Talk Of The Town


Whole Chicken With Alabama White Sauce

Posted at 2:45 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 15:45:34-05

Acclaimed Pitmaster Pat Martin gave tips on how to grill a whole chicken and made his Alabama White Sauce. Pat's debut cookbook, Life of Fire: Mastering the Arts of Pit-Cooked Barbecue, the Grill, and the Smokehouse, will be released everywhere on Tuesday, March 15. Meet him at a book signing on March 15 at 6:30pm at Parnassus Books in Green Hills. For more information, visit


PAT MARTIN, Life of Fire

4 servings

1 whole chicken (31/2 to 4 pounds), brined or dry-brined

1 tablespoon Big Hoss Rub (see recipe below)

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup apple juice

Pat's Alabama White Sauce

To help the chicken cook evenly and expose more of it to the smoky fire, I

butterfly (aka spatchcock) it first. But my method is unconventional. Frankly,

it’s backward: instead of removing the chicken’s backbone (as is the established

method), I split the bird through the breastbone. This technique was born years

ago out of a screwup: I accidentally cut down the wrong side of a chicken, but

I cooked it anyway, and I actually preferred the results. The breast and leg meat

cooked more evenly, and to me it just looks right: When you lay the bird out flat,

the legs fold neatly around the breast to create a tight square of meat. If you think

I’m full of it, try my “reverse spatchcock” method once, and see for yourself.

To keep your bird from drying out over the dry heat of the fire, I highly

recommend using a brined chicken. Many of the chickens you buy at the grocery

store have already been injected with brine, or “plumped.” The label will tell you

if it’s been brined, and how much of its total weight is brine (look for something

that has been plumped by at least 9 percent brine or broth). Organic chickens have

probably not been plumped, and the same goes for anything you buy from a local

farmer. In those cases, you can dry-brine the chicken: Season it all over, inside

and out, with kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal per pound), then

place it on a wire rack set over a sheet pan and refrigerate it, uncovered, for at least

6 and up to 24 hours.

Using kitchen shears, split the chicken by cutting up from the cavity, through

the breast side. Cut close to the breastbone and through the wishbone. Season

the chicken with the dry rub (see How to Apply Rub, page 97).

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar and apple juice; this will be your mop.

Prepare a bed of coals (see Getting Ready to Cook, page 85) below the grill

grate and let them burn down until they’re medium to medium-low (you

should be able to hold your hand just above the grill grate for 7 to 10 seconds).

(recipe continues)

Open up the chicken so that it lies flat and place

it skin-side down on the grill grates. Cook,

undisturbed, for 5 to 10 minutes. Flip the chicken

over and let it cook for 5 minutes longer.

Using a shovel, pull the coals below the grill grate

toward the perimeter of the grill to make a four-

sided bed of coals around the grate. Lay a few logs

or wood slats around the perimeter of the grill on

top of your coals. At this point, there should be

nothing but smoldering ash below the chicken; the

ring of coals will do the cooking from here on out.

Flip the chicken over and wait 15 minutes, then

rotate it 180 degrees (without flipping). Wait 15

minutes, baste the chicken with some mop, and flip

over. Continue alternating between flipping and

rotating the bird every 15 minutes, basting it with

the mop every time you move it.

As your wood burns down, push or shovel some

coals from the perimeter of the grill inward (about

a half shovelful per side) and add new wood to the

top of the coal bed. You’ll probably need to do this

about every 30 minutes, more often on windy days.

Check the ambient temperature around the chicken

with your hand every so often; you’re aiming for

250° to 275°F, or 7 to 10 seconds with the hand test.

Continue this process until the chicken is almost

cooked through (the thickest part of the leg should

be around 160°F), about 2 hours.

Pour the Alabama white sauce into a large bowl

or baking pan and add the chicken, turning it until

it’s well coated in the sauce. Return the chicken to

the grill grates, skin-side down, and cook until the

sauce is clearly reducing on the skin, about 10 more

minutes. Coat the chicken in the sauce once again,

then transfer to a cutting board and let rest for about

10 minutes; the heat of the cooked chicken will turn

the sauce into a shiny glaze. Carve the bird into

pieces and serve.


Makes about 4 cups

21/2 cups mayonnaise

11/4 cups apple cider vinegar

11/2 teaspoons Worcestershire


2 tablespoons honey

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal

kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground

black pepper

11/2 teaspoons chile powder (see


11/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

11/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Transfer to an airtight

container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.


Makes about 5 cups

11/2 cups packed light brown


1 cup Diamond Crystal kosher


1 cup garlic salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup sweet paprika

3 tablespoons lemon pepper

2 tablespoons chile powder (see


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon

mustard powder

1 tablespoon freshly ground

black pepper

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Store in an airtight

container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month.