Dave Shirkey Chicken Recipe: Mastering the Grill and Traditional Flavor!

Dave Shirkey Chicken Recipe: Mastering the Grill and Traditional Flavor!

People in the Shenandoah Valley know Dave Shirkey’s grilled chicken as “legendary.” His recipe made people hungry for more than 60 years and became an important part of community events. This blog goes into detail about how to make this famous dish, so you can do it yourself in your own kitchen.

Unveiling the Legend: Who is Dave Shirkey?

Dave Shirkey was from Virginia and was a master at grilling chicken. Starting with fundraisers for his Sunday school class, he got better and better until he became a neighborhood legend. People knew Shirkey for his unique way of basting and his commitment to slow cooking. Few people know the exact recipe, which has been passed down through family and friends. There are stories, though, that it takes low heat, a lot of cooking, and some magic.

The Recipe Revealed: A Step-by-Step Guide to Dave Shirkey’s Chicken

Here’s a close approximation of Dave Shirkey’s legendary barbecue chicken recipe:


  • Whole Chickens (allow 1 per 2-3 people)
  • Peanut Oil (around 1 cup)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (2 cups)
  • Salt (4 tablespoons)
  • Black Pepper (1 teaspoon)
  • Poultry Seasoning (2 teaspoons)
  • Garlic Salt (1 teaspoon) (You can substitute regular garlic powder)
  • Lemon Juice (1 tablespoon)
  • Optional: A pinch of MSG (not recommended for everyone)


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, seasonings, and lemon juice.
  2. Allow the chicken to come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
  3. Generously coat the chicken with the prepared sauce, letting it marinate for at least 30 minutes, or preferably overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Set up your grill so that it can cook over indirect heat (250 to 300°F). Two-zone fire is the way to do this. Put the coals on one side of the pan and the chicken on the other. Some variations, on the other hand, use an oven that is set to low heat (about 250°F).
  5. Whether you choose to grill or bake, put the chicken skin-side up on the grill or in a baking dish.
  6. Every 30 to 45 minutes, baste the chicken with the rest of the sauce, making sure all sides are covered.
  7. For 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the thickest part of the thigh hits 165°F on the inside, cook the chicken.
  8. After cooking, let the chicken rest for 10 minutes.

Ingredient Breakdown: Deconstructing the Flavor Profile

The key to Dave Shirkey’s chicken lies in the simple yet powerful combination of ingredients:

  • Peanut Oil: This oil has a high smoke point and adds a light flavor without burning.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: The sour vinegar makes the chicken soft and gives the sauce the right amount of acidity.
  • Savory Seasonings: A base layer of savory goodness is made up of salt, pepper, chicken seasoning, and garlic salt.
  • Lemon Juice: A little lemon juice makes the flavors more interesting and cuts through the heaviness.

Tips and Tricks from the Master: Dave Shirkey’s Cooking Secrets

Even though no one knows the exact recipe, here are some key tips that will help you make better grilled chicken:

  • Low and Slow is the Way to Go: Low-heat slow cooking is what Dave Shirkey left behind. This lets the chicken cook all the way through and get very soft.
  • The Power of Basting: The chicken stays moist and tastes great when it’s basted often. Don’t be afraid to add sauce!
  • Resting is Crucial: When you let the chicken rest after cooking it, the juices can spread, making the bird taste better and be more tender.

Variations on a Theme: Exploring Twists on Dave Shirkey’s Chicken

This recipe is great because it can be used in many different ways. As an added touch, here are some ideas:

  • Spice it Up: For a little heat, add a pinch of chili pepper or smoked paprika.
  • Smoke Signals: For a spicy taste, add wood chips like hickory or applewood if you are grilling.
  • Sweet and Savory: In the last 30 minutes of cooking, brush the chicken with a glaze made of honey and soy sauce. This will make it taste sweet and spicy.

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