How many times have you been to a barbecue and been faced with sad chicken? What, you may ask, is “sad chicken”? Deep down, I think, you know exactly what I mean. Grilled chicken should be delicious, moist, tender and full of flavor, but all too often, it isn’t., chicken that looks alright at first and then turns out to be raw in the middle — ah, that might be the saddest chicken of them all..
All is not lost. Dry your eyes and read on for everything you need to know about chicken and the grill. From the heat upon which you cook your bird to the prep before it even hits the grill, there are a few simple things you can do to change the outcome of your grilled chicken. Turn your foul fowl into palatable poultry and never fear the grill again by avoiding these 10 mistakes.
If you aren’t brining your chicken, then you, my friend, are missing out. It takes just a little bit of planning, and the rewards are well worth it. There are two kinds of brine you can use (dry or wet) and which type you use really depends on your preference and how much time you have. Generally a dry brine needs less time on the bird, compared to a wet brine that is best to leave overnight for the most tender and juicy results.
Cease your slathering! Put down your mop! By covering your chicken with barbecue sauce from the first moment it hits the grill, you are setting yourself up for burnt disappointment. Barbecue sauce is filled with sugar, which burns quickly; this will not only ruin the flavor of the sauce and the chicken, but will also give you a false sense of when the chicken is cooked through. Hold off on the sauce until the last few minutes of cooking.
This is an important step when cooking skin-on chicken, or chicken that is seasoned simply without any kind of wet marinade.
If your chicken has been in brine or is simply a little damp, make sure you pat it dry with paper towels before you put it on the grill. Not only will seasonings like salt and spices adhere and penetrate the flesh more effectively, but you will also get much nicer crust and color on your chicken. Wet skin causes steam and that’s definitely not something you want when grilling!
If you are using frozen chicken, whether it is thighs, breasts, or a whole bird, your prep begins the night before when you remember to leave your frozen poultry, defrosting slowly and safely, in the fridge (in a suitable vessel). If you do happen to forget, don’t worry — there is a solution! Similar to thawing a frozen turkey at the last minute, you should fill your sink with cold water, submerge your frozen chicken, and change out the water every 30 minutes.
Cutting into your chicken as soon as it comes off the grill is a big no-no and will cause all of the juices within to run out, resulting in a dry chicken. For any small cut of chicken, let it sit for about five minutes before digging in. A full 20 to 30 minutes of rest time should be given to a whole bird if that’s what you’re grilling.
If you don’t have the time to brine your bird, never-fear; it is a delicious but non-essential step, as long as you make sure to season your chicken adequately. So season the outside of your chicken generously and evenly and, if you are grilling a whole bird, don’t forget to season the inside (the cavity) as well as the skin — after all, nobody likes a bland bird!
Don’t be tempted to buy the cheapest chicken at the supermarket. Sure, you can get more for your money, but the difference in flavor will be evident once you take a bite. Grilling is a simple treatment of whatever ingredients you are using, so for really great results, try to buy chicken from a trusted source. If that means that you have to buy less chicken than you normally do, then buy more vegetables! They are delicious cooked on the grill and go wonderfully with chicken.
Too often a piece of grilled chicken looks great from the outside — all grill marks and crispy skin — before you take a bite and discover the truth: It’s raw. How disappointing! But you can easily be rid of that uncertain moment by purchasing a good meat thermometer. The FDA-approved internal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees F. You can take you chicken off the grill at 160 degrees and allow the chicken to rest, which will allow the rest of the chicken to come up to the right internal temperature.
Some people seem to think that the point of a barbecue is to put on a show — stoke the coals, feed the flame, and throw your poor poultry into the raging fire. I implore you to stop! High heat is certainly important for crispy skin — everyone’s favorite, right? — but it should be used wisely. Medium-low is the best temperature to use on a charcoal grill (and medium on a gas grill) to end up with both crispy skin and perfectly cooked meat.
Boneless and bone-in, skinless and skin-on, breast and thigh, each kind of chicken is different and should be treated as such. A bone-in, skin-on chicken breast will take significantly more time to cook than one that is boneless. Cooking over a high heat with bone-in chicken significantly increases the risk of serving undercooked chicken that is still raw at the bone. To make things easier, try cooking either all bone-in or all boneless, that way you can get deliciously even results. There really are so many options when it comes to wonderful grