Cider-Brined Grill-Roasted Chicken with Grilled Apples and Sage

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Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 80 minutes
Servings: 4

Wood chips, soaked and scattered over a fire (or put in a smoker box on a gas grill), create woodsy, fragrant smoke that permeates a chicken as it cooks, flavoring every inch of the meat. Here, the chicken is placed in a cider-and-herb brine before grilling. The result is a deeply seasoned, moist and tender bird with an irresistible smokiness.


  • 1 bottle (12 fl. oz.) hard apple cider 
  • 1/2 cup table salt  
  • 2 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage 
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary 
  • 1 tsp. peppercorns 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 6 1/2 cups ice water 
  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 lb.  
  • 1 cup apple-wood or hickory chips  
  • Canola oil for grilling, plus 2 tsp. 
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples  
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 


In a small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, combine the cider, table salt, the 2 Tbs. chopped sage, the rosemary, peppercorns and bay leaf and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Pour the brine mixture into a large, deep nonreactive bowl and let cool slightly. Stir in the ice water. Add the chicken, submerging it completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 6 hours.

In a bowl, soak the wood chips in cold water to cover for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Drain the wood chips.

Prepare a grill for indirect grilling over high heat. Sprinkle the drained wood chips over the coals or use a wood-chip smoker box on the gas grill. Replace the grill grate and lightly oil it. 

Remove the chicken from the brine; discard the brine. Place the chicken, breast side up, on the cool side of the grill. Cover the grill and cook the chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast, away from the bone, registers 160°F, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer the chicken to a warmed platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. 

Peel and core the apples and quarter each apple lengthwise. In a bowl, toss the apples with the 2 tsp. oil to coat. Place the apples on the hot side of the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until seared with grill marks on all sides and tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl. Add the 2 tsp. chopped sage and the butter to the apples and toss to coat. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

Arrange the apples on the platter around the chicken. Carve the chicken and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Chicken, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2008).

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