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Perfect Grilled Chicken Tips from a Chef

This week’s BBQ blog post is an article from the Weber Restaurant’s Newsletter. Grilling chicken isn’t always easy and Chef Neal Corman gives some great advice on how to perfect your grill skills. (This article has been adapted to focus on cooking over live coals).

Ask Chef Neal Corman

“I have heard that if your chickens’ come off the grill and taste like the grill, it is because your grill is not hot enough. Is that true?

My dad used to grill scrumptious chickens, but they tasted like chickens, not that smoky taste. I know, then why are you grilling? But maybe it is because you want to cook a chicken and it is too hot to turn the oven on. And, my husband is not real crazy about chicks on the grill. So, any light you could shed on this would be super helpful”. -Stephanie

If there is one thing that people mess-up more than anything else on their grill, it has to be chicken… You’re not alone… I feel your pain.

The truth is this; chicken is no different than any other protein on the grill. If your grill is set up properly and the chicken is prepared correctly you should have no problems. There is a difference between cooking chicken pieces (either boneless skinless breasts or a cut up fryer) and grill-roasting a whole chicken. We’ll look at both of these options:

First, you need to configure your grill for both direct and indirect cooking. Simply stated (we there must be sufficient area on the grill grate that is over a heat source, (a pile of hot coals) and an area that is not. This way you have the option of moving your food on or off of the heat. This greatly enhances your ability to control the cooking process.

Next, you need to prepare your chicken properly for grilling. For a whole chicken, start with a 3 to 4 pound fryer and marinate it overnight. This marinade can either be a dry rub such as BBQ rub or perhaps Cajun seasoning, or a liquid marinade such as vinaigrette. The easiest way to cook a whole bird is to use a poultry roaster that allows you to roast a chicken standing up and provides even cooking while simultaneously catching the juices for a sauce or gravy option for serving. Weber happens to have a very good roaster for sale on their website. Configure your grill to cook indirect, placing the roaster over the non-heated portion of the grill. Set your grill to med, medium low, close the cover and your marinated chicken on the poultry roaster should be done in approximately 45 minutes.

Ensure that the coals are generating approximately 300 to 350 degrees F of heat. Periodically check the bird and turn it if necessary for even browning. The chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees F or when the juices flow clear.

For cut-up whole chickens or boneless skinless breasts, the chicken pieces can be prepared the same way as the whole chicken (either seasoned in a marinade or rubbed with a spice mix and allowed to set overnight.) Configure your grill for direct and indirect cooking as you would with the whole bird. The grill should be set to 400 to 600 degrees F for charcoal. Be sure that the grill is pre-heated and the grill grates are clean. Place the chicken pieces skin side down (if they are not skinless) on the hot grates and allow them to acquire grill marks (approximately one to two minutes). If the chicken pieces are marinated, remove the excess marinade liquid to avoid flare-ups. This may be the smoky taste that you want to avoid. Flip the pieces and cook for an additional minute. Remove the chicken pieces from the direct section to the indirect section. Close the lid of the grill and continue to cook until the meat reaches 165 degrees F or it feels firm. If you are going to use a BBQ sauce, baste the chicken one-minute prior to being done to allow the sauce to set to a glaze.

Well, there you have it. Follow these simple steps and you’re all set to give the ‘Colonel’ a run for his money in the grilled chicken market.