Author: Monda Rosenberg
- While burning chicken on the barbie seems to be a national pastime, there’s no need for it. The usual problem is that the barbecue’s intense heat sears the chicken’s tender surface before it’s cooked through. It can take a long time for the heat to make it to the centre of the piece of chicken, especially when you’re grilling up thick pieces with bones. One solution is to precook the chicken: wrap all the pieces in foil and place on the grill until partially cooked, then take the pieces out of the foil and finish them on the grill. And read on for other ways to achieve a beautifully barbecued bird.
- Never barbecue chicken (or any tender food) over high heat. If you’re cooking on moderate heat but still find the chicken burning in some areas, either move the grill several inches away from the heat, or reposition chicken to a cooler part of the grill. Never leave the lid open; keeping it closed as much as possible will ensure the chicken will be evenly cooked through.
- Prevent sticking by oiling the grill or coating it with cooking spray before putting anything on it. Also lightly oil chicken pieces – and vegetables and fruit, for that matter – before placing them on the grill.
- Adapt your grill method to the cut of chicken you’re using. There is no one-size-fits-all technique. Why grill thin boneless skinless breasts the same way you would thick chicken legs, or bony-fatty wings or chicken quarters? Large bone-in pieces benefit from long and slow grilling over low heat. The smartest way to grill a whole chicken is to use a rotisserie attachment, the beer can method or butterfly the bird. Check this website for recipes for all of these approaches.
- To maximize barbecue flavour, make sure all parts of the chicken pieces are exposed to the heat. Thread bony wings on a skewer starting at the meaty end and ending at the skinny wing tip, so the wing is stretched out. Position them on the grill with the thickest portion over the hottest part of the barbecue.
- For even cooking, keep the thickness of chicken pieces as even as possible. Before putting bone-in breasts or thighs on the grill, place them on a cutting board and firmly press down on them with your hands. Boneless thighs have a thin portion at one end. Simply fold this thin portion under itself to even out the overall thickness of the thigh. To flatten a whole bird, cut out the backbone. Flip the chicken breast-side up, then open it like a book. Firmly press down on the breastbone to flatten.
- Hold the carbs! Unfortunately, many recipes call for you to lather on the barbecue sauce throughout the grilling. Most sauces are sugar laden, and any high-sugar mixture will burn under intense heat. So hold off on basting and brushing on any sweet sauce or glaze, including bottled barbecue sauces, until the last few minutes of grilling. These sauces aren’t intended to penetrate into the chicken flesh but to form a flavour coating. When you bite into the chicken, the glaze taste hits first – this is true whether you add the sauce at the beginning or for just the last few minutes of grilling. Brushing it on at the start may leave you with a charred coating.
- Marinating chicken can add flavour and moistness, if you do it right. Research shows that marinades don’t penetrate far into the chicken flesh, so begin by removing the skin from the chicken. (While this may seem like a loss of crisp deliciousness, the skin acts as a barrier for the marinade that’s brimming with aromatics and spices. If you’re a skin lover, however, leave it on but don’t except the flesh to pick up as much marinade flavour. ) Then, make deep slashes in the chicken or poke holes all over it before submerging in the marinade; that gives the marinade mixture a passage deep into the flesh. With legs, for example, after pulling off the skin, use a sharp knife to make two or three deep slashes almost to the bone.
- For barbecuing a whole chicken, a rotisserie attachment is one secret to a beautiful bird. As the chicken slowly turns above the heat, it bastes itself inside and out, producing amazingly juicy meat and gorgeous crispy brown skin. Before putting the chicken on the spit, remove any fat from the body and neck cavities. Dry the bird by patting with paper towels. Tuck the wings behind the neck and tie the legs together with twine to keep them from flopping around.
- Don’t desert the bird! Chicken is one food you shouldn’t simply throw on the barbie and then forget about. If the skin is still on the chicken, fat will drip from it as it heats up – creating perfect flare-up conditions. And if the chicken is skinless, you have the worry that the delicate meat will dry out and burn. Either way, you need to stay close, frequently raising the lid to check on the cooking progress, and turning the pieces if the underside is getting too brown or moving them so the well-done areas are over the coolest part of the grill.
Here’s to perfect grilled chicken!