In Portugal, this is always cooked over wood or coals, but if you don’t have a barbecue, you can still get a pretty good approximation in a domestic oven. Coat the chicken in olive oil, season all over with salt and roast, ideally on a trivet, in a 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 oven for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the bird – it should have a beautifully crisp skin and the juices should run clear from the thickest parts. Then glaze as in the method below – make the glaze at least a day ahead.
Prep 15 min
Steep 1 day
Cook 45 min
For the glaze
500ml sunflower oil
25g peeled garlic
15ml lemon juice
2-3 tsp extra-hot chilli flakes, or to taste
⅓ tsp salt
For the chicken
1 chicken (900g-1kg), free-range for preference, reverse spatchcocked (ie, cut through the breast rather than the backbone – ask a butcher to do this, if need be)
100ml glazing oil (see above)
At least a day ahead, put all the glaze ingredients in a blender and blitz smooth, then tip into a container and refrigerate. This makes more glaze than you need for this dish, but it’s not really worth making in smaller quantities, and the excess keeps in the fridge for up to a fortnight; use it to marinate or glaze all sorts.
Get the barbecue going – in Portugal, piri-piri chicken is always cooked over charcoal or wood, never gas (having said that, see note above). Once the charcoal is ready, liberally season the bird all over with salt, then lay it skin side down on the grill and leave for three minutes. Flip, cook for a minute more, then flip again and repeat, until the bird is cooked through (it should have an internal temperature of 75C) and the skin is crisp; this should take about 25 minutes in all. (To check it’s done, use a knife to pierce between the thighs and breast bone: the flesh should be white and firm and the juices should run clear.)
Once the chicken is done, lift it off the grill, paint all over with glaze and leave to rest in a warm spot for five minutes. Transfer the bird to a board, cut it in half down the centre of the spine, then cut each half into five. Brush the chicken pieces with more glaze, making sure they’re all well coated, then transfer to a warmed platter, and brush with glaze one final time. Serve with chips and a green salad.