Grilled chicken is one of those foods that can go terribly wrong. Clint Cantwell of ChefWorks.com took some time to teach us the five biggest mistakes — along with solutions — that arise when grilling chicken at your backyard cookout.
Grilled chicken is a staple at backyard cookouts across the country, but far too often, it falls flat. Whether it’s a lack of seasoning, burnt-on barbecue sauce, or (eek) undercooked meat, bad chicken can quickly turn your gathering into an epic fail.Chef Works, the leading suppliers of culinary apparel for chefs and home cooks alike, for five tips for reaching grilled chicken perfection!
Problem: Great grilled chicken starts with proper seasoning, but often, cooks are too focused on getting the bird on the grill to properly flavor it.
Fix It: As with any protein, chicken should be liberally seasoned with either salt and pepper or your favorite barbecue dry rub. Better yet, soak the chicken overnight in a saltwater brine to not only add flavor but also ensure the chicken stays moist.
Burnt Barbecue Sauce
Problem: Barbecue sauce goes great with grilled chicken, but it is often added before the chicken hits the grill or as soon as it starts to cook. Unfortunately, barbecue sauce is full of sugar, which will quickly burn, not only ruining the overall taste but also giving the cook the false sense that the chicken is done.
Fix it: Hold the barbecue sauce until the last two to three minutes of the grilling process. Simply sauce both sides using a basting brush, cover the grill, and allow the sauce to set before serving.
Grill Temperature Is Too High
Problem: Unlike steak, which requires a high heat to sear on a grill, chicken will burn on the outside while not fully cooking on the inside if the heat is too high. It will cook more evenly and thoroughly at a lower temperature.
Fix it: Create a two-zone fire by placing all of the charcoal briquets on one side of the charcoal grate. That way, you’ll have a hot side for browning and crisping the chicken and a cooler side where it can be moved to finish cooking without burning the outside (note: on a gas grill, simply turn the burners off on one side for a cool zone). Once you’ve moved your chicken to the cool side, simply cover the grill and allow it to come to temperature.
Treating All Chicken the Same
Problem: Whether it’s bone-in, boneless, skin-on, or skinless, not all chicken grills in the same amount of time. Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, for example, might take up to 20 minutes to cook, while chicken legs will take slightly less time, and boneless, skinless thighs can be grilled in a matter of minutes.
Fix it: Select one cut of chicken and stick to it versus offering multiple options. Chicken thighs are a great option for everyone as they are much more forgiving if slightly overcooked.
Relying on Looks to Determine Whether the Chicken Is Done
Problem: Too often, people assume chicken is done simply based on looks. The problem is that while it looks great on the outside, it could still be raw inside, creating a serious health hazard.
Fix it: Investing in an instant-read meat thermometer is a surefire way to know if the chicken has cooked to the FDA-approved temperature of 165 degrees F. You can take the chicken off the grill once it reaches 160 degrees F, as the temperature will continue to rise slightly even after it is removed from the heat. Be sure to let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving so the cooking can complete.