Grilling gives food that distinct roasted aroma and flavor. Chicken Inasal is a grilled chicken dish that originated in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines, particularly in the city of Bacolod. Chicken parts are marinated in a mixture of ginger, garlic, sugar, calamansi (calamondin), soy sauce and coconut vinegar then grilled using hot coals. As it cooks, the meat is basted with annatto oil, giving it that recognizable orange-red tint. For an even more delectable flavor, annatto seeds are steeped in chicken fat… giving it an extra layer of richness.
Because the chicken parts are bone-in, make sure to cook the meat until the juices run clear when poked and the inside is no longer pink. I started grilling on medium heat (skin-side down) to give it that signature grill mark. Then after the first flip, I basted and lowered the heat to the lowest setting so the inside cooks thoroughly without charring the skin too much. You can also cut slits on the underside until it reaches the bone, for an even faster cooking time. Close the lid between turning and basting to evenly cook the chicken. And, let the meat soak in the marinade longer for the spices to permeate through the meat even better.
Chicken Inasal (Filipino Grilled Chicken)
- 5 – 6 chicken leg quarters back attached, about 3- 3 ½ lbs*
- ¼ cup ginger peeled, smashed and chopped
- 1 head garlic crushed and roughly chopped
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- Juice of 1 large lemon or 8 calamansi Calamondin
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup vinegar**
- 1 teaspoon salt
Annatto Oil for Basting:
- A handful of chicken fat trimmings or ½ cup canola oil
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 2 tablespoons annatto seeds
- If you have a mortar and pestle, use it to crush and pound the ginger and garlic pieces. Combine all the ingredients (except the chicken) in a large bowl. Using your clean hand, mash the spices to release the juices from the ginger and the garlic then mix very well. Add the chicken and coat each piece well with the marinade. Cut a couple of slits on the underside of the chicken for a quicker grilling time.
- Marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours (or overnight for deeper flavor). Turn halfway to evenly season the meat. Remove from the fridge at least 30 minutes before grilling.
- To make the annatto oil: In a saucepan, add oil or cook chicken skin until fat is rendered (skin will be golden brown). Add in garlic and annatto seeds. Cook for under 5 minutes under low heat to extract the color and flavor without burning the garlic. Set aside until ready to grill. You will only need a few tablespoons to baste the chicken. Reserve the rest for later use.
- Cook on a preheated grill, skin side down for 8-10 minutes (lid closed). Flip, baste the cooked side with the prepared annatto oil, close the lid and cook for 10 minutes (on low heat). Flip again and baste the other side . Turn the meat 2 more times and continue cooking until chicken is cooked through (no longer pink inside and meat juices run clear when cut), about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken.*** (see notes)
- Serve with spiced vinegar (vinegar with crushed garlic, chillies, salt and pepper) or calamansi-soy sauce dip. Drizzle annatto oil over steamed rice, if desired.