The Country Cook: Huli Huli Chicken

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Huli Huli Chicken

I am so proud to introduce this next blogger. We both grew up in Norfolk, Virginia. We were both orchestra geeks in high school and we were both Navy brats. Although, I will thoroughly admit that she was a far better violinist than myself.  
Please meet my good friend, Patricia. She writes for her blog, Ground Control to Major MomPatricia is a woman of many talents. First of all (and most importantly) she is the Mom to two very amazing little boys. Patricia is also a meteorologist in the Air Force Reserves. And now you know where she got her blog title from. She is also very happily married to a fellow meteorologist who is currently on Active Duty in the United States Air Force. I admire Patricia in so many ways. She volunteered to go on deployment to the Middle East to serve her country. She went on active duty for several months, was away from her little boys and devoted husband because she wanted to do her part for our country. So everyone, please say hello to Patricia. 
Hello Country Cook Friends!  I'm so honored to be invited to guest-post on Brandie's awesome blog! I hail from Brandie's hometown of Norfolk, VA.  She and I crossed paths in high school among orchestra circles. We've been swapping Facebook and blog comments about our cooking (among other topics) ever since!

I don't remember that much in my life before about age 4.  I don't know why, I just don't.  Just the intermittent here-and-there memory. My family was living in Hawaii when I was 4-years-old.  My Dad, who was in the Navy, was stationed at this small base northwest of Honolulu.  My first solid memories were from Hawaii. And here's one of them: Huli Huli chicken fundraisers. I vaguely remember driving up to a large dirt/gravel parking lot, perhaps at a church or a high school. And you'd see row-after-row of rotisserie-like skewers, all covered with chickens. I also have vague memories of large metal trash cans to hold the marinade (this was in the 70s, well before plastic trash cans, apparently), and folks using cotton mops to slop on the marinade on the skewers.

Today, I wanted to share with you a recipe that always brings back the memories I have of Hawaii.  I've had chicken made with commercially purchased "Huli Huli Chicken Sauce" and that just seemed wrong. Too syrupy, from what I remember.  If you do a web search for "huli huli chicken recipe" you'll come up with a very wide variety of recipes.  I see ginger, sugar and garlic as a common thread throughout, but from there you'll see varied other ingredients: limes, chiles, honey, ketchup, white wine, etc. Here's the recipe that my family has used over the years:
First, let me introduce the ingredients:
There's "Sugar in the Raw" in the orange sugar dish. Maybe because it's really-truly from Hawaii, I am using it instead of plain white sugar. I feel more authentic that way...

Note the whole chicken...let me warn you, I'm about to show pictures of a chicken dismemberment, so if you're adverse to such images, click away now! Let's disassemble the chicken. When I'm motivated enough, I choose to break up a whole chicken rather than buy the parts's cheaper and I can take advantage of ALL of the chicken for broth, soup, etc. The first thing I did was take my kitchen shears and CUT down both sides of the spine.
I can take the spine/back part and toss it into my freezer bag that already contains two other chicken backs...I'll probably make up some broth this week for recipes later.
I cut the remaining chicken into 2 breasts, 2 leg quarters and 2 wings. Now I chop the garlic and grate the ginger.  I freeze my ginger, so grating it on the Microplane (BEST KITCHEN TOOL EVAH!!!) is easy. Place it all in a bowl and then stir in 3/4 cup of soy sauce.
Now that we have everything -- garlic, ginger, sugar, white wine and soy sauce (I omit the MSG), it's time to stir stir stir. I try to dissolve as much of the sugar as I can.  Now I take a 9x13 baking dish and line it with a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Add the chicken and pour in the marinade:

And here's what you get:
Since the chicken is taking up so much space in the bag, a little marinade will go a long way in the zip-top baggie. I will allow this to sit in my fridge for TWO DAYS, flipping the bag about every 12 hours.  Two nights later, we cooked the marinated chicken. The cooking is the tough part. Because of the sugar content of the marinade, you have to be VERY careful how to cook up the parts. Low low low, for 25 minutes on each side, then you can turn up the heat at the end to give a nice crispness to the skin.
Another option is to slow bake the chicken first, then throw it on the grill. In this I don't have a rigid cooking time, or even a rigid cooking temperature. Let's call it 350F for 1 hour. Then give it about 5 minutes on each side on a NASA-hot grill. Baste it with more marinade, if you wish.
DO NOT be alarmed if you cut into your Huli Huli chicken and you see pink nearest the surface...this is the marinade penetrating the meat! Trust me, it's a good thing. 
So long as it isn't pink next to the bones, you're golden!
Here's the recipe in an easy-to-read format.

