Mojo-Brined Chicken Halves

Bottles of mojo marinade grace the aisles of nearly every corner supermarket since Hispanic ingredients have increased in popularity. And, while I enjoy the flavor of the prepared marinade in a pinch, it doesn’t compare with the homemade version, which can be whipped up using ingredients most of us have in the pantry or fridge.

The flavors of fresh citrus, garlic, onions, cumin and oregano pair perfectly with chicken, and this recipe combines the flavor of the classic mojo marinade with the moisture-enhancing brining method so popular today.
Brining takes a little forethought, as the chicken halves used here are best if brined overnight. But you’ll thank yourself at dinner the next evening when you’ve got succulent, moist chicken hot off your grill. Ask your supermarket’s butcher to cut your chickens in half for you, and your work will be much simpler.

I like to use garlic and onion juices in this brine, as I think the flavor best penetrates the chicken. However, feel free to substitute a puree of one small onion and 10 big cloves of garlic (puree until smooth in your food processor) if you can’t find the juices at your supermarket. These juices are packaged in small bottles much like vanilla extract, and are usually located in the produce department.

You can eliminate the brining ingredients (the gallon of water and the cup of salt) for a flavorful marinade for boneless, skinless chicken breast halves when time is short.

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup sea or kosher salt
  • Zest and juice of 3 oranges
  • Zest and juice of 3 limes
  • Zest and juice of 3 lemons
  • 1 2-ounce bottle garlic juice
  • 1 2-ounce bottle onion juice
  • 3 tablespoons dried ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 2 ½ to 3-pound chicken, cut in half
Combine all ingredients except the chicken in an extra-large (2 gallon) zip-top freezer bag. Add chicken, seal bag tightly and refrigerate overnight, turning several times.

When ready to cook, heat gas grill* on high for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Place chicken on the grill skin-side down and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until skin is golden-brown. Turn chicken and grill 20 to 30 minutes more, until instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees. Transfer to a platter and let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

*A charcoal grill can be used instead of the gas grill. Light coals and let burn until coals are gray on the outside and glowing in the center, about 15 to 20 minutes.