I have to say that when Dad mentioned that he slathered some chicken with mayonnaise and put it on the grill I was more than a bit skeptical of this recipe. He raved about it, but I was leery. The notion of heat and mayo made me nervous. I brought it up to a coworker, Shane, who said he has done it in the past and that it was a great way to seal in the juices. And then I saw the pictures and think that my cynicism was unjustified. It sounds like the mayo is pretty magical in terms of ensuring juiciness. So maybe if you don’t have time to brine, you should consider trying Mayo Magic. I’ll hand it off to Dad now to show you how Mayo Magic Chicken works
This grilling recipe quite simply seemed nuts to me, but I had to try it. I confess I was inspired to do this after viewing Paula Dean’s son, Bobby, perform a similar recipe in the oven on one of her TV shows. I thought, “If it can be done in the oven, it can be done better on the grill.” While the ingredients below call for eight boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I actually used five breasts and four boneless skinless thighs.
Mayo Magic Chicken Ingredients:
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 cups of mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp celery salt
- 1 tsp ancho chile
- zest of one lemon
Ingredients are more of a guideline than a rule
The ingredients could easily be modified to your specific taste. I used Hungarian paprika but smoked paprika could add an interesting touch. Ancho chile (dried Poblano pepper) could be switched with Chipotle seasoning or Cayenne if you desire to kick it up a notch or two. I chose the Ancho because it is milder. The lemon could be doubled if you prefer more of a citrus flavor and lime or orange could be substituted. There’s a lot of flexibility here limited only by your own taste and creativity.
Prepare the Mayo
Combine everything but the chicken in a bowl and whisk together to form the wet rub:
Then slather the wet rub all over the chicken coating entirely. Get in there with your fingers and make it happen:
Why does Mayo Keep Chicken Moist?
Mayonnaise contains a ton of oil and fat. The theory here is as the meat cooks, the mayonnaise will melt away, basting the chicken as it cooks.
I prepared this about an hour prior to grilling and returned the mayo magic chicken to the icebox till the fire in the grill was ready. This is a wet rub, not a marinade so it is not necessary to marinate overnight.
I haven’t grilled with anything using mayo since chicken dipped in white BBQ sauce, and even then the white sauce didn’t go on until after the chicken was cooked. Cooking the chicken with the mayo on it is new for me.
How to Grill Mayo Magic Chicken
I fired up my old Char-Broil 940 grill for this effort. I’m indirect grilling here — coals on the left and chicken on the right. Target temp is between 275-325 degrees:
Some soaked apple chips are added for the smoke flavor:
The whole pan wasn’t added, just a couple handfuls to get the smoke going.
The mayo slathered chicken is on the grill. The wet rub appears to be a gooey mess. Don’t let the appearance discourage you:
***Editor’s Note ~ Anytime you indirect chicken or turkey breasts, try to put the skinny point of the breast away from the heat with the fatter section closest to the fire for more even cooking. Looks like Dad was hit or miss on that one above. We’re not perfect. Remember, we’re just some Grillin’ Fools. The great thing about this recipe is the mayo will give you a larger margin of error in terms of drying the meat out.***
Here’s how the mayo magic chicken looked 30 minutes in:
The foil pouch shown contains diced potatoes drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with cracked pepper and sea salt.
The thermometer indicates the temperature is a hair under 300 degrees. I’ll cut into a thick portion of one of the breasts at 45 minutes to see if juices run clear. When the juices run clear it means the meat has reached an internal temperature of at least 160F-165F degrees which is your target temperature.
I cut into the thickest portion at 45 minutes and saw clear juices so I pulled the chicken from the grill. I’ll serve dinner in 5 minutes after a rest to let the internal juices to calm down and redistribute throughout the meat. The breasts and thighs were pulled at 50 minutes and the taste test has arrived:
Here’s what the dinner looked like on the plate:
What Does Mayo do to Chicken?
Well, it makes it magical, duh! The mayo magic chicken breast and thighs were completely cooked and extremely moist — maybe the moistest boneless skinless chicken I have ever done. Remember, the chicken was not brined but the mayo did something magical to it to make it seem that way with how juicy the chicken was. I guess that’s why they call it mayo magic chicken.
The chicken was never moved or turned during the entire grilling process. I believe the oil in the mayo really preserved and protected the moisture in the chicken. The combination of the spices and lemon zest were mild and offered a delightful hint of flavor that I thoroughly enjoyed. In the future I’ll try this with lime and oranges zest for the sake of variety. I might kick up the ancho chile also for a bit more spice. The mayo magic chicken breasts were tastier to me than the thighs but the hint of citrus was very refreshing on a very hot summer evening.
If you have any questions about the mayo magic chicken, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email.
If you are interested in other poultry recipes done on the grill, click here.
