grilled brick chicken with tapenade

You’ve seen brick chicken on the menu.  You may even wonder what that is.  Wonder no more.  No fancy gadgets needed …just a brick and a cast iron skillet.  This recipe is merely a guideline on how to achieve delicious brick chicken on your backyard grill.  The process remains the same regardless of whether you add a layer of tapenade or if you like garlic and rosemary in your marinade.  It’s all about preparing the whole bird for the grill, soaking it in your favorite marinade, then cooking it “under a brick” for an evenly cooked bird with crisp charred skin.  The weight of the brick and pan flattens the bird on the grill to promote more even cooking.

Let’s start by preparing the olive tapenade.

Toast those pine nuts on the stovetop to bring out their full flavor.  Give them a few minutes to cool before adding them to the mix.

This adds a wonderful layer of flavor to the final dish but you won’t be using all of it.  Store the excess tightly covered in the fridge for up to a week.  Add it to the offerings when you arrange that hummus tray your family loves.

Put the tapenade aside and let’s work on the lemon-garlic marinade.  It’s an easy one …you don’t even need a processor or blender.

Set the prepared marinade aside along with the tapenade.  This is where the fun begins.  It’s time to spatchcock or butterfly the chicken.  It may sound foreign but it’s really not that hard.  You’ll be cutting through the backbone or breastbone of the chicken so that the bird lies flat during the grilling process.  You can ask your butcher to do this for you but it really can be done at home.

You can start at either end.   With kitchen shears, cut through on either side of the bone from the tail to the neck.  Once the bone is removed, you will open the chicken fully and flip it over.  Use the heel of your hand to apply pressure to flatten the bird.  The tips of the wings tend to burn, so you may choose to remove those wing tips.  Wrap the bones you’ve cut away tightly and place them in the freezer to be used when making chicken stock.  For more detailed instructions, check out this tutorial.

Once the chicken is spatchcocked, it is ready for the placement of the tapenade underneath the layer of skin.  Then the chicken is placed in a dish and covered with the prepared marinade.  It will need to hang out in the fridge for at least 4 hours.  Or even better, overnight.

When you are ready to grill the chicken, be sure to remove it from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes prior to cooking.  While waiting for the grill to preheat, wrap the brick with foil and choose a cast iron pan whose base is similar to the size of the flattened chicken.  The pan will become extremely hot during the grilling process, so it’s a good idea to have a resting place set up near the grill.  On a table or cart, lay out a thick mat or folded towel.  Place a metal rack on top of the mat. This way when you turn the bird over, you’ll have a safe place for the hot pan.  And, of course, have a very thick (or several) oven mitt(s) nearby.  The cast iron pan handle will be wicked hot!!  Please use caution!!

You will always start grilling with the skin side up.

This recipe is from Michael Chiarello’s Live Fire Cookbook.  The combination of flavors is wonderful.  But, really, you can fine tune this using your family’s favorite marinade.  Or, instead of the kalamata tapenade, you could slip some sliced citrus under the skin.  No matter what flavors are used, this is grilled chicken at its best.

grilled brick chicken with tapenade

Adapted from Michael Chiarello's Live Fire

Moist & flavorful

Servings 4 servings


For the Kalamata Tapenade

  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 cups pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Lemon-Garlic Marinade

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Grilled Chicken

  • 1 chicken (4 to 5 pounds)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 2 lemons, halved


For the Kalamata Tapenade

  1. Toast the pine nuts in a small dry sauté pan on the stovetop over medium-low heat just until they begin to show color, 2 to 3 minutes.  Immediately transfer them to a plate to cool.

  2. In a food processor, blend the olives, parsley, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, optional salt and pepper.  Add the cooled pine nuts and process until smooth.  This can be made ahead and stored tightly covered in the fridge for up to 1 week.

  3. NOTE:  Kalamata olives tend to be naturally salty.  It is advisable to taste the tapenade before adding additional salt.

For the Lemon-Garlic Marinade

  1. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Stir well and set aside while you prepare the chicken.

For the Grilled Chicken

  1. Place the chicken on a cutting board or a flat surface covered with protective paper.  Using a boning knife or kitchen shears, cut along either side of the backbone or breastbone.  With your fingers, lift the bone away from the bird and set it aside. Flip the chicken over so the skin side is up and flatten with the heel of your hand. 

  2. Taking care not to tear the skin of the bird, lift the skin by gently running your hand between the skin and the meat.  Place 1 tablespoon of tapenade under the skin of each leg.  Place about 4 teaspoons of tapenade under the skin of each breast.  Gently massage the tapenade under the skin to distribute evenly.

  3. Place the chicken in a ceramic or glass dish just large enough to hold it flat.  Pour the marinade over the chicken, turning the bird to coat with marinade.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Turn the chicken 3 or 4 times while marinating.

  4. Remove chicken from refrigerator at least 20 minutes prior to grilling.  Turn a gas grill to high or ignite charcoal.  When the grill is hot, clean your grill rack.  Decrease the temperature to medium and wipe a bit of olive oil over the grill rack. 

  5. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken with about 1 teaspoon salt on each side, and place it, skin-side up, on the grill. Set a cast-iron skillet on top of the bird, and place a foil-wrapped brick in the skillet.  Cook for 10 to 13 minutes, then remove the skillet and the brick, turn the bird, put the skillet and brick back in place, and cook for another 10 to 13 minutes.

  6. Add the cut lemons to the grill, cut-side down, during the last few minutes of cooking.

  7. The bird is done when it is golden brown and crisp on the outside and an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F when inserted in a thigh but not touching a bone.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board or platter, cover with foil, and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.  Cut in quarters and season to taste with additional salt & pepper.  Serve with the grilled lemon halves for squeezing over the bird.

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