Wood Hearth Chickens with Salsa Verde

Wood Hearth Chickens with Salsa Verde

Wood Hearth Chickens with Salsa Verde are chickens grilled midair, hanging over a smoky wood fire. Served with salsa verde.


More Recipes from Episode 206: Primal Grilling




Wood Hearth Chickens with Salsa Verde

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6
  • Equipment: Natural-fiber butcher’s string; a sturdy support from which to hang the chickens (or see an alternative method below)


  • 2 quarts hot water
  • ½ cup coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 2 quarts ice water
  • 1 bunch rosemary
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 small fennel bulb (ideally with stalks attached), quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half
  • 1 lemon, cut in half and seeded

  • 2 quarts cold water

  • 2 chickens, each about 4 pounds
  • Extra virgin olive oil or melted butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt as needed

Recipe Steps

1: Place the hot water and salt in a stockpot or other container large enough to hold both chickens.   Whisk until the salt crystals are dissolved.   Whisk in the cold water, followed by the rosemary, sage, thyme, fennel, bay leaves, garlic, and lemon.  Let the brine cool to room temperature.

2: Remove the package of giblets, if any, from the body cavities of the chickens and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat from the body and neck cavities.  Submerge the chickens in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.

3: Remove the chickens from the brine and drain. Pat dry, then thinly coat the chickens with olive oil or melted butter and season generously, inside and out, with pepper.

4: Build a fire and allow it to burn down to embers (a mature fire). On the show, we used a raised fire pit. But you can also smoke-roast the chickens indirectly over a medium-hot fire (350 to 375 degrees) for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees. (Insert your temperature probe in the thickest part of the thigh.)

5: Truss the chickens into very compact ovoid shapes. Tie a long piece of butcher’s string securely to the trussing string at the top of the bird (the neck). Then tie the loose end securely to the support, allowing the chicken to dangle about 16 to inches above the embers. (You may need the assistance of another person to support the weight of each bird while you tie them up.) Repeat with the second bird.

6: Roast the chicken for 45 minutes, or until the lower half is nicely browned. Wearing insulated food gloves or other hand protection, flip the chickens upside down. Cut the strings that were suspending the birds. Tie new strings to the trussing on the opposite end of the chicken (near the legs/main cavity), and retie securely to the support.

7: Continue to roast the chickens until done, about 45 minutes more, depending on the heat of your fire. (Replenish the fuel as necessary.)   You’re looking for an internal temperature in the thigh of 165 degrees.   Carefully remove the chickens from the support and place on a cutting board. Let rest for 10 minutes, then remove the trussing strings. Carve and serve.

Recipe Tips

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Steven Raichlen’s Project Fire is a production of Maryland Public Television, Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2019 Barbacoa, Inc. Photos by Chris Bierlein.