Where there’s smoke, there’s chicken!
If you take 10,000 chicken halves, four pits, nearly six tons of charcoal, 250 pounds of butter, almost two tons of cabbage and a cast of thousands, what do you get?
It’s the Manchester Chicken Broil, of course.
On Thursday, July 21, Manchester will fire up the pits at Alumni Memorial Field for the 63rd annual Chicken Broil.
“The pits” are four deep pits, each 150 feet long, which are filled with charcoal and topped with metal grids on which the chicken is slowly cooked.
While It is well-known that the Chicken Broil runs from 4 to 8 p.m. on the third Thursday of each July, the day starts long before that time … and ends long after the gates have closed and the fires have burnt down to mere embers.
It’s at about 10:30 a.m. that the chicken halves are delivered by truck to Alumni Memorial Field. The charcoal is lit an hour later and the cooking starts at around 12:15 p.m.
The cooking process was originally conceived by Dr. Howard Zindell, a professor at Michigan State University, and debuted at the first Chicken Broil in 1954. The same process has been used ever since. Most chicken cooks for about an hour and 45 minutes, basted with butter–many times–and salted.
The cooked chickens then are placed into 25-gallon stainless steel cans, about 85 at a time, and kept over a fire so they continue cooking
While earlier is considered better when standing in the traditional takeout or eat in lines, the newest and most popular way to pick up your chicks is the drive-through lines. Enter via Hibbard Street onto Duncan Street and proceed west to Wolverine to take advantage of this option, started in 2014.
“The time to get your chicken is at 4 p.m.,” he divulges. “There will be about 5,000 to 6,000 chicken halves already done by that time.
When the fires start burning down in the pits, the volunteers retire for some well-deserved relaxation at the American Legion for an “Afterglow,” where workers can re-hash the events of the day.
The chicken is only half of the magic of the Chicken Broil, however.
From the beginning, the secret recipe coleslaw — the other half of the combination — has held a special charm for many Chicken Broil fans. It’s certainly considered a don’t-miss portion of the meal.
The legend of the coleslaw recipe is that each of the committee members has a part of the recipe, but no one has everything. And no one appears willing to spill the beans as to whether that fractional rumor is 100 percent true.
And, as they say, the recipe is often imitated, but never duplicated.
So, come and taste the magic next Thursday, July 21, at the Manchester Chicken Broil. Serving runs from 4 – 8 p.m. at Alumni Memorial Field, on the corner of Wolverine and Vernon Streets.
Shuttles will be provided from major parking areas in the village.
Or, just follow the smoke.