WHEN MY MOM wanted to make a quick dinner, which was almost always, she poured a bottle of Italian salad dressing over a shallow baking pan filled with bone-in, skin-on chicken-breast halves. (Raise your hand here if you know this dish because I bet a lot of you do.) The pan went right into the oven and, if she was feeling energetic, she might finish it under the broiler. Woo-hoo, dinner! It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.
Fast-forward a few decades and marinated, rubbed, seasoned chicken parts of all kinds are everywhere and I’m glad of it. As my mother knew too well, seasoned chicken makes a good dinner. Luckily, the old bottle of bad Italian dressing is gone, but the core idea is still around—well-seasoned chicken cooked quickly.
You can start with whatever cut of chicken you want. Boneless chicken-breast cutlets, chicken legs, chicken thighs, bone-in chicken halves all work. I favor removing the skin so you get maximum seasoning coverage, but it’s your chicken, do as you like. The key is to have a really flavorful wet rub that covers the chicken. Yes, I say rub because when you’re in hurry that’s what works. Liquidy marinades need some marinating time; wet rubs are a quicker seasoning choice.
My ideal timeline: Rub the chicken pieces, let them sit 20 minutes while the grill heats up, then grill until done.
Basically, you combine spices with a little oil and a splash of citrus or vinegar for a quick homemade rub. For example:
Southwest-style: Purée some chipotle in adobo with olive oil, a splash of lime juice, salt and pepper.
Provence-style: Purée fresh herbs with olive oil, Dijon-style mustard, salt and pepper.
Florida-style: Orange, lemon and/or lime zest with olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper, and a splash of citrus juice.
Or, sometimes better, find a prepared wet rub you like.
Whichever wet rub you choose or make, smear it all over the chicken pieces. Let them sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Cook over a medium-high grill, being careful to keep them from burning; you may have to move them between direct and indirect heat. And make plenty, because rubbed chicken makes great leftovers in sandwiches, salads or eaten as is.
—Stephanie Witt Sedgwick