you can use any white vinegar you have on hand.

Believe it or not, I don’t make my own barbecue sauce!  I found a store-bought brand that we love and have just stuck with it.   Maybe I’ll be inspired to make my own for ribs in July….At any rate, if you have a favorite homemade recipe then use that, or your favorite store-bought brand.  One tip for grilling: be sure to remember to oil your grill before you put the chicken on!  I forgot to do that for this photo shoot and had chicken pieces stuck to the grill; thankfully I was able to recover from that one.  The barbecue sauce goes on after you turn the chicken the first time; the chicken is hot and absorbs the flavors.  Each time I turn the chicken, it gets basted.  When the chicken is done it has a delicious, caramelized sweet coating on it.

What to serve with your barbecued chicken?  We have so many to choose from: potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, grilled vegetables or grilled corn on the cob (see my earlier post for a great recipe to grill in the husks).   And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite – dessert!  Need an idea?  Check out my post from last week for Strawberry Mint Granita with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream – it’s easy to make but decadent and rich. 

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend and if you can, please take a moment to remember those who lost their lives while serving and protecting our country.

Eat well and share the love!

Buttermilk & Sage Brined BBQ Chicken
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two   
Serves two foodies
Prep Time: 1 day (brining)       Cooking Time: 20 to 25 minutes

Buttermilk & Sage Brine:
3 ½ cups buttermilk
3 sprigs of fresh sage
3 large garlic cloves, skins removed and cloves smashed
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse-grind freshly cracked pepper
Bone-in chicken with the skin on: 3 legs, 3 thighs, one breast cut in half
1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce

Buttermilk & Sage Brine:
Add the buttermilk, sage (lightly bang the leaves with the back of a knife to release the oils), smashed garlic cloves, salt and pepper to a glass bowl and stir well to dissolve the salt.  Add the chicken pieces, cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Grill the chicken:
Heat grill to low heat and season with oil or cooking spray when hot.  Remove the chicken from the brine mixture and transfer to a large platter or 13x 9 glass dish.  Season the chicken with pepper and place on hot grill, skin side down.  After chicken is turned over, liberally brush grilled side with barbecue sauce and continue process each time chicken is turned.  Grill for about 20 to 25 minutes, turning often, until no longer pink in the center and juices run clear then meat is pierced.  Transfer to a clean serving platter.

Serve hot with grilled corn in the husk and a potato salad or coleslaw on the side.

  • No buttermilk on hand?  Use 3 1/2 cups regular milk (1% fat or higher) and add 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (or any white vinegar), stir together and let sit for five minutes.

4 responses to “Memorial Day BBQ: Buttermilk & Sage Brined Chicken

  1. That chicken sounds amazing and I grow my own sage too. Great menu.

  2. Cheryl Hogate Johns

    This sounds wonderful! We are making it today with the grilled corn. I will post my wine/beverage pairings next week and let you know how it turns out.

  3. This sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to try it.

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