What is Huli Huli Chicken
Huli Huli Chicken is not something I grew up eating, and that is a shame! This grilled marinated chicken dish that originated in Hawaii is absolutely delicious. It is the perfect combination of salty (from soy sauce) and sweet (from pineapple juice and brown sugar) and smoky (from the grill). Even the charred pieces of skin are delicious and will have you coming back for more. “Huli huli” means “turn turn” (or “rotate” or “flip over”) in Hawaiian, and that is exactly what you do when you cook Huli Huli Chicken. You flip the chicken more times than I would normally tell you to flip grilled chicken, and this simulates cooking on a rotisserie, helping to cook the chicken evenly and to not burn the sweet marinade.
What kind of Chicken to Use
This recipe is a crowd pleaser and as such, I like to use both white and dark meat to suit everyone’s tastes. The easiest way to do that is to use a whole chicken. Yes, you can buy a whole chicken cut into pieces at the market, but it’s really easy to break a whole chicken down yourself at home too. I prefer to buy whole chickens and cut them into pieces or leave them whole depending on what I decide to cook. After all, you can cut up a whole chicken, but you can’t put a cut up chicken back together again! You can see a step-by-step lesson on how to cut up a chicken in this article in the cooking school. You could also spatchcock the chicken and flip the whole chicken over several times as you grill it. Here’s how to spatchcock a chicken. Then again, if you only like white meat, feel free to just use bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, or bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs if you prefer dark meat. You decide!
What Ingredients are in Huli Huli Chicken
The main or most important ingredient in Huli Huli chicken is pineapple juice. That makes sense since pineapples are in such abundance in Hawaii. Pineapple has a distinct and sweet flavor that permeates through this dish right to the end, so don’t substitute (unless you want to make a different chicken dish). You’ll also add soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup and rice wine vinegar, along with some grated ginger and garlic. All in all, this combination of flavors can’t lose.
How Long to marinate?
The marinade for Huli Huli chicken is so flavorful that it can still flavor the chicken with just a few hours of marinating time. Four hours is your minimum and overnight would be your maximum time for keeping the chicken in the marinade. However, you can freeze the chicken in its marinade and save it for another night’s dinner. This is handy if you want to have the ability to pull a really quick meal together some summer night. Store the chicken in a freezer (not storage) zipper sealable bag or an airtight container. The more air you can get out of the storage vessel, the better. Freeze it for up to two months and let it thaw in your refrigerator before you grill.
When to baste?
It’s important to remember that there is a significant amount of sugar in the recipe and sugar burns easily. That’s why turning the chicken often is actually a good idea for this recipe. Try to grill the chicken over indirect heat (on a side away from the coals if using charcoal or over a turned off burner if using a gas BBQ). Let the skin side sit on the grill for 8 to 10 minutes to start and then baste and flip the chicken every 5 minutes or so, making sure to watch how dark the chicken is getting. Honestly, if it gets dark it’s not a disaster. A little char on the chicken is all part of the dish and tastes great. Baste the chicken with the warm sauce one more time as you serve it. Huli Huli chicken really is all about the sauce.
What to serve with Huli Huli Chicken
If you’re outside and not planning on doing any indoor cooking, serve Huli Huli chicken with some cool salads like a classic potato salad or this cucumber salad. Otherwise, it’s perfect with some basmati rice or mashed potatoes with a side salad. A cool refreshing beer alongside is not a bad idea either!