Food & Drink

Sometimes, skin-on is best for barbecue

When chicken thighs are on sale, I snap them up and freeze them to save time and money.

Many stores sell them in lower-priced value or family packs. Keep in mind, though, that the sizes may be random. Some are small; some are really big.

Often they will have a lot of excess fat hanging around. You don't need it, and it can cause flare-ups on the grill anyway. So trim it off, leaving just the portion on top of the thigh.

I like to leave the skin on while grilling the thighs because it helps keep them moist. You can remove the skin after grilling to save fat and calories, but it's nice to give your guests the option of keeping it.

You can buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs, too. They cost more but cook more quickly and are still flavorful.

You may want to make your choice based on fat and calorie content.

If you use skinless thighs for this recipe, they'll take less time to cook. Brush them with some of the sauce halfway through the grilling time to keep them moist.

The USDA recommends cooking chicken thighs to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature without it touching the bone. The cooking time will depend on the size of the thighs and whether they're bone-in or boneless.

If you've never made your own barbecue sauce, today's Sweet 'N' Sticky is a good one to try. It uses common pantry items, and you can make it while the chicken is on the grill. It's tasty as is, or you can doctor it up any way you like.

CHICKEN THIGHS WITH EASY SWEET 'N' STICKY BARBECUE SAUCE

You can substitute skinless chicken thighs, if desired. Brush them with the sauce halfway through grilling and don't turn them. Serves 6.

FOR THE CHICKEN:

12 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1 1/4 cups low-fat bottled Italian dressing

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup hickory wood chips soaked in water, optional

FOR THE SAUCE:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced

1/2cup finely chopped sweet onion

3/4cup bottled chili sauce

1/2cup unsweetened pineapple juice

1/4cup honey

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2teaspoon dry mustard

Trim excess fat from the chicken thighs. Place the thighs in a plastic sealable bag and pour the Italian dressing over them. Seal bag, pressing out the air. Press the outside of the bag to work the marinade in. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to grill, preheat or prepare the grill for medium heat. Once the coals are ash-covered and ready, sprinkle the soaked wood chips over the hot coals and put the grill lid on. If using a gas grill, place the soaked chips in a foil packet with holes poked in it and place on the grill, off to the side.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, season it with salt and pepper, and place it, bone side down, on the grill. Cover and grill about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the barbecue sauce. Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the chili sauce, pineapple juice, honey, Worcestershire and mustard. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 20 to 25 minutes.

After the chicken has grilled for 30 minutes, turn it skin- side down and allow the skin to crisp, about 10 minutes. Turn it back over and baste the chicken with some of the sauce. Make sure the chicken is done; the internal temperature should be 165 degrees or higher. Serve the remaining sauce on the side.

Adapted from "Grill It: Secrets to Delicious Flame-Kissed Food" by Better Homes and Gardens (Wiley, $24.95).

The Wichita Eagle—06/29/11

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