Many times I’ve heard people refer to a backyard cookout as a “barbecue” when in reality they’re grilling, not barbecuing. What’s the difference? While the terms “grilling” and “barbecue” are often used interchangeably (particularly in the northern United States), the truth is they are two very different cooking methods. Grilling is the most basic form of cooking—it is, quite simply, the method of cooking a food directly over an open flame or high heat source. Barbecue, on the other hand, is a low and slow method of cooking over indirect heat. Because of the long, slow cooking process, barbecued meat soaks up the smoky flavors and spice rubs, rendering the finished product moist and tender. Barbecue is more suited to bigger, tougher cuts of meat that do well with slow, even cooking—brisket, tri-tip, ribs, and tender pulled pork. Grilling is reserved for foods that can cook more quickly—hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs, seafood, vegetables and chicken.
I adore barbecue, but we grill much more often than we barbecue. Grilling is a shorter and simpler process that is perfect for hot summer days (like our upcoming long 4th of July holiday weekend!). During the summer we love grilling for family and friends. I make salads, prepare various chilled mezze, and blend batches of icy limonana to keep everybody cool in the hot summer sun. Nearly every time we grill, I serve some version of this lemony Middle Eastern-inspired marinade. Sometimes I add a little extra cayenne for a kick, other times I use more lemon for tartness. No matter which little tweaks I make, it always turns out tasty. It’s a balanced blend of lemon, spices and fresh herbs. The meat always turns out tender and tasty. Use chicken thighs for a juicier, more flavorful result. I recommend serving these skewers with toum, a tasty Middle Eastern garlic dipping sauce.
This is truly one of my favorite summer grilling marinades, I know you will love it. Whether you’re grilling, barbecuing or ordering takeout, I wish you a very happy 4th!
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- 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (I prefer thighs)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tbsp fresh minced cilantro or parsley (I prefer cilantro)
- 2 tsp minced fresh garlic
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
You will also need
- Wooden skewers
- Cut the chicken into 1 ½ inch strips for skewering. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro or parsley, crushed garlic, paprika, salt, cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Place the chicken pieces in a glass dish. Pour the marinade over the chicken and stir to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator and let the chicken marinate for 20 minutes. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water while the chicken is marinating.
- Generously grease the grill and heat over medium. Skewer the chicken, evenly divided between 6-8 skewers.
- Place the skewers on the hot grill and cook for 10-15 minutes, turning once during cooking, until cooked through. Serve hot.