Welcome back to Kelly’s Kitchen! I am happy you’re here. Today is National BBQ Day, and what better way to celebrate than by grilling out. Alex and I have spent a fair amount of time so far this spring practicing grilling and smoking on our Big Green Egg. We have had some hits and some misses (read: the brisket a couple weeks ago!), but we are learning a lot and enjoying it all the way. But we had a hit this week and wanted to share with you how to make Alabama-style bbq.
When we were still in California, we lived in an apartment which had a balcony, and we had a very crappy gas grill. We grilled all the time; struggling though its very small size and keeping a consistent temperature. And then it finally just broke. Right at the beginning of last summer. Since we were planning to move to Athens at the end of the summer, we didn’t bother to replace it and instead just longed for the day we’d be in our new home, with a proper grill.
That time has finally arrived and we couldn’t be happier! Alex has become interested in regional BBQ styles and suggested we try an Alabama-style white BBQ sauce this week. This white BBQ sauce is mayonnaise-based, traditionally served on smoked chicken. Alex is a mayo-fanatic so, to really satisfy his mayonnaise crush, I went maybe one too far and made an Elote-style sauce (featuring mayo!) for corn on the cob.
How to Make Alabama-style White BBQ Sauce
We chose to spatchcock a whole chicken, but you can do your favorite cuts of chicken, if you like. We are smoking the bird to capture the traditional experience, but you can just grill it if you’re not able to smoke it.
Spatchcock Step 1: Using kitchen shears, cut along each side of the chicken spine and remove the spine.
Spatchcock Step 2: Flip the bird over, breast side up and pull the two sides out to flatten the chicken. Season with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic salt.
Spatchcock Step 3 (optional): Lay a pile of fresh herbs on a wire rack and place your chicken on the herbs. We used fresh rosemary and thyme. You can do this if you are using pieces too, it just adds a fresh herby flavor to the chicken that goes nicely with the smoke from the grill.
This will be an indirect cook, meaning the chicken will not be directly over the flame. You can easily do this in a gas grill by only firing up one side and placing the chicken on the opposite side. Or if you have a cast iron griddle, you can place that on the grill and put your wire rack and chicken on top of it. Alex uses a cast iron plate* which goes above the flame, but below the grill, this plate radiates the heat from the flame, without the flames hitting the bird.
*Editor’s note: This plate is actually ceramic! It’s so blackened I assumed it was cast iron. Anywho….
Spatchcock Step 4: Get your grill up to 315 degrees. We will hold this temp and cook the bird for 90 minutes.
Spatchcock Step 5: Place your wire rack with the herbs and chicken on the grill.
Spatchcock Step 6: Rotate the wire rack and bird 90 degrees, halfway through the cook.
Meanwhile, let’s make the sauce
Alabama-Style White BBQ Sauce
- 1 cup Mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 tbsp Brown Mustard
- 1 tsp Lemon Juice
- 1 tsp Prepared Horseradish
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
Sauce Step 1: Whisk all ingredients together!
This style of white BBQ sauce was created sometime in the early 1920’s by Bob Gibson in Decatur, Alabama. It is speculated that the mayonnaise-based sauce came about as a way to keep the chicken moist after it came off the pit, the fat in the mayo would act as a buffer. At Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q restaurants, they dunk the whole chicken into the sauce when it comes out of the pit. The white sauce has gained popularity on grilled vegetables and as a chip dip.
Elote is a Mexican street food: an ear of corn on a stick grilled, then coated in a creamy, cheesy sauce with spices and cilantro.
Earlier, I referred to the corn topping as an Elote-Style sauce because typically Elote is made with equal parts sour cream and mayonnaise with grated Cotija cheese. Well, I didn’t have sour cream and I had queso fresco, not Cotija. Cotija is a sharp salty cheese, while queso fresco is more mild. Not to be deterred by missing ingredients, I simply made some modifications!
Elote Sauce Step 1: Whisk together ½ cup Mayonnaise, juice from ½ of a lime, ¼ cup crumbled queso fresco and about ½ to 1 tablespoon of Everything But The Elote spice blend.
A note on the spices: I am using Everything But The Elote, a spice blend made by Trader Joe’s. In place of this you can create a spice blend with 1 teaspoon each of: chile powder, chipotle powder (or try smoked paprika), cumin, garlic powder, grated parmesan cheese and sea salt. Give it a taste and make adjustments as you like.
By now your chicken should be just about to temp, 165 degrees for the breast, 175 degrees for the dark meat. When you pull your chicken off the grill, tent it with foil and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Throw your corn on the grill while your chicken rests.
Carve up your chicken and arrange on a platter. Pour Alabama-Style sauce over the chicken and garnish with green onions.
Pull your corn off the grill. Arrange on a plate and pour the Elote-Style sauce over the corn. Sprinkle with more cheese crumbles and fresh cilantro.
This was a fun experiment for us since we never had Alabama-style white sauce before. I was skeptical, given my experience with tomato, or vinegar-based BBQ sauce I didn’t feel like a mayo-based sauce could count as a BBQ sauce. But on smoked chicken, it doesn’t lose any BBQ-ness. You still get a nice tang, a little spiciness, and an added richness – which is what makes this a unique flavor experience. We made a double batch of the white sauce and have used it on burgers and I made deviled eggs with it instead of using plain mayo. So go ahead and make some extra, you will find yourself using it for more than smoked chicken!
Thank you all for joining me this week. I hope you give this recipe a try. If you aren’t up for grilling a chicken, make the sauce and try it out on other things! If you like mayonnaise, I am sure you will like it on burgers, sandwiches and veggies. Have a great weekend everyone, take care and be well. xo Kelly