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How to create the best five-spice chicken on the grill


Cooking on the grill is a favorite pastime for many people, especially during the warmer months. One dish that’s sure to be a hit at any barbecue is five spice chicken. This flavorful dish is easy to make and is sure to impress your friends and family. In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps to create the best five-spice chicken on the grill.

How to create the best five-spice chicken on the grill

1. Use less five-spice powder

Use a smaller amount of five-spice powder. It may seem counterintuitive, but when using store-bought five-spice powder instead of making your own, you often encounter an overpowering taste of the licorice-like flavor of the star anise. To achieve the right balance for five-spice chicken, it’s essential to avoid any one spice dominating the flavor profile. To achieve this, we incorporate a generous amount of coriander as a filler. Additionally, we have increased the quantities of other five spice ingredients, such as cumin powder and Sichuan peppercorns. This adjustment results in a well-rounded savory seasoning that enhances the chicken’s flavor without overwhelming it with the taste of star anise.

2. Use a dry rub

To ensure optimal grill performance, I opted for a dry rub instead of utilizing soy sauce, a common ingredient in many five-spice chicken recipes. Additionally, we substituted garlic powder for fresh garlic to prevent it from burning during the grilling process.

3. Choose a broiler/fryer chicken

Select a broiler or fryer chicken weighing between 2.5 to 3 pounds, approximately the same size as an average rotisserie chicken. This size chicken offers thinner and more tender meat, which cooks quickly and evenly. It yields a juicy texture and robust flavor when grilled, requiring no marinating or brining to enhance its taste.

How to create the best five-spice chicken on the grill

4. Butterfly the chicken

To ensure the chicken cooks evenly, we butterflied it by flattening it. If you’ve never butterflied a chicken before, don’t worry. All you need is a pair of poultry shears, and you can easily learn by watching a tutorial video and giving it a try. You’ll likely find it simpler than expected, especially when using a broiler chicken, as the bones are tender and easy to cut through.

After removing the backbone, remember to save it in your bone bag and freeze it. This way, you can use the leftover bones to make delicious chicken stock later on.

How to create the best five-spice chicken on the grill

5. Cook with two-zone indirect fire

For even cooking and to achieve a tender texture with crispy skin, we’ll set up a two-zone indirect fire on the grill, with the coals piled on one side. This indirect heat method replicates the slow roasting effect of an oven. Afterward, we’ll use direct heat to crisp up the chicken skin. If you’re using a gas grill, simply turn one burner to high heat and the other to medium-low heat to create a similar setup.

The cooking process takes approximately 40 minutes, resulting in juicy, flavorful chicken with a smoky, crispy exterior. Surprisingly, there’s no need for brining or marinating. Even chicken breast, which can sometimes be dry, turns out moist and delicious. The juices flow as you carve into the meat, indicating its succulence. The flavor is so rich that no dipping sauce is necessary – I assure you.

Personally, I enjoy serving the chicken over brown rice, though noodles or bread are equally suitable options. Start cooking the rice just before grilling, as you’ll have ample time while waiting for the coals to heat up. Within the 30 minutes it takes to slow roast the chicken, you can easily prepare a simple green salad. In about an hour, you’ll have a delightful main course with sides ready to serve four people.

How to create the best five-spice chicken on the grill


  • 2.5 to 3 pounds (1.2 kg) whole chicken (refer to footnote 1)
  • Dry rub:
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili pepper (or paprika for a milder dish)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns (or black pepper) (refer to footnote 2)


  1. In a small bowl, combine coriander, five spice powder, garlic powder, cumin powder, chili pepper, and ground Sichuan peppercorns. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Dry the chicken thoroughly with a paper towel. Remove the chicken wing tips and spine using poultry shears, saving the bones in a gallon bag for later use in making chicken stock. Place the chicken on a flat surface, skin side up, and flatten it by pressing down on the breastbone with your palm until you hear a crisp crack.
  3. Generously season both sides of the chicken with sea salt. Sprinkle about two-thirds of the dry rub onto the skin side of the chicken, and the remaining third onto the other side. Ensure that the seasoning reaches the surfaces next to the thighs and wing joints.
  4. Light one chimney full of charcoal (refer to footnote 3). Once the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, carefully pour it into the grill and spread it over half of the coal grate on one side. For gas grills, set half of the burners to high heat. Place the cooking grate in position, cover the grill, and preheat for 5 minutes. Clean the cooking grate and brush it lightly with oil.
  5. Position the chicken on the cooler side of the grill with the legs facing the hotter side, and the skin side up. Cover the grill with both top and bottom vents open. Cook until a meat thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers 110°F (43°C) when lifting the chicken with tongs for an accurate reading, approximately 30 minutes. Rotate the chicken once during cooking to ensure even exposure to heat.
  6. Carefully flip the chicken and move it to the hotter side of the grill, skin side down. Place a foil-lined cast iron pan on top of the chicken to ensure good contact with the grill grates (refer to footnote 4). Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the thermometer reads 145 to 150°F (63 to 66°C). If the chicken begins to burn before fully cooked, transfer it to the cooler side of the grill, cover it, and continue cooking.
  7. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate and allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
How to create the best five-spice chicken on the grill


  • Other cuts of chicken, such as thighs, breasts, and legs, can be used as alternatives.
  • For the best flavor, cook Sichuan peppercorns in a spoonful of vegetable oil until dark, then grind. Alternatively, raw peppercorns can be ground, but they are more fragrant when cooked.
  • Leftover charcoal can be used for grilling vegetables or saved for later use.
  • If a cast iron pan is unavailable, a foil-lined baking tray with a brick or stone placed on top of the chicken can be used as a substitute (refer to footnote 4).
How to create the best five-spice chicken on the grill

Nutrition (per serving):

  • Serving size: 232g
  • Calories: 322 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 20.1g
  • Protein: 36.4g
  • Fat: 11.7g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.6g
  • Cholesterol: 78mg
  • Sodium: 1159mg
  • Potassium: 766mg
  • Fiber: 0.9g
  • Sugar: 17.7g
  • Vitamin A: 250IU
  • Vitamin C: 0.8mg
  • Calcium: 80mg
  • Iron: 2mg

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