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Beatrice Ojakangas: Keep the summertime heat outside with grilled chicken and corn

Right about now, my basil, oregano and other herbs are doing quite well. It is time to use them!

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Chicken thighs and corn on the cob brushed with cumin-flavored butter can be grilled side-by-side. Susanna Ojakangas / For Forum News Service

It seems wrong to run the air conditioner when I turn the oven on when it is 80 degrees outside and the house is about the same temperature. So cooking in the “good old summertime” is best done outdoors. We are in the dead heat of summer now, and I’ve been firing up the grill for everything from chicken to burgers, hot dogs, and even the fresh fruits of summer, like peaches and apricots (more on that next time!).

This is really a welcome switch from the winter months, which here in Duluth can last from September to the first of June. At that time, the heat of the oven is welcome.

Year-round, the weather plays its part. I remember one Memorial Day, when my mom was still with us, I was obsessed with doing grilled burgers outside. We “picnicked” on the deck, eating our grilled burgers with mittens while taking photos and laughing.

* * *

When I told my daughter, Susanna, that I wanted to do a spatchcock chicken on the grill, her response was, “Oh that sounds so cruel!”


My response was, “It isn’t so cruel; all I need to do is to cut out the backbone and flatten the chicken out by breaking its breast bone, then I slip butter and herbs under the skin….” Slaughter in the kitchen!

The advantage of the spatchcock method is that you can really add a lot of flavor to the bird. And, being that the chicken is flattened, the whole bird cooks in about half the time.

Garlic, herbs and butter are the easiest to figure out. Right about now, my basil, oregano and other herbs are doing quite well. It is time to use them!

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Summer herbs make a fresh garnish for chicken cooked on the grill. (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)

Grilled Spatchcock Chicken with Butter, Herbs and Garlic

1 whole broiler-fryer chicken, about 4 pounds

4 tablespoons butter, cut up

Juice of 1 lemon or lime, about ¼ cup


3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano, marjoram and basil

2 green onions, chopped

½ cup olive oil

Sprigs of rosemary

Wash the chicken. Dry with paper towels, set it upright on a cutting board, and with a heavy, sharp knife, or with strong shears, cut down both sides of the backbone. Save the backbone for another use (like for making stock). Open the chicken up and press down on the breast bone until it cracks so the bird will lie flat.

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Spatchcock chicken on the grill with butter under the skin. (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)


With your fingers, loosen the skin over the breasts and over the thighs. Slip about ¼ of the butter over each side of the breasts and over the meat of the legs and thighs. Massage the butter to cover the meat. Place the whole thing into a 2-gallon plastic bag.

Mix the juice, garlic, herbs, onions and olive oil. Pour over the chicken in the bag and allow to marinate for about 1 hour, until you are ready to grill.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill the chicken with the skin side up over medium heat for about 15 minutes, brushing with the marinade occasionally. Flip over and cook until the thigh meat registers 165 degrees.

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Check the temperature of grilled chicken with an instant-read thermometer, cooking the meat to 165 degrees. (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Spiced Oil Marinade

Perfectly grilled chicken thighs are juicy and tender when cooked with the skin on and bone in. Be careful not to overcook — ideally, you should check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer, cooking the meat to 165 degrees. This is a simple but tasty marinade that is excellent on whole chicken as well.

¼ cup olive oil

4 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice or a combination

2 teaspoons garlic powder or 2 crushed garlic cloves

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons soy sauce

¼ cup packed brown sugar

About 2 pounds bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the marinade: olive oil, lemon juice, lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper, mustard, Dijon mustard, soy sauce and brown sugar. (Pantry staples!) Trim any fat from your chicken thighs, if necessary, and place in a large bowl or a large zip-top plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Marinate for 2 to 12 hours before grilling. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. If using charcoal briquettes, arrange the heated briquettes so they are under half the grill. Sear the chicken thighs over lit side of grill 2-3 minutes per side until skin turns golden brown, taking care not to char. Move chicken pieces to unlit side of grill and cook, covered, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let chicken rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Makes about 4 servings.

Spiced, Buttered Corn on the Cob

We first tasted this combination in India, where street venders were cooking corn on the cob and smearing them with spiced butter. This has turned into one of my favorite ways to flavor grilled corn on the cob.

1 stick (½ cup) butter

1 tablespoon ground cumin, coriander or curry powder

4 to 6 husked and cleaned uncooked corn cobs

Melt the butter and stir in your choice of spices. Cook the corn cobs over a gas or charcoal heated fire for about 10 minutes, brushing with the butter several times, and turning the corn cobs several times. Serve hot. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Beatrice Ojakangas
Beatrice Ojakangas (News Tribune photo)

Beatrice Ojakangas is a Duluth food writer and author of 31 cookbooks. Find her online at

Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
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