Piernitas de Pollo Partidas con Salsa (Grilled Split Chicken Legs with Orange Chipotle Salsa)

Orange Chipotle Chicken
Photo above by Eric Futran


There is a cut of chicken that I first saw in the Merced market, piernitas de pollo partidas, or split small chicken legs. They are cut horizontally through the bone so that each piece is thinner but still has some skin and bone attached. I was curious about this cut, but my Spanish wasn’t strong enough to get the details while at
La Merced. I saw this cut again at Mexican butcher counters in Chicago and asked my sous chef about it. “Large Mexican families, small grills” was his answer. The chicken cooks much faster but still has crispy skin and that on-the-bone flavor.


Buy split chicken legs from a Mexican grocery store. You cannot prepare this cut at home unless you have a band saw. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and crushed garlic.

Orange Chipotle Glaze


4 cups fresh orange juice

1 small can chipotle chiles in Adobo sauce

2 cloves garlic

½ tsp ground cumin

1 tsp Mexican oregano

1Tbl Jugo Magi (Magi Sauce) or 1-2 Tbl soy sauce


Reduce the orange juice unattended over low heat for an hour, to yield one cup of intensely flavored, syrupy liquid. If you don’t have time for this step, you can use a half-cup of fresh juice in the recipe with some grated fresh rind, although I think it is worth the effort to concentrate the orange flavor.

Purée the chipotles with the orange juice, garlic, cumin, Magi seasoning, and oregano. Taste for salt. This glaze will last for weeks in the refrigerator. It is a great all purpose BBQ sauce.

Grill the split chicken legs halfway or roast in a 450° oven and then brush on the orange-chipotle sauce as the chicken finishes cooking.

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