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Recipe: Charcoal-Grilled Barbecued Chicken Kebabs

Photo courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

Cooks Illustrated admits that this may seem kind of weird, but we think it's a brilliant technique for grilling any kind of skinless chicken breast recipe: bacon paste! Bacon is pureed with spices and then slathered on the chicken. It works to keeps the meat moist while it's cooking on a fiery grill. The extra bump of flavor can't hurt either.

Charcoal-Grilled Barbecued Chicken Kebabs
Serves 6

Sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup light or mild molasses
2 tablespoons grated onion (see note)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Kebabs
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes (see note)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 12-inch metal skewers

For the sauce: Bring all ingredients to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce reaches ketchup-like consistency and is reduced to about 1 cup, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer 1/2 cup sauce to small bowl and set aside remaining sauce to serve with cooked chicken.

For the kebabs: Toss chicken and salt in large bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Light large chimney starter three-quarters filled with charcoal (4 1/2 quarts, about 75 briquettes) and allow to burn until coals are fully ignited and partially covered with thin layer of ash, about 20 minutes. Arrange all coals in even layer over half of grill bottom, leaving other half empty. Position cooking grate over coals, cover grill, and heat grate until hot, about 5 minutes. Scrape grate clean with grill brush.

While grill heats, pat chicken dry with paper towels. Combine sweet paprika, sugar, and smoked paprika in small bowl. Process bacon in food processor until smooth paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping down bowl twice during processing. Add bacon paste and spice mixture to chicken; mix with hands or rubber spatula until ingredients are thoroughly blended and chicken is completely coated. Thread meat onto skewers, rolling or folding meat as necessary to maintain 1-inch cubes.

Place kebabs over coals and grill, turning one-quarter turn every 2 to 2 1/2 minutes until well browned and slightly charred, 8 minutes for breasts or 10 minutes for thighs. (If flare-ups occur, slide kebabs to cool side of grill until fire dies down.) Brush top surface of kebabs with ¼ cup sauce; flip and cook until sauce is brown in spots, about 1 minute. Brush second side with remaining ¼ cup sauce; flip and continue to cook until brown in spots and instant-read thermometer inserted in center of meat registers 160 degrees for breasts and 175 degrees for thighs, about 1 minute longer. Remove kebabs from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve, passing reserved barbecue sauce separately.

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