Chicken Alla Diavola

From The Good Cook's Book of Salt and Pepper

You find pollo alla diavola in traditional Italian restaurants, those homey, turn-of-the-century eateries often in a basement and frequently decorated with photographs of famous Italian actors and politicians on the walls. Sometimes, the dish includes mustard, a French rather than Italian addition. (For a delicious Asian twist, see the variation at the end of the recipe.)

Cooked Chicken Drumstick

Please note that the chicken is rinsed to remove any lingering liquids that might influence the taste, not to remove bacteria from the chicken. Obviously, when a chicken is washed under running water, there should be nothing—no salad greens, no other ingredients whatsoever—underneath the flow of the water to become contaminated by the run-off.

  • Serves 4


  • 1 large pastured chicken, cut into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges


  1. Rinse the chicken pieces under cool water and dry them with a tea towel. Place the chicken in a single layer in a glass baking dish.

  2. Sprinkle the black pepper over the chicken, turning so that both sides are coated. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the salt over the chicken, then drizzle with the lemon juice and the olive oil. Cover and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight, basting occasionally.

  3. To cook the chicken, prepare a charcoal fire. When the fire is ready, set the rack about 5 inches from the fire, set the chicken skin-side up on the rack, and broil for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is lightly brown. Baste the skin side with the marinade (for an added element of flavor, use large stalks of rosemary or sage for the basting), turn, and baste the cooked side.

  4. Continue to grill, rotating the chicken to mark it evenly, and basting occasionally. Turn a final time and cook until the juices run clear, for a total of 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the bird to a serving platter, let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, season with the remaining teaspoon of salt, garnish with lemon wedges, and serve immediately.

Add a tablespoon of minced fresh ginger and a teaspoon of crushed red pepper to the olive oil before drizzling it over the chicken.

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