Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Hoisin Glaze

When Chris Kimball published this recipe a few months ago (September/October 2013 issue), I made the this Molasses-Coffee Glaze mostly because that was all I had in my refrigerator. While it was good, I really want to make today’s Spicy Hoisin Glaze. I happily took advantage of the unseasonably warm October weather to make today’s recipe. But I got home late and I didn’t have the requisite two hours. So I reorganized the steps and cut the brining down to correspond to the 25 minutes that the coals took to ignite. The chicken was ready in about 1 hour, but the chicken breast was bit blander with such a short brine. Next time if I want a quicker brine I will increase the salt, and will consider 30 minutes as the absolute minimum. In the end, the chicken was perfectly cooked to 160-degrees.  I prefer today’s glaze; 4-stars even given the shorted brine.

In a rush it can be made in about 1 hour

In a rush it can be made in about 1 hour


  1. Chris Kimball offers a range spiciness by adjusting the Sriracha sauce between 1 and 2 tablespoons. I used 2 and my picky-eater son still enjoyed it, but next time I will try 1-1/2 tablespoons to make him happier. I was happy with the full 2 tablespoons.
  2. Another change I tried was using fewer charcoals. The original recipe calls for a slightly overflowing chimney starter, which seemed wasteful for just a few quick-cooking, boneless chicken breasts. So today I used about 20% less (a slightly under-filled chimney starter), and I didn’t notice any issue. The coals were still scorching hot, so much so that I could barely glaze the chicken without pulling my hand away. Chris’ original logic in using so much charcoal was to get the Maillard reaction in 2 minutes per side, and with fewer coals it took me 2-1/2 minutes per side. But since the chicken still needed some time on the cooler side of the grill, the chicken was still perfectly cooked. I hit the 160-degree mark exactly.

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $6.
How much work? Medium/Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 5:30 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Grilled Glazed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts is here, and the original recipe for the Spicy Hoisin glaze is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today is as follows:

Spicy Hoisin Glaze Ingredients:
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 – 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder

Chicken Ingredients:
1/4 cup table salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Non-stick vegetable oil spray

  1. If you need to eat in 1 hour’s time, light the charcoal following the instructions in step 3. If you have 1-1/2 to 2 hours, then brine the chicken before lighting the charcoals.
  2. Trim the chicken breasts to remove any excess fat or skin. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4-cup table salt and 1/4-cup sugar with 1-1/2 quarts of cold water. Add chicken to brine, cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for an hour (or until the coals are ready; i.e. step 5).
  3. After chicken has been brining for 30 minutes, prepare your charcoal grill by completely opening both the top and bottom vents. Fill a chimney starter so that it is slightly overflowing (mounded) with briquettes and light, which will take about 25 minutes to fully ignite.
  4. While the charcoal ignites, prepare the glaze by whisking together the 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 1 teaspoon cornstarch in small saucepan. After the cornstarch has dissolved, continue whisking in the hoisin sauce, corn syrup, Sriracha sauce, grated ginger and five-spice powder. Place over a high burner and bring to boil; about 2 minutes. Continue boiling for 1 minute until the glaze has thickened. Empty sauce into a small bowl or cup.
  5. Remove the chicken from the brine, and use paper towels to pat it dry. Combine 2 teaspoons milk powder and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl and evenly sprinkle each side with half the milk powder, spraying each side with nonstick cooking spray to moisten the powdered milk.
  6. When the coals are ready, create a two level fire by emptying 2/3rds on half the grill, and the remaining 1/3rd over the other half of the grill. Pre-heat grate for 5 minutes then clean a rub with paper-towel dipped in vegetable oil.
  7. Put chicken with the skin-side down directly over the hottest side of the grill. Grill for 2-1/2 minutes, then flip chicken (leaving on the hot side). Brush with glaze while the second side is cooking for another 2-1/2 minutes. Flip the chicken again (skin-side down) but over the cool-side of the grill. Brush with glaze while the skin-side is cooking for 2 minutes. Flip and brush with glaze twice more, and remove when the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160-degrees.
  8. Allow chicken to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes before serving.

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