Chicken alla Diavola


Chicken alla Diavola. The Devil’s Chicken!

The fact that I’m posting this on Halloween is purely coincidental. Concert weeks are crazy and this post was supposed to go up 4 days ago. Maybe crazy scheduling and procrastination work in my favor this time.

Chicken alla Diavola is called Devil’s Chicken because of the abundance of crushed black peppercorns that adorn the meat. In spite of this, and the name, this is not an overwhelmingly peppery dish. Rather it is fragrant, flavorful, and extremely tasty.

As a bonus, once you’ve marinated the meat, it all comes together very easily. Devilishly quick, you might say.

Speaking of marinating…plan ahead. You need at least 2 hours for the chicken to marinate. If you have longer, even 8 hours, you will be amazed at how much more flavor you get. This is a perfect dish to put together the night before or in the morning and let it soak all day.

Here’s what you need:


Chicken pieces, lemons, black peppercorns, and olive oil.

Click here for a Chicken alla Diavola Shopping List

Also recommended, and perfect for Halloween (and any other day), one awesome and sweet black cat.


“Did someone say chicken?” You can always count on Gus being around when poultry is involved.

AND if you need convincing that this isn’t overly spiced up and peppery, Gus enjoyed his bites of the finished (cooked) product that happened to fall on the floor.

I am using 8 chicken thighs. I plan on 2 thighs per person but you will see that you can expand this recipe very easily. You can use any kind of chicken parts. The original recipe calls for a flattened whole chicken but if you like white meat, I would recommend just getting bone in breast halves or the whole chicken already cut up at the store. That way you don’t have to worry about flattening or removing the backbone.

I have to make a confession that while I usually prefer my chicken without skin (I skin mine and leave the skin on for Jim), for the best flavor, you should leave the skin ON for this dish. (My friend Cody is doing a happy dance reading this since he always gives me a hard time about skinning my chicken.)

The skin really soaks up the marinade and also crisps up to an amazing golden brown under the broiler. In this case, skin ON.

If you have a pepper mill that has settings, set yours to the very coarsest setting and pepper the chicken like crazy. If you only have the option of finely ground pepper, crush the whole peppercorns in a baggie with something heavy like a pot or rolling pin.

You want LOTS of really coarsely ground pepper.


Gently massage the pepper into both sides of the chicken.

Combine the juice from 3 lemons (about 1/2 cup) and 2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a measuring cup.


Pour the lemon mixture over and around the chicken. Turn the chicken to coat both sides.

Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-8 hours.


When you are ready to cook, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes so it is not ice cold when it goes into the oven.

Preheat your broiler on it’s highest setting. You can also cook these on a gas or charcoal grill as you would any other grilled or BBQ chicken.

Place the chicken pieces on a broiler pan. Using the broiler pan allows the grease to drain down into the bottom part of the pan. It is also made to withstand the high heat of the broiler.


I like to add just a bit more cracked black pepper since some of it has floated off in the marinade.

Speaking of the marinade, we are going to reuse it so pour it out of your pan and into a small sauce pan. Put it on the stove and bring it to a boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes so that you get rid of any bacteria from the raw chicken.


I’m not usually a fan of reusing marinades, but in this case it is perfectly safe and also a HUGE flavor boost.

(The original recipe doesn’t even mention boiling the marinade but I am my mother’s daughter and better safe than sorry.)

Broil the chicken on the MIDDLE rack of the oven – not right up under the broiler for 5 minutes.


This gets the chicken started cooking and also gets the skin started crisping.

After 5 minutes or so, remove the chicken and turn the oven down to 425 degrees. That’s bake NOT broil.

Baste the chicken with some of the marinade…


and tent the pan loosely with foil. Try to keep the foil from resting right on the chicken so it doesn’t stick to the skin.


Put the chicken back in the oven and bake, covered with foil, at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the foil and baste with the remainder of the marinade.


Turn the broiler back ON and return the chicken to the middle of the oven until it is crispy and golden brown – about 5 more minutes.


Look how golden and lovely. Yes, especially the pieces with the skin on.

Chicken alla Diavola

I served this with some Risotto Milanese and my favorite Zucchini & Almond Saute.


This recipe originally comes from the late, great Marcella Hazan’s wonderful cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I’ve always said that if you’re only going to own one Italian cookbook, this is the one to have.

HUGE credit, however, goes to my good friend Cody for coming up with the broiler friendly method of cooking Marcella’s chicken.

This IS devilishly good!

Here’s the recipe:

Chicken alla Diavola

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  Do NOT marinate this chicken overnight. 8 hours is the max. Over-marinating in citrus will result in mealy chicken. There is an error in the PDF that I will try to fix. Thanks!

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5 Responses

  1. It looks fabulous, but I am one of those people that is not a black pepper fan, just a wee bit goes a long way for me. Does the pepper cook off enough to not be so prominent..I might have to have my sister make this first.

    1. I like the idea of having your sister make this first! I like pepper, but honestly to me this wasn’t overwhelmingly peppery. It also wasn’t overwhelmingly lemony (something my husband doesn’t care for). It is really quite weird how the lemon and pepper combine to taste really aromatic but not really that LEMON PEPPER “flavor” that you would expect. You could also try less pepper until you are sure. It was really tender and delicious.

  2. IMPORTANT UPDATE! Do not over marinate this chicken. 8 hours is the limit. Unlike what it says in the printed recipe, DO NOT marinate this overnight or the chicken will be mealy.

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