Cherry Bomb Chicken


10 chicken legs, skin-on (or the equivalent number of pieces; about 3 pounds)


  • 1 quart warm water

  • ⅓ cup kosher salt

  • ½ cup granulated sugar

  • ½ teaspoon allspice

  • 1½ cups fresh cherries, pitted

  • 2 Habanero peppers, coarsely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic

Cherry Glaze:

  • 1 tablespoon oil

  • 1 cup onion, diced

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 pint fresh sweet cherries, halved and pitted

  • 1 Habanero pepper (see note)

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • ¼ cup rice vinegar

  • ¼ cup honey

  • ¼ cup molasses

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar


  1. Place the pitted cherries, warm water, kosher salt, sugar, allspice, chili peppers, and garlic in the blender. Blend until you have frothy pink liquid. Place the chicken pieces in a large container or bowl, pour the brine over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

  2. While the chicken marinates, make the cherry pepper glaze. Heat the oil and add the onion and salt. Continue cooking over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cherries and chili pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in the water, cornstarch, rice vinegar, honey, molasses, and sugar. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. The mixture will be THICK and sticky!! Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the glaze through. You may need to press it with a spatula. This removes the cherry skins. You can skip this step if you’re not particular.

  3. Heat the grill to about 500, direct heat. Remove the chicken from the brine and discard the liquid. Place the chicken pieces on the HOT HOT grill for about 2 minutes. Flip them and cook for another minute or 2. Reduce the heat to medium, close the lid, and let them cook for about 10 minutes. Turn them again, close the lid and cook for 10 more minutes.

  4. If you are cooking on a charcoal grill: Make a hot hot side and a less hot side by piling the coals to one side of the cook kettle. Sear the chicken on the hot hot side and then move the pieces to the other side, cover, cook, and continue)

  5. Brush each piece with the cherry pepper glaze. Cook for a few more minutes, turn, and glaze the other side. Use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature at the thickest part is 165 degrees. Remove the chicken to a plate and serve.

Notes: The salty sweetness of the brine takes the heat away so the only HOT you’ll be getting is from the glaze. Additionally, make sure that you are cooking in a well-ventilated area or outside with hot hot peppers– the fumes can become like pepper gas if you aren’t careful!

| Adapted from Heather Tullos/Sugar Dish Me