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Grilled Chicken Shawarma

Grilled Chicken Shawarma

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One of my many pandemic goals is to take advantage of this time that was given to me and to get projects done that I have been putting off.  One of those projects is becoming a better cook.  Besides a few cooking classes I have taken here and there, I am a home cook.  If I am being honest I have learned from trial and error.  Luckily it all comes kind of easy for me.  I always feel like I could do better.  One area I know I have gotten better at is cooking meat especially chicken.  This recipe for Grilled Chicken Shawarma was an experiment while I figured out better ways of cooking meat.  We have been eating a lot of Grilled Chicken Shawarma which I am not complaining about as it is a great recipe and has even become a go-to more often than not.

Last summer I started reading Salt Fat Acid Heat.  Unfortunately, live events took over and I stopped halfway through Fat.  I did learn something that stuck with me and that is I was salting meat wrong, forever!  I had always been told not to salt meat until I had finished cooking or it would dry out.  Wrong!   Once I learned how to properly use salt my recipes went from tasting good to tasting even better.  The flavors are more interesting and we are not oversalting at the end which is a big bonus.  I have been redoing my recipes to reflect my new found love for salt.  

I picked the book back up last month and actually started from the beginning again.  A little refresher is always a good thing, and guess what?  Now that I have finished the book I feel like I have new skills in my back pocket and I am even more excited to cook old recipes as well as new ones like this one.

We have been gravitating towards flavors that remind us of trips.  I blame that on the mere fact that we will not be on a plane anytime soon.  One of our favorite meals is shawarma but not any old shawarma.  We love the ones that we have found in Paris as they always have more flavor and use interesting ingredients.  It is the first thing we tend to eat when we arrive there as well. Last summer I found a new spot and ate there a couple of times on my own and then brought Lenny once he joined me there.  It was so good;  the meat was juicy and the flavor lingered on my mind for days.  If there were not so many other places to try I probably would not go back more often then I did. 

Tips for Success:

  • Salt the meat the day before grilling as the flavor of the chicken will be enhanced when you cook it.  Trust me and do this extra step.  Time is a good thing and we all have time now.
  • Grill the meat and onions if you can the smoke from the fire creates a more complex flavor along with the seasonings.
  • Keep the sides simple;  hummus or tahini sauce, warm pita bread, and a crisp salad with preserved lemon.

Recipe:  Grilled Chicken Shawarma


  • 3 lbs chicken thighs, with skin and bone as they are more flavorful
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 teaspoons shawarma seasoning
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tsp shawarma seasoning 
  • 2 lemons, cut in half
  • mint, to garnish, sliced thinly

How To:

  1. The day before cooking season the chicken thighs with salt and place in a covered container into the refrigerator.
  2. Two hours before grilling remove the meat from the refrigerator.  Bringing the meat to room temperature will help cook more evenly. As soon as you remove from the refrigerator season with the 3 teaspoons of shawarma seasoning.
  3. Prepare the onion mixture by placing the sliced onion into a large mixing bowl and then folding in the olive oil and the 1 teaspoon of shawarma seasoning.  
  4. Preheat the grill to 425. If you have a griddle that can also be used on the grill plan on using that for the onions.  If not then cook the onions in a frying pan inside.
  5. Once the grill is hot place the chicken thighs on top of the grate skin side down. Monitor the flame so it does not flareup.  The chicken is ready to flip over when it loosens on its own. Flip and then cook until the temperature reaches 165.  Place the lemon halves onto the grill and cook until lightly charred. 
  6. Remove from the grill and let sit about 10 minutes.  Then either grill the onions on a griddle placed on the grill or in a frying pan on the stove.  Cook the onions just until lightly caramelized and soft.  
  7. Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and continue to shred the meat and place onto a serving plate with the onions.  Occasionally I will leave the meat on the bone and serve as is, mostly when I am being a bit lazy. 
  8. Squeeze some of the charred lemon juice over the top and sprinkle mint over the top.
  9. Serve.
  10. Eat. 
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