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How to Grill Chicken

Try These Tips to Make Outstanding Grilled Chicken

Knowing how to grill chicken is an important technique to master – juicy chicken that isn’t burnt on the outside is surprisingly tricky to achieve. But follow these tips to make grilled chicken that’s delicious and perfectly cooked.

Choose Your Chicken

Chicken comes in all shapes and sizes – whole or pieces, with or without bones, skin on or off – so when learning how to grill chicken it’s important to keep a few things in mind to get the best results for the type of chicken you’re cooking.

  • Whole chicken: Cut the backbone out of a whole chicken so that it cooks more quickly and evenly. To do this, turn the chicken breast side down and use kitchen shears to cut down both sides of the backbone. After removing the backbone, press down on both sides of the chicken to flatten it out slightly.
  • Chicken pieces: Bone-in chicken pieces take slightly longer to cook than boneless pieces, but the bone adds some flavor to the meat.
  • Skin: Chicken skin doesn’t affect cooking times but it can add a layer of protection from the flames and help keep the meat moist. It also adds flavor to the chicken and, when grilled, turns very crispy and succulent.
  • Season: No matter what shape the chicken you’re grilling comes in, season it with salt and pepper, a spice rub or herb paste, or marinate or brine the bird.

Brines add flavor and keep chicken juicy. To make one, dissolve ½ c. of kosher salt and ¼ c. of sugar in 2 c. of boiling water. Add 12 c. of ice water to cool, then submerge the chicken pieces in the brine. Chill for at least 4 hours, then remove the chicken; discard the brine.

Get to the Grill

Because chicken needs to be thoroughly cooked, special care needs to be taken so the outside of the chicken doesn’t burn before the meat is done. Keep these ideas in mind.

  • Preheat the grill to medium-high, turning one side of the grill on and leaving the other side off – this is called two-zone heat and allows you to create the atmosphere of an oven inside the grill with the ability to char pieces on the side where the burners are on, then move those pieces to the other side to finish cooking without the risk of burning.
  • Scrape the grill grates clean with a grill brush, after preheating for at least 5 min. Any burned-on debris could cause the chicken to stick, and chicken skin is very susceptible to fusing to the grates if they haven’t been properly cleaned.
  • Oil the grates with a paper towel that’s been dipped in vegetable oil, holding the paper towel with a pair of tongs. Allow excess oil to burn off before placing the chicken on the grates.

Precook the chicken in a 375°F. oven until nearly cooked through. Then finish it on the grill to lightly char and finish cooking, brushing it with sauce as it grills.

Thrill of the Grill

Once the grill is preheated you’re minutes away from delicious grilled chicken. Here are some helpful hints to pay attention to.

  • For whole chicken, put the split bird on the grill, breast side up, on the side where the burners are turned off. Cover the grill and cook the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. in the thigh. Rotate the chicken once or twice as it cooks so it browns and cooks evenly.
  • For bone-in or boneless chicken pieces, arrange them on the hot side of the grill, skin-side down (if applicable), cover the grill and cook until the chicken is seared, about 8 min. Flip the pieces over with tongs or a spatula and move them to the other side of the grill to continue cooking. The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Allow it to rest for 5 min. before serving.

 

Avoid brushing BBQ sauce on the chicken until it’s on the side of the grill where the burners are turned off. The sugars in the sauce tend to stick and burn if the sauce is applied over the hot side of the grill.