• Yield: Serves 4 and double easily

  • Time: 15 minutes + 4 to 6 hours for marinating prep, 30 minutes oven time + 15 minutes grill time cooking, 5-7 hours total

We're always game for a good ceremonial burning. This quick-smoked grilled chicken comes together in a heartbeat, making it perfect for a post tree-trimming family meal.

You have to use those branches you cut off the bottom of your tree for something, right? We're not sure why people don't use pine boughs more frequently to flavor their grilled things. Admittedly, the boughs do tend to flame (we find that exciting), but they also impart a lovely resiny scent to whatever they touch.

This recipe is started in the oven and finished over a dying charcoal fire, just hot enough to get that pine smoke going. 

Cook to Cook: Since this chicken is fully cooked before it hits the grill, you can prepare it a day ahead. After roasting the chicken, store it loosely covered in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before grilling.

Wine: Look for a moderately rich New World Chardonnay, something with a touch of oak or less than 14 percent alcohol (which is one way to tell if something is lightly oaked). 

Serve hot or warm. For encores, this bird is superb in salads, especially with dried cranberries.

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 1/4 cup Spanish Sherry wine vinegar

  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced 

  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke 

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 3-1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces 

  • 4 to 5 fresh, green pine boughs


  • 1 to 2 pine boughs

1. Combine the wine, vinegar, garlic, sugar and liquid smoke with salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Pour one third of it into a storage container and reserve. Add the chicken to the remaining marinade in the dish, turning the pieces to coat them. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Drain the marinade into a small bowl. Pat the chicken dry and spread out the pieces in shallow roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes, basting often with the marinade. You want the breast to read 165ºF on an instant-reading thermometer. Take the chicken from the oven, and either set it aside while you ready the grill or refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.

3. Heat coals in an outdoor grill until they're covered in grey ash, or heat up a gas grill to medium-high. Spread the coals out. Add the pine boughs, and set the rack in place. If the boughs begin to flame, cover with the grill lid and let them die before adding the chicken. (You need smoke but not flames.) 

4. Take advantage of the smoking boughs by quickly putting the chicken on the grill. Cover and cook, turning and basting occasionally with the marinade you set aside. The chicken should brown and crisp and come to an internal temperature of 170ºF. This takes 10 to 15 minutes. Pile the chicken on a platter, garnish with pine boughs and serve hot or warm.

From The Splendid Table®'s How to Eat Weekends by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter, 2011), © copyright 2011 American Public Media.

Sally Swift
Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.