Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Idiot's guide to grilling chicken

One of the most used (and abused) ingredients on a grill is the plain, lowly chicken. The fear -- albeit justified -- of salmonella sends people to the extreme. They'll cook all the flavor and tenderness out of their chicken and present their families and too-polite guests with something that's fit only for resoling a shoe or sprinkling on a drive way.

That chicken didn't do anything to you. Be kind to the fowl. Your stomach will thank you.

Along those lines, here's some safety and cooking points to keep in mind when grilling chicken.

Always thaw frozen poultry in the refrigerator or microwave oven (I don't like the nuke, but sometimes you're pressed for time), not on the kitchen counter. Chicken may also be thawed by running it under cold water.

Keep all poultry in the refrigerator or in a cooler until ready to grill. (Surely we didn't have to tell you that, but the legal department makes us...)

Before marinating or grilling, wash the chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Thoroughly wash your hands, utensils and work area after preparation.

It is best to grill on a clean rack. The best way to clean a gas grill is by turning up all burners to high and scraping away any food or debris. For a charcoal grill, light the coals and allow the grates to heat up and then, using a coarse brush, scrape away any debris.

The grates should be lightly oiled or sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray to prevent the chicken from sticking. Do not spray the cooking spray directly into the fire. Remove the grate from the grill with a heavy potholder and then, holding the grate away from the grill, apply the spray.

Covering the grill increases the grill’s temperature. So, adjust the heat setting on a gas grill after lowering the cover and close the vents on a charcoal grill. Opening the vents will add more oxygen to the fire and will, thus, increase the heat.

When grilling chicken, the grill should be set up for indirect cooking. (We're cooking some whole chickens at The Star on Thursday. We'll show you what we mean.) On a gas grill, start by turning all burners on high. After the chicken is seared on both sides, turn off the middle burner(s) and move the chicken to this cooler area of the grill. If using a charcoal grill, light coals and then divide the bottom of the grill into three sections: one section with no coals, a middle section with a single layer of coals, and a third section with twice as many coals as the middle section. Begin searing chicken on the hottest section (the area with the most coals) of the grill and then move to the middle or other side of the grill to finish cooking.

Bone-in meat takes longer to cook on the grill than boneless meat. These parts should be placed on the grill first. Place them on the hottest part of the grill and continually turn the pieces WITH TONGS. After the pieces have browned, they should be moved from the hottest part of the grill to the cooler areas. Position fully cooked pieces of chicken on the outside (coldest) sections of the grill so that they stay warm while the other pieces finish cooking.

Thinner pieces of chicken, such as boneless breasts, should be cooked for a shorter period of time over higher heat than thicker pieces of chicken, such as chicken pieces or half chickens.

Whole chickens and chicken parts should be cooked over lower heat for a longer period of time. This rule of thumb will prevent larger pieces of chicken from burning on the outside while the interior remains undercooked.

Basic Method for Grilling All Chicken Parts:

Except when grilling whole chickens, it is important that chicken parts are cooked over steady, medium heat. When using a gas grill, simply turn off one or two of the center burners to create a cooler section; place pieces there to keep warm after they are fully cooked. To ensure even cooking and to prevent burning, grilled chicken should be closely monitored and turned often. Chicken absorbs flavors readily, so it is perfect for marinating, adding spice rubs or brushing with a flavorful barbecue sauce.

Chicken Breasts:
Can be grilled with or without the skin, cut into strips and threaded onto skewers, or cut into cubes for kebabs. Chicken breasts are great for seasoning with dry rubs, pastes, marinades or sauces.

Breast meat will be juicier if grilled with the skin on. However, the skin can be removed after grilling for lower calorie meals.

Stuffing chicken breasts before grilling will help maintain moisture and add flavor. Try a variety of cheeses, herbs or other flavorful ingredients, such as sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced prosciutto or ham, or olive tapenade.

When grilling breasts with the skin on, remember that the fat content will cause more flare-ups. Use indirect heat, turn often, and pay close attention.

Sear bone-in chicken breasts for about 4 minutes per side and then move to lower heat and continue to grill for 18-20 more minutes until the breasts reach an internal temperature of 165 F (See the previous post on what kind of thermometer to buy).

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, if cooked over medium high heat, will be cooked in about 10-12 minutes, turning once every 4 or 5 minutes. Boneless, skinless chicken breast should be cooked until an internal temperature of 165 degrees F is reached.

Chicken Leg Quarters and Half Chickens:
Grilled chicken leg quarters make an impressive presentation, as do half chickens. They cook in about 30 to 35 minutes using indirect heat on the grill. Turn them often to prevent burning. Quarters should reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees F.

Chicken Wings:
Chicken wings make tasty appetizers and take about 10 to 15 minutes to grill. They should reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees F.

Whole Chickens:
A grilled whole chicken is a succulent treat. When grilling a whole chicken, you will need to place a drip pan under the chicken to catch dripping fat. Most modern gas grills are designed and manufactured with drip pans. If your grill does not have a drip pan, a disposable foil baking pan makes a good substitute.

Because whole chickens take longer to cook, be prepared to replenish the coals if using a charcoal grill. Whole chickens should reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh.

Chicken Thighs and Legs:
For sheer economy (and hard-to-mess-up factor) thighs and legs cannot be beaten. Thigh and leg meat are rich in flavor. They take longer to cook than breast meat, about 25 to 30 minutes on the grill. They should be cooked until an internal temperature of 170 degrees F is reached.

12 comments:

charcoal grill said...

Thanks for all these superb tips and tricks. Seem to know your stuf alright. Would love some more. Keep up the damn good job.

First Maid said...

Thank you ... I can't wait to try this out this weekend!

Anonymous said...

I have a very small gas grill. There is no "center" burner. But I think if I shut off the left one and leave the right one on, that should do it. Thanks for the great tips! Trying thighs today. :-D

Anonymous said...

Just finished mine and tasted great! Gotta use Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce! Yummmm..... Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

I've only begun reading this article and you've suggested thawing chicken in a microwave.

That is wrong on soooo many levels!. Instead of getting into it - i will only say this...

I'm guessing this idiots guide has been written by an idiot itself

Anonymous said...

To anonymous above he did say he didn't choose to do it this way but sometimes you are pressed for time. I guess he figured if you clicked on his link you would at least be able to read. Yeah and he is the idiot!

Anonymous said...

Easy to call someone "idiot" when your name is "anonymous."

Greg Sieracki said...

Guy Fieri (food network) bbq sauce is the best he has 3 kinds but I prefer Kansas City Smokey & Sweet on chicken


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