Before summer ends, let’s take a few moments to enjoy it. I know we will. These Chicken Inasal pieces will be lazily cooking on our outdoor grill. The grill will sizzle with globs of gleaming chicken barbecue, Filipino-style, as shiny as gems. The basting brush will sweep bold strokes of marinade on the thick thighs. When the sweet sauces touch the chicken, droplets will fall on the hot coals beneath, and a surge of smoke shall suddenly erupt in the air. The aroma of citrus and savory sauces touching those chicken thighs will be a clear sign that someone in the neighborhood is grilling chicken. It will be our house, and our chicken inasal.
Labor Day, celebrated on the first weekend of September, marks the end of summer here in America. I always choose to grill a family favorite for this 3-day weekend. Chicken Inasal is a grilled chicken dish that’s popular back home in the Philippines and sold almost everywhere. It’s one of those meal staples that can transcend from street food, restaurant food or the dinner table at home. Its origins can be traced from the southern province, Bacolod, and where the term inasal means “to roast” in Ilonggo, a dialect spoken in the southern part of the Philippines.
Over time, I’ve cooked chicken inasal with different recipes, each one with variations. But there’s one thing in common all the recipes have. The chicken pieces are superb after they are grilled outdoors and there is nothing in the world like its succulence, tenderness and piercingly-sweet citrus flavor which defines the dish. The sight and aroma of the chicken grilling, is enough to evoke memories of fun times for me. Grilled food often reminds me of a party or a celebration, and usually of time spent with family. So, this coming holiday weekend, let’s fire up the grill and savor those fun times before the season ends.
Chicken Inasal- Grilled Chicken Barbecue, Bacolod-Style
- 2 packets (1.5 oz. each) achuete (annatto) seeds for annatto oil
- 4 cloves garlic peeled, minced, for annatto oil
- 1 cup vegetable oil for annatto oil
- 2.5 to 3 pounds chicken cutlets bone-in
- 1 1/2 cups coconut vinegar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 6 to 8 c;loves garlic peeled, sliced crosswise,
- 1 knob fresh ginger about 1-inch piece, peeled, sliced into thin, matchstick pieces
- 1/2 cup calamansi or lemon juice
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- achara (green papaya pickle relish) for serving
- steamed rice for serving
- Make the annatto (achuete) oil: In a small saucepan, combine the annatto seeds, garlic and vegetable oil. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook the oil for 5 minutes till the liquid turns red and fragrant. Do not allow the garlic or annatto seeds to burn. Lower heat if saucepan is too hot. Turn off the heat when done. Cool on the counter for 10 minutes and pour in an 8 oz. mason jar to keep till ready to use. This makes about 1 cup. Set aside for basting the chicken when grilling.
- Marinate the chicken: In a non-reactive bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients: coconut vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, calamansi juice, and black pepper. Combine well. Divide the liquid marinade and reserve about 3/4 cup for basting when you grill. Keep this reserved marinade in a covered jar in the refrigerator till it's time to grill.
- Place the chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. Pour the rest of the liquid marinade over the chicken pieces. Seal the bag. Marinate the chicken for at least 6 hours or up to overnight before grilling. Keep the marinated chicken refrigerated.
- How to grill the chicken:
- Remove the marinated chicken from the plastic bag. Place the chicken pieces on a large tray. Brush the pieces with the annatto oil -- you will need about 1/2 cup of annatto oil, divided; Use 1/4 to brush chicken now. The rest while chicken is on the grill.
- Pre-heat the outdoor grill for indirect grilling at a temperature of medium high heat for 10 minutes. Get the chicken and reserved 3/4 cup of marinade ready next to the grill.
- Place the chicken pieces, skin side down on the rack. Sear the chicken pieces for 30 to 60 seconds. Turn the pieces over and sear on opposite sides for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Situate the chicken pieces in the center of the rack. Brush the annatto oil marinade over the chicken pieces. Cover and grill the chicken over indirect heat for 40 to 45 minutes. Continue to baste the marinade every few minutes. Brush the annatto oil last and cook for 5 minutes more at the end.
- Serve the chicken inasal with sinamak, achara (green papaya pickle relish) and steamed rice.
- Sinamak (Bacolod-style Spicy Vinegar Sauce): Chicken Inasal is often served with a side dipping sauce called Sinamak, which is basically spicy vinegar. Mix together in a non-reactive or glass mason jar the following: 1 cup coconut vinegar, 6 bird's eye chilies (sili, stems removed), a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger that's peeled and sliced thin, 1 chopped shallot, 5 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons calamansi or lemon juice, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon salt. Make this ahead and keep refrigerated.
- Cook's Comments: Grilling time for this was based on the amount and weight of the chicken pieces, bone-in, as suggested by the recipe in the cookbook. If your chicken meat differs in size, weight and amount, and if you use an internal meat thermometer to be precise, here's a helpful cooking chart from AllRecipes.com, which I often refer to.
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Nutrition Notes: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.