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~ Mel's Oven-Roasted Version of PA-Style Blockpit BBQ'd Butter 'n Vinegar Chicken a la Deb Pearson ~

IMG_5906I hoped to post this recipe for BBQ'd chicken back in June or July, but, 'the powers that be' took longer than I anticipated to locate this unique-to-PA BBQ'd chicken dish, and, more importantly the proper venue to execute it:  Chicken halves or pieces are grilled over a wood fire in a structure made of cinderblocks, called a "blockpit".  During the process, the chicken is misted, not brushed, with a mixture of melted butter, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sometimes lemon juice.   

IMG_5270About six months ago my girlfriend from Ohio, who works with noneother than The Grillmaster himself, Steven Raichlen, called me. Nancy explained that Steven's website received a request for this recipe and inquired if I was familiar with it.  It just so happened, I was.  I had grown up in a world of blockpits. Every organization (Lions, Rotary, Elks Clubs) had one, every town's fire company had one, etc.  I volunteered to research and compile the information for her.

IMG_5293What I wasn't prepared for was how hard it would be to locate a blockpit, or a blockpit master locally.  I made a lot of phone calls, to no avail.  I even called the Hublersburg Fire Company (where I had eaten it last about 3-4 years ago), only to be told the Fire Company had burned down. Then, in September, I saw a sign on Bear Meadow's road, right here in Boalsburg, PA, advertising Clems BBQ.  This meant that the owner, Deb Pearson, one of our most famous local BBQ'rs might be able to help me out, or, at least point me in the right direction.  

IMG_5265I called, scheduled an appointment, and, drove the short half a mile for my consult with Deb.  You see, Bear Meadows road borders on the back of our property and leads to the Tussey Mountain Ski Slope, where Clem's BBQ operates from on certain days of the week.  Upon my arrival, there, right before my very eyes, stood Deb, cooking on her newly constructed, under-roof blockpit.   After all of my searching, my venue turned out to be literally, almost in my backyard!

IMG_5412 IMG_5278Deb agreed to give my chicken recipe a try on her blockpit and I spent Friday afternoon watching her do it.  On Saturday, I posted ~ Around Town (in search of a blockpit & a recipe for PA-Style Blockpit BBQ'd Butter 'n Vinegar Chicken ~.  Click on the Related Article link below to see how she grills it, and, learn everything you need to know about a blockpit. 

Today, "oh baby it's cold outside", and, I have an idea!  

IMG_5797People who love BBQ get hungry for BBQ after the snow falls, so, I'm setting out to create a version of this fabulous, moist and juicy, mouth-watering chicken by oven-roasting it!  Here goes:

IMG_5559For the chicken:

6  split, chicken 'grillers', or:

6  split chicken breasts, or:

a combination of both

IMG_5563I'm using a combination of both.

Why am I using a combination of both?

IMG_6000Because the chicken breast is known for being notoriously dry when oven-roasted, I felt compelled to include them.  I have a method for ~ My E-Z "Real" Roasted Chicken Breasts ~, and they come out perfect every time.  You can find it in Categories 3, 19 or 26.  The true test of THIS recipe was to duplicate the juiciness of my individual breasts, which emerge from the oven with a crispy, edible skin.  I am happy to report, it met my expectations.  The moment I opened up the crispy skin of the first breast and the clear juices ran out, it made my mouth water!

IMG_5581For the butter 'n vinegar sauce:

1  cup salted butter (2 sticks)

1  cup apple cider vinegar

1-2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, strained (optional), to taste

2-3 tablespoons sugar, to taste

1/2-1  teaspoon fine sea salt

1-1 1/2  teaspoons white pepper

Note:  Adjust quantities of the sugar, salt, white pepper and lemon juice to suit your  palate.  This is the combination I like.  Also, be sure to strain the lemon juice and use fine sea salt and fine grind pepper, so as not to clog the spray bottle.

IMG_5587 IMG_5591 IMG_5593~ Step 1.  In a saucepan, place all ingredients for sauce over medium heat. Stir until butter melts. Taste.  Adjust seasonings. Transfer to a spray bottle.

6a0120a8551282970b019b00d260ec970c~ Step 2.  Place a roasting rack in the bottom of a large disposable aluminum roasting pan. Arrange the chicken pieces, side-by-side, overlapping as little as possible, skin side up on rack.

~ Step 3.  Aiming the spray bottle directly down on the chicken, liberally mist the top of each piece.

IMG_5599 IMG_5612 IMG_5617 IMG_5626 IMG_5629~Step 4.  Roast on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, shake the spray bottle, and, mist again. Return to oven for 15 more minutes.  Continue this process, until chicken is golden brown and juices run clear, 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes.  My chicken was done in 1 hour 30 minutes.

~ Step 5.  Remove from oven and allow to rest about 5 minutes prior to serving with BBQ sauce:

IMG_5965Mel's Oven-Roasted Verson of PA-Style Blockpit BBQ'd Butter 'n Vinegar Chicken a la Deb Pearson:  Recipe yields 6 servings of chicken and 2 cups butter 'n vinegar sauce.  Note:  This is actually enough of sauce to make 12 servings of chicken.  Left at room temperature overnight, the sauce stays sprayable.  If refrigerated, reheat it gently in the microwave to reuse it in the spray bottle.  I spread (like butter) the chilled sauce on a lovely piece of grouper (cod, haddock, sole or any other white fish would work too), put it under the broiler and it was delightful.   

Special Equipment List:  20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" roasting  rack; 1 1/2-2 quart saucepan; 2-cup (16-ounce) spray bottle

IMG_5951Cook's Note:  I'm not going to lie, my oven roasted chicken does lack the smokey flavor of Deb's wood-fired, grilled chicken, but, that was expected.  That being said, my oven-roasted version produces a moist, juicy and tender chicken that owes no apologies to anyone.  So, if you ever find yourself wanting BBQ'd chicken in the middle of a snowstorm, preheat your oven. This recipe is for you.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


Happy to help Stephen -- Imagine my surprise after searching long and hard for a recipe to find out there was a blockpit just up the street from me! ~ Melanie

I have been hunting for this recipe for years. I remember it from my childhood,1960s, at a yearly community hospital fundraiser dinner in NE Montgomery County MD. I was told that it had been introduced to that event, in the 1920s, by Chicken hatchery owner Charles Hines.

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