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Alabama White Barbecue with Buttermilk Sauce

Updated on November 23, 2011
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White Barbecue?

In my opinion, all barbecue is fabulous. My favorite barbecue sauce tends to be the one right in front of me. If I can reach it, it's my favorite. I love them all.

Although I was raised in Tennessee, I was actually born down in Alabama, and have lots of family down there. My first barbecue experiences happened down there, and some of my fondest memories are of a barbecue place called Ollie's, down in Birmingham. They first taught me the North Carolina tangy sauces, and along the way I was introduced to Alabama White.

Unlike many sauces, Alabama White contains no tomato - the base of this one is mayonnaise. This creamy backdrop is beautifully balanced with the tang of apple cider vinegar, along with a lovely slow heat from as much cayenne as you wish. It's amazing on chicken, but just as delicious on pulled pork, and it throws together in moments.

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Grilling chicken with white sauce

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You'll Need:

For the brine:

1 qt of buttermilk, preferably whole milk buttermilk but any will do

cut up chicken - any type you like. I often use packages of 12 pieces, thighs or legs are great, but I like breasts as well

kosher salt

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbl lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4-5 cranks freshly cracked black pepper
  • cayenne pepper to taste - the mayonnaise cuts the heat a lot, so I use 2 tsp, or even more. You could also use a cayenne hot sauce - whichever you like.

1. Mix all ingredients for the sauce well, and refrigerate. I try to do this several hours ahead so the sauce marries and mellows, but even twenty minutes is good. Before you use it, save some for dipping at the table. You'll only need about half for saucing on the grill.

2. Place the chicken in a large container, and cover with buttermilk. Make sure it's submerged, and refrigerate. Up to overnight is good, but try for at least four hours.

3. A couple of hours before you barbecue, drain the chicken and place it on a baking sheet or over a rack and allow it to air dry in the regrigerate. Don't cover it - it needs air. You don't want to lose the buttermilk, but you do want the chicken skin as dry as possible so it will crisp, so don't wipe it off. Air drying will allow this - a couple of hours should do it.

4. Remove the chicken from the fridge while you preheat your grill. Crank it up - high as it will go. You want lots of heat in there.

5. Salt the chicken on all sides well with the kosher salt. Turn the grill to low, or if using charcoal, find the 'cool' spot. For breasts, the total cook time is 30 minutes. For legs and thighs, the time is 20 minutes - with that said the interior temp with the grill lid shut should stay at just over 400F. You also want to turn the chicken so the skin crisps well on all sides. I usually do mine in ten minute increments, turning so all the chicken gets that beautiful crispy skin, and all the pieces are cooked evenly.

6. Once the chicken is nearly done - just a few minutes to go - apply the white sauce with a brush. Keep the lid closed as much as possible so that the sauce adheres well in the heat. I usually douse one side, close the lid for 3-4 minutes, flip it over, coat the second side and repeat. The sauce will burn easily, so be careful.

7. Allow the chicken to rest for at least 5 minutes - 10 if you can wait long enough. I can't tell my kids it's ready or they steal pices. That's it! You're good to go!


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