3/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. white wine
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. grated ginger (I use much more than this, more like 1 Tbsp.)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 lbs. of chicken parts: breasts, leg quarters, wings

Combine all ingredients except the chicken parts.  Mix thoroughly until the sugar is well-dissolved.  Marinate the chicken parts in a zip-top bag for at least 2 hours.  Overnight is best.

Bake the chicken at 350F for 1 hour, marinating occasionally. You can then sear the chicken on a hot grill for 5-8 minutes on each side OR grill the chicken over low heat for 45-60 minutes turning the pieces halfway through cooking time, marinating occasionally.


  1. That looks delicious! I'm filing this recipe away for the summer grilling season.

  2. I met Patricia when she lived in Apex, NC. Great to see her guest post and this wonderful recipe!

  3. I am printing this recipe as soon as Im done commenting!! lol This sounds heavenly! And so great to meet one of your friends Bran! : )

  4. This looks amazingly delicious!!!! Nice to meet you Patricia, great recipe!!! Brandy one more amazing guest post!!!!Thank you for sharing it with us!!!!

  5. Nice to meet you Patrica. I am from Norfolk Va also. I still live here.I have all the ingredients in my pantry I will make it this weekend. Brandie, the tater salad was so yummy! I finished it off for lunch today.

  6. Any recipe for grilling I'm all about right now. We're about to hit the 100 degree mark here in Houston and I'm not excited about putting anything in the oven. The marinade for the chicken sounds amazing and it looks even better. What a yummy looking meal Patricia. Thank you!

  7. Thanks everyone for the kind comments! It's truly been an honor to be featured on The Country Cook!

  8. What a wonderful post. I really enjoyed reading it. The chicken looks fantastic.

  9. This chicken looks amazing! I love new recipes like this, and I know my guys would love it. It is SO nice to meet you Patricia, and thank you for all you've done for our Country!

    Thanks for introducing us to your friend Brandie!! Awesome post!

  10. Having grown up in Hawaii, I have always loved huli huli chicken. Yours looks super good. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  11. Brandie, thanks for sharing another magnificent blogger with us all!

    Patricia, this chicken looks fabulous...and I may save it for company we're having in a couple weeks. YUM!

  12. This looks delicious! What a great post!

  13. Thanks for the intro to Major Mom (anyone who's blog name is a David Bowie reference is a winner in my book!) I've made huli huli chicken before and while it was good it was way complicated. This recipe looks much simpler while just as delicious!

  14. I guess if I can't go to the Islands this summer the Island flavors can come to me. I printed this one for next weeks menu. Thanks for reminding me of my awesome vacations!

  15. This chicken recipe looks and sounds wonderful. I must try it. I am getting a new grill tomorrow and this will be a great recipe to try. Thanks for sharing. It's always nice to meet a new blogger, too.

  16. Hi Patricia, your post made me smile! I knew I liked you when you mentioned Oahu (I've got family in Kailua)and the Fiesta sugar pot sealed the deal! But the chicken is finger lickin'! Thank you for sharing this recipe and serving up a side of life. Nice to meet you!

  17. Love this recipe. Huli is one of those wonderful smoky-sweet foods that take me back to 'small-kid time' in Hawaii. Wrapped in newspaper, or later, in the plastic bag :)

    Thanks to major mom for posting.

  18. love grilling season and this recipe is being put on the list to try oh so yummy and a bit different from the ordinary come see me at

  19. I made this and substituted a little pineapple juice and brown sugar for the regular sugar. Marinating it several hours gave it such good flavor! Delicious and will make again.

    I baked and finished on the grill, but next time will try only grilling. (After boiling/reducing the marinade for safety so that I can baste with it. :)


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