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Mayo Magic Chicken Breasts
- 2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp celery salt
- 1 tsp ancho chile
- 1 tbsp lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
- 8 boneless skinless chicken breast
- Combine everything but the chicken in a bowl and whisk together to form the wet rub
- Then slather the wet rub all over the boneless skinless chicken breasts, coating entirely
- Fire up the grill for indirect/two zone grilling: coals and smoke wood on one side and nothing on the other
- Target temp is between 275-325 degrees
- Place the chicken on the side with no heat with the thick side of the chicken breasts closest to the fire and the points away from the heat.
- Close the lid
- Smoke until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees (about 50 minutes)
- Remove from the heat, allow to rest for three minutes to let the juices cam down and redistribute throughout the meat, and serve
I have grilled salmon slathered with mayo, that is great also. That chicken looks killer!
Did this one last night, didn’t tell anyone the slathering ingredients and no one could figure it out. They couldn’t believe it when I told them. I couldn’t get my grill hot enough for some reason but i cooked them at 275 for 2 1/2 hours and the result was awesome. Had them with some french fry cut potatoes i cooked on the grill at the same time in a foil pan and the smokieness that got into them was great. Also grilled some fresh asparagus along side to top off the meal. Tanks for the great recipies. Lowe’s had a buy 1 get 1 free deal this weekend with a 2 per trip limit so after 3 trips i am set to try a bunch more of your recipies.
This is also really good on pork chops. Maybe better than the chicken
did the mayo turn out a little gooey or did it crisp up a little?
It doesn’t get crispy, but it does get gooey. That is what’s left. The vast majority melts away during the cooking process. Basically, it’s basting the meat the entire time as the fat in the mayo melts from the heat…
I cooked this for my family for the first time and it was awesome!! then I got a job at a camp and cooked for 250 and it was pretty easy to just whip up the mayo an throw it on the grill!! everyone raved about it!! thanks alot for the recipie!!!!!
Glad to hear it came out great!!
jeff from OZ
Hi Scott, very simple and quick simple to make, chicken was tender and tasty!
Glad you enjoyed it…
I see you are using smoking chips. This leads me to believe all cooking times are for lid closed grilling? Or are they for lid open grilling?
Yes, the lid is closed for nearly the entire cook…
Great recipe. Thank you. I added some homemade barbecue sauce.
Can I use Miricale Whip or do I have to use mayo?
I don’t see why not. It’s still just oil and eggs that bastes the meat as it melts away…
I just found your site today in my search for a recipe for chicken breasts. Made this for dinner tonight and everyone loved it.
Next up is the El Polo Loco! That sounds awfully good. 🙂
Had a duh moment when I saw this with chicken pieces! I use olive oil mayonnaise on my smoked turkey every Thanksgiving. Turns out just like you say. Very juicy still days later should there be any leftovers. Great skin too! I will definitely do this on my pieces next time around
Exactly! And a HUGE fan of the olive oil mayo!
Hey Scott- what do you recommend on a gas grill as far as timing is concerned?
Depends on how low the gas grill can go. You want to turn on the burner on one side and place the chicken on the other side and keep it low as possible. Most gas grills have a hard time going below 400. The most important thing, take them to 165. Rely on an instant read thermometer more than the clock. I use a Thermapen.
These chicken breast were amazing. Tender and tasty. So easy to cook. Out then on the grill and forget them!
Great tasting chicken, thanks for the recipe. Smoked the chicken on my Grill Dome. Glad I saw your comment about the thighs, they were great as were the breasts, awesome!!
This recipe was posted 6.5 years ago. Still use this recipe, will make them today.
I realized, too late, that I didn’t have enough mayo, so I used a combination of 1/2 Miracle Whip and 1/2 Dukes Mayo. I also used a mixture of regular and smoked Paprika and used the juice of a grilled lemon, instead of the zest. The result was AMAZING! My family eats boneless chicken breasts 6 days a week, and it is difficult finding new recipes that my picky family will eat. They loved this one! Will be making again!
Made this for dinner tonight and it was FABULOUS. I used only mayo, cayenne, and lime juice in the wet rub–otherwise, I followed your directions quite closely. They lacked the golden color of the ones in your photo, but the taste was incredible. So moist and flavorful–and no sticking to the grill!
p.s. There was an article in the LA Times yesterday about grilling with mayo, which launched my quest for this recipe. I won’t be surprised if others make the same migration.
Glad you enjoyed it…
You da man! Just got my akorn kamado and this is first thing to fire it up. Smelling fabulous already! Thank you sir for fabulous recipe😎
Since the hurricane hit us and everything is so soggy outside, could I put this in the oven. Would it taste as good?
Absolutely. Stay dry!
How would you cook on a traeger?
Set the grill to 275 and done…
can I cook in the oven, I don’t have a grill?
Yes you can
Can I just use mayo, s&p, garlic powder, and just fry the legs? I
don’t have a grill. Thanks.
Probably, but I’ve never tried that.
Back in the ’70s my mom and dad used mayo as a brush on for grilled chicken . . . I still use it today, with some added spices like you mention in the recipe. In fact, I’m putting some mayo slathered breasts over some charcoal in about 30 minutes. Add some good BBQ sauce to the mayo mixture and it’s even better!