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Gai Yang – How To Make Thai Grilled Chicken

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Gai yang is Thailand’s most popular Thai grilled chicken recipe

The traditional way of cooking this butterflied gai yang recipe is quite a chore. Four bamboo skewers are tied on both sides of the chicken with a piece of wire to assist in turning the birds while cooking. I rarely bother with this and instead use a good strong pair of tongs.

Gai yang

Photo by Kris Kirkham for my cookbook ‘The Curry Guy Thai’.

I used to butterfly chicken by cutting out the backbone. In Thailand I noticed that gai yang was prepared by slicing down the centre of the breasts. This works better as the chicken lies flatter on the grill.

It is important to cook gai yang over a low flame so that the chicken gets a nice deep brown colour without being excessively charred. A chicken this size should take about 80 minutes to cook so remember, low and slow!

I should point out that when I made this gai yang, I cooked two chickens. I was having friends over and one chicken just wasn’t going to be enough.

The gai yang recipe below, however is for one chicken. If cooking two birds, you will want to double the amount of marinade. 

Thai gai yang (gai = chicken and yang = grilled) is popular at street food stalls and restaurants all over Thailand. Like so many of the most popular recipes from Thailand, it can now be found on most western Thai restaurant menus too.

The recipe is usually served with a good dipping sauce. I recommend trying the nam jim jaew sauce which you will see in the photos. It’s the perfect accompaniment for Thai grilled meats. 

If you would rather cook this indoors, no problem. Pre-heat your oven to 200c (400f) and place the chicken skin side up on a rack in the centre of the over for about an hour or until the juices are clear and not at all red. 

Making Gai Yang

If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, this can be done in a food processor.

Making Gai Yang

Add the liquid ingredients and sugar.

Making Gai Yang

Using a sharp knife, slice right down the centre between the breasts.


Making Gai Yang

Place the chicken, skin side down and press down to flatten as much as possible

Making gai yang

Flip the chicken over and press down on the back bone to flatten it more.

Making gai yang

Place the chicken on the grill. It is essential that the fire not be very hot. This is a slow cooking process.

Making gai yang

Continue turing the chicken every 20 minutes or so until cooked through. This should take about 80 minutes over a low flame.

Yield: 4 - 6

Gai Yang - How To Make Thai Grilled Chicken

Gai Yang - Thai Grilled Chicken
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes


  • 20 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemongrass stalk
  • 1 ½ tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp coriander stems – finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 4 tbsp tamarind water
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Thai fish sauce
  • 1 x 1.5k (3 lb.) chicken


  1. Place the black peppercorns in a pestle and mortar and pound to crack. Add the garlic cloves and continue pounding until you have a thick paste. Throw in the lemongrass and coriander stalks and continue pounding so that all of the ingredients are coarsely pounded with no really big bits. Stir in the remaining ingredients and transfer to a large bowl or deep plate.
  2. Place the chicken upright on its legs so that it looks like it is sitting down. Using a sharp knife slice downwards between the two breast to butterfly it. Put the butterflied chicken into the marinade and rub the marinade all over it. I usually loosen the skin too and rub some of the marinade under the skin so that it is in direct contact with the meat but this is optional.
  3. For best results allow the chicken to marinate overnight but this isn't necessary.
  4. When ready to cook, set up your barbecue for direct heat cooking. This is a slow cooking process so when the coals are white hot and ready, spread them out some so that the heat isn't too intense.
  5. Place the chicken skins side up first and grill for about 20 minutes. Turn it over and grill for ten minutes. Then flip over again and continue cooking until the chicken has been on the grill for about 80 minutes or until cooked through.
  6. Be sure to check your coals regularly so that you get a medium heat that is not too hot.
  7. When cooked, transfer the chicken to a cutting board to rest for about 10 minutes and then cut into about 8 pieces to serve.

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Gai Yang

Delicious with the nam jim jaew sauce!

Gai Yang - Thai Grilled Chicken

So easy and so good! Give this tasty gai yang recipe a try.


Saturday 17th of June 2023

Have you ever cooked this with a pre-made curry paste on a rotisserie gas grill? I have this idea, just not sure how to go about it.

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 20th of June 2023

I haven’t tried that yet but see no reason why that wouldn’t work well Thanks Dan

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