Grilled Chicken Thighs & Tamarind Marinade

This is another take on the sweet and succulent chicken you’ll find sizzling on roadside grills around the world. I’ve eaten versions of it from huge open pit grills at our county fair, from tiny pollo asado stands in Mexico, and from a grill made out of an old oil drum on the beach in Belize.

The recipes vary, but the marinade is always the key to this dish. Tart, yet savory, usually with a healthy dose of chiles and other spices. It seasons the meat and helps to keep it juicy. I normally marinate the chicken for at least 36 hours, but I ran short of time and decided to try vacuum marinating to speed up the process.

6 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
6 tablespoons tamarind concentrate (ready-to-use, not paste)
1/4 cup Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

I put all the ingredients, except the chicken, in a food processor and gave them a whirl until they were well-combined. It makes just a little more than a cup of marinade.

Normally I would put the chicken in a freezer bag, coat with the marinade, then let it do its magic in the refrigerator for at least 36 hours. But since I just had 12 hours to work with, I put the thighs into a large FoodSaver bag, alternating marinade and thighs, and vacuum sealed it with my FoodSaver V3825.

By pulling the air out, the meat opens up and makes better contact with the marinade, drawing in the seasoning faster. That’s the theory at least. The thighs were well-marinated and tasted great. If nothing else the thick vacuum bags are a neat, drip-proof way to store food.

I marinated the chicken for 12 hours in the fridge. Because the marinade has so much oil in it I made sure to pat the thighs dry. I then seasoned them with a little of John Henry’s Mojave Garlic rub. A dusting of garlic salt and black pepper or lemon pepper would work well too.

The cook was easy. I set my Big Green Egg up for a direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat. I grilled the chicken for about 40 minutes, flipping the thighs every 10 minutes. I took them off when the thermometer read 180°F in the thickest part of one of the larger thighs.

Crispy, juicy, smoky, and tangy – it’s everything grilled chicken should be.