Grilled Berbere Chicken


This is a basic riff on Cornell Grilled Chicken, but with a healthy amount of Berbere spice thrown in.


  • Any grill


  • 1 package of chicken drum sticks or thighs or both.
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp light Karo syrup
  • 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp berbere
  • 1 tbsp dry rosemary, crushed
  • salt to taste


Before anything else, you’re going to want to dry brine your chicken around an hour before you plan to cook it, but don’t stress the timing too much – 30 minutes is probably fine, 90 minutes is probably fine, ideally you’re looking for about 1 hour dry brine time per inch of meat, and chicken isn’t that thick.

If you’re using a charcoal grill, go ahead and start a full chimney of coals up.

While the coals are lighting, make the grilling glaze by folding the berbere, rosemary and salt into the mayonnaise, and then folding in the Karo syrup, and then finally gently fold in the lemon juice in at the end.

When the coals are good and ashed over (do not rush this, the coals will be ready when they are ready), distribute them on the grill. If your grill is large enough and you’re working with particularly large chicken thighs you may consider setting up a two zone cooking system, but if it isn’t that’s fine – the closer your chicken is to direct coals the more frequently you’ll want to flip/rotate the chicken.

Once your coals are set up, and the grill is at a reasonable roasting temperature, place the chicken skin side down on the grill and wait 6-7 minutes before flipping.

After each flip, brush a coat of the glaze you made earlier on the newly upward facing side of the chicken until you either run out of glaze, or you think the chicken won’t be flipped again. Building up a nice shellac flip by flip, you don’t need to cake it on too heavy at first.

If your coals are particularly close or particularly hot you may need to wait only 3-4 minutes before flipping, but that’s between you and your grill. Whatever frequency you need to flip at, do so until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, probably in about 40-50 minutes total.

Plate by throwing on a foil coated tray or on plates with grilled corn on the cob, or however you’d like. A favorite plating of mine is to serve it over a freshly made batch of Carolina Gold heirloom rice.


  • The Karo syrup is key here not just for sweetness, but ensuring that your chicken comes out nicely browned looking no matter the weather or grill conditions.
  • This recipe is very much in the vein of Albert Burneko’s How To Barbeque Chicken Thighs: there’s no need to sweat the details, you’ll figure out your own preferences/riff on things after a few goes. Its just chicken over coals with a lacquered sauce glaze.