Food & Drink

Fadi Kattan’s barbecued whole chicken recipe

This is how you barbecue chicken – the Palestinian way.

Whole barbecued chicken from Bethlehem
Whole barbecued chicken from Bethlehem

“The sight of mouthwatering charcoal-grilled barbecued chicken is common in Palestine,” says Franco-Palestinian chef Fadi Kattan.

“On sunny days, every household begins barbecuing whole chickens marinated in beautiful local flavours. At the same time, in every town, there is at least one restaurant renowned for its barbecued chicken.

“In Bethlehem, it is Qabar restaurant in Beit Jala. it was established in 1974 and is still one of the most popular places. I grew up going there to pick up some chicken to bring home to enjoy with bread and a simple salad.

“In a large nonreactive bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, sumac, red pepper flakes, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and grated loumi. Add the chicken and rub the mix all over it. If you don’t plan to barbecue immediately, cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.”

Barbecued whole chicken


(Serves 4)

80ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

60ml fresh lemon juice

6 garlic cloves, crushed

1tsp salt

1tbsp ground sumac

1tsp dried red pepper flakes

½tsp ground cumin

¼tsp ground cinnamon

¼tsp ground allspice

Peel of 1 white or black loumi (dried lime), grated with a Microplane

1 whole chicken, about 1½kg, spatchcocked

To finish:

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 green chilli, sliced

2tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1tsp ground sumac

Whole barbecued chicken from Bethlehem
Whole barbecued chicken from Bethlehem (Elias Halabi & Ashley Lima/PA)


1. To barbecue on a charcoal or gas grill, prepare the grill with a hot zone and a cooler zone. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the cooler side, with the legs facing the hotter side.

2. Cover the grill and cook until the chicken is mostly done, 40 to 45 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken and place it on the hotter side of the grill, skin side down, to crisp the skin and finish cooking the chicken, another 10 to 15 minutes. It should take 50 to 60 minutes total.

3. To cook in the oven, preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F. Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat on the stove.

4. Put the chicken in the skillet, skin side up. Sear for about four minutes, then flip the chicken over. Sear on the second side for about four minutes. Continue flipping the chicken until you have charred the skin.

5. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet, skin side up, add a drizzle of olive oil, and roast for another 25 to 30 minutes, to fully cook through.

6. Remove from the heat of the grill or oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together the garlic, chilli, olive oil, lemon juice, and sumac. Drizzle over the chicken, cut into pieces, and serve.

Bethlehem: A Celebration Of Palestinian Food by Fadi Kattan is published by Hardie Grant, priced £28. Photography by Elias Halabi & Ashley Lima. Available on May 16.