“Chicken thighs on the bone are a great starting point for any budding barbecue enthusiast keen to start a relationship with fire and outdoor cookery. They are quite forgiving to fluctuations in temperature; they cook relatively quickly; and are also inexpensive, which makes them a useful beginner’s ingredient for playing around with whilst you learn about the properties of your barbecue and of fire, and how to control the temperature of both. These smoked chicken thighs are great as a snack for when the boys (or girls) come round to watch the game. Make a bucket-load and pass them round.” – Josh Katz, Berber & Q.
For the saffron orange caramel:
180ml freshly squeezed orange juice, strained
200g caster sugar
100ml saffron water (a generous pinch of saffron soaked in 100ml boiling water and left to infuse for 15 minutes)
1 tbsp orange blossom flower water
For the chicken thighs:
8 chicken thighs, on the bone
For the everyday chicken rub:
2 tbsp ground sumac
1 tbsp Aleppo chilli flakes or use 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp garlic granules or powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp salt
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
Freshly picked basil leaves, ripped
generous pinch Aleppo chilli flakes (also known as pul biber or red pepper flakes) or use 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
For The Saffron Orange Caramel: Combine the orange juice, sugar and saffron water in a heavy-based saucepan and cook over a medium-high heat until a caramel has formed with the consistency of a loose honey. Resist the urge to dip your finger in to test this. It won’t forgive you easily. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange blossom flower water.
For The Chicken Thighs: Put all the ingredients for the everyday chicken rub in a small bowl and mix well. Toss the thighs in the rub, making sure each thigh is well coated and the spice mix is evenly distributed. Set a barbecue up for smoking using two-zone indirect grilling with an internal temperature of between 130°C and 150°C.
Arrange the thighs in a single layer on the grill rack with no burning coals underneath, set up for reverse-searing. Add some woodchips to the burning coals, put the lid on the barbecue and smoke for 40–45 minutes, or until the internal temperature when measured with a thermometer probe reads ideally between 70°C and 75°C (or above). In the absence of a probe, cut into the meat to the bone and check the juices run clear.
Remove the lid from the barbecue and use tongs to transfer the thighs for reverse-searing so that they are directly grilling over the hot coals. Start to baste the chicken thighs in the caramel, turning regularly and continuing to baste on each side. Pour approximately the last quarter of the caramel into a heavy-based cast-iron pan and place on the grill next to the thighs, allowing the caramel to bubble and thicken.
Nicely char the outside of the thighs to ensure they are well coloured and the skins have crisped up, then transfer to the cast iron pan. Cook for a final 1–2 minutes in the reducing caramel, spooning the sauce over the thighs as you go.
To Garnish: Remove the pan from the grill, throw some ripped basil over to wilt in the residual heat, and garnish with chilli flakes. Serve immediately.
Berber & Q by Josh Katz (Ebury Press, £25) Photography by James Murphy