A container filled with grilled chicken sits on a rock outside
Photography, Maya Visnyei

Easy Grilled Chicken Thighs

Plan ahead for your next camp-out – or backyard barbecue – with this ready-to-grill chicken thigh recipe.

Going camping this summer? Forget the freeze-dried rations and endless granola bars. Chris Nuttall-Smith, famed Canadian restaurant critic and author of the new camping cookbook Cook It Wildhas all the know-how you need to cook gourmet meals in the great outdoors. “It actually becomes really easy when you’ve done the prep,” Nuttall-Smith says. “Once you know how to do that, it opens up a whole range of foods that you wouldn’t necessarily think about for camping.” This recipe, for make-ahead grilled chicken thighs with two marinade options, is the perfect example of how a little pre-planning can make all the difference for your camping menu.

Nuttall-Smith calls this recipe his “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Chicken Grill-Out” because it can go in two different directions: the marinade can be either a creamy, sunshiny base of Dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon and honey; or it can be a spicy North-African-style harissa paste.

We asked Nuttall-Smith how to make sure this chicken recipe is prepared perfectly every single time. Here’s what he told us.

Rather than choose one adventure, could you split the measurements for the seasonings and make some of each?

For sure. I’ll often make four thighs of one recipe, and four of the other. It’s really easy to do because they’re both basically the same recipe, just with a slightly different thing at the end.

Do you have any advice for packing raw chicken safely?

I used to not want to take chicken camping. What I’ve realized over the years is that when you make it at home and freeze it, you can double-pack it. So you put it in a zip-top bag, then you put it in a second one. And it goes in your cooler, frozen, in a particular place. As long as it’s double-packed, you won’t have an issue.

Are there any parts of this recipe where it’s easy to make a mistake?

Not really. This recipe is pretty foolproof. You want to get it in the freezer fairly quickly after you get the marinade on it, within about 12 hours, but you’re at home so that’s not a big deal.

Can you make this on a backyard grill?

Absolutely. The key with cooking any chicken on a grill – and by ‘grill,’ I mean that it could be an open fire; it could be your backyard barbecue – you want medium heat. If the heat is too high, the outside of the chicken cooks too quickly and the inside doesn’t cook right. So, medium heat, and I’ll often move the chicken between medium heat and low heat, just to make sure it cooks nicely inside.

Are there any substitutions or add-ons you could make to the dish?

You could really use whatever herbs you love. If you really like tarragon or parsley or rosemary, go for it.  In terms of the harissa, all the brands are really quite different. So that’s one of the most fun things I’ve done – swapping them out and seeing what works. It really changes the flavours.

Chris Nuttall-Smith’s Choose-Your-Own Adventure Chicken Grill-Out

A container filled with grilled chicken sits on a rock outside
Photography, Maya Visnyei
A container filled with grilled chicken sits on a rock outside

Easy Grilled Chicken Thighs

This ready-to-grill chicken recipe has two flavour options: seasoning the meat with fresh herbs or a fiery North African-inspired harissa paste.
Course Main Course
Cuisine african, Canadian
Servings 4


  • 8 boneless chicken thighs skin on
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
  • 2 heaping tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tsp honey
  • 5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Choose-Your-Own Adventure Seasoning 1 (Herbs)

  • pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped rosemary
  • ¼ cup chopped thyme
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped parsley

Choose-Your-Own Adventure Seasoning 2 (Harissa)

  • 2-4 tbsp harissa paste


  • In a large resealable freezer bag, combine chicken thighs, lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, olive oil, salt and the choose-your-own adventure seasoning of your choice (Herbs or Harissa). Mix well to coat chicken evenly.
  • Pressing out air, seal bag; freeze. The chicken will keep for 1 month frozen.
  • When ready to grill, thaw chicken. If you’re camping, the frozen chicken will keep for two days.
  • Arrange a grill over medium-hot charcoal with direct and indirect cooking zones.
  • Place chicken skin side down on grill and cook until browned, flipping and moving around as necessary to avoid charring or flare-ups, about 10 minutes. Move thighs to indirect heat and cook until juices run clear when chicken is pierced and thermometer inserted into thickest part reads 165°F, about 10 to 20 minutes more.

A cookbook cover with the words "Cook It Wild" and a dish of food outside on the cover in a light tan frame

Excerpted from Cook It Wild by Chris Nuttall-Smith. Copyright © 2023 Chris Nuttall-Smith. Photography by Maya Visnyei and illustrations by Claire McCracken. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
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