On Your Plate: Grilled Chicken on a Stick

As we began to unwind from our long, solitary winter and impenetrable polar vortex, I had a craving to write about finger food — specifically, grilled finger food. The song “Crowded Table” by The Highwomen — voted the Best Country Song of 2020 — carried me through the pandemic days because it reminded me of all the good times shared around a meal, and it helped me to visualize getting back to that as soon as possible. It continues to bring me joy. 

The song’s chorus says:

“I want a house with a crowded table

And a place by the fire for everyone

Let us take on the world while we’re young and able

And bring us back together when the day is done.” 

The birds are chirping, the weather is warming, and the grill has found its way back to its outside home. After the year we’ve all had, the lack of socialization is top of mind for many of us. 

How can we gather safely? What can we eat safely if we do? 

Let’s circle back to grilled finger food and serve it on a stick. I say, use your best judgment when gathering. Safely prepare and share deliciousness with friends and family outdoors — around a fire or at a picnic table or in a park — and catch a sunset, share some laughs and tell some stories. Camaraderie is what we are all hungry for more than anything these days. Pair it with grilled deliciousness on a stick and a good belly laugh surrounded by the best of friends and family.


Grilled Chicken on a Stick

4-6 servings

10-12 skewers

Gallon-sized plastic bag, glass bowl or dish with a lid for marinating the chicken

1-1½ lbs chicken breasts or chicken-breast strips (If you buy whole breasts, slice them into ½-inch-wide strips.)

Kosher salt

½ cup black and tan sesame seeds, placed in a shallow dish

Step 1: Marinate


½ tsp whole coriander seed 

½ tsp whole fennel seed 

¼ cup olive oil

2 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Juice of ½ lime

2-3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp pepper paste or ½ tsp red pepper flakes

Grind the coriander and fennel using a mortar and pestle. Then whisk all the ingredients together. 

Place the chicken in the bag or bowl, and pour the marinade over the chicken, making sure all the meat is coated. Cover or seal the container, and place in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours. Stir it at least once during the marinating period.

Step 2: Skewer

You’ll need a sheet pan or platter to transfer the skewered chicken to the grill. I suggest covering the pan or platter with parchment paper to reduce cleanup later.

The chicken will be very sticky during this process, so plastic gloves will be helpful. Place one piece of chicken at a time between two sheets of parchment paper, and using a kitchen mallet, pound it until it’s ½ inch thick. Repeat until all the chicken is the same thickness and consistency.

Pierce the meat and insert the skewer so the meat is vertical on the stick, one strip per skewer. 

Step 3: Grill

Preheat a gas grill to medium high, 375 F, or prepare the coals in a charcoal grill. Place the chicken skewers on the hot grill so the skewer handles are not over the heat. Do not walk away from the grill. The chicken will cook rather quickly, about 10 minutes per side, so flip it often. Salt to taste with the kosher salt, but know that a little goes a long way.

After you remove the chicken from the grill, roll each skewer in a blend of black and tan sesame seeds, and serve the chicken skewers in a way that will allow diners to come in contact only with the ends of the skewers.

Pair the chicken skewers with delicious dipping sauces (recipes follow).

Photo by Brett Kosmider.

Spicy Ginger Vinaigrette

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 tsp rice vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp honey

2 Tbsp soy or tamari sauce 

Juice of ½ orange, freshly squeezed 

1 tsp crushed red pepper

Pinch of salt

Whisk the ingredients together. Prepare in advance so the flavors have time to meld.

Ground-Mustard Vinaigrette

¼ cup olive oil

2 Tbsp stone-ground mustard

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp honey 

1 tsp fresh thyme, removed from the stem and bruised

Pinch of salt

Cracked black pepper to taste

Whisk the ingredients together. Prepare in advance so the flavors have time to meld.

Lime Sweet-Chili Dipping Sauce

¼ cup plain, whole-fat yogurt

1 Tbsp honey

Zest of ½ lime

½ tsp chili powder

2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, removed from the stem and chopped

Pinch of salt

Whisk the ingredients together. Prepare in advance so the flavors have time to meld.

Skewer Options

Wood or bamboo skewers are available at specialty kitchen stores and most grocery stores. Soak the skewers in water for a minimum of 30 minutes before using them to prevent the wood from burning up during the grilling process.

Metal skewers are available in most kitchen stores or departments. Because they’re reusable, they’re a great investment if you grill often.

Want to add some greens to your plate? Try out this alternative plating option with your chicken on a stick!

Spring Salad Paired with Chicken Skewers

2 servings

Handful of spring greens

Handful of baby arugula or spinach

1 bunch asparagus spears, matchstick sliced, pan seared and salted to taste

Ground-mustard vinaigrette (recipe at the left)

1 avocado, sliced

Day pickled red onion (recipe follows)

Candied pecans (recipe follows)

2 Tbsp goat cheese, crumbled

6 grilled-chicken skewers

Freshly cracked pepper to taste

Lightly toss the spring greens, arugula or spinach, and seared asparagus in the ground-mustard vinaigrette, and place the salad mixture on two plates. Top with the sliced avocado (½ per plate), pickled red onion, candied pecans and goat cheese. Place three chicken skewers on top of each salad. Finish with a drizzle of the vinaigrette and a twist of freshly cracked pepper.

Photo by Brett Kosmider.

Day Pickled Red Onion

1 red onion, sliced thinly

1½ cups hot water

2 Tbsp honey

¾ cup white vinegar

½ tsp salt

Place the onion into a quart-size jar. In a separate bowl, whisk the water, honey, vinegar and salt together. Pour the brine mixture over the onion, covering the onion completely. Place the jar in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours, and keep it refrigerated. It can be used for up to two weeks.

Candied Pecans

Preheat oven to 350 F.

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 Tbsp honey

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp chili powder

2 cups whole, raw pecans

Whisk the oil, honey, cinnamon and chili powder together. In a bowl, toss the pecans with the liquid, making sure they’re fully coated. Spread the pecans in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Stir the nuts, and bake for 5 more minutes. Allow the nuts to cool, then store in an airtight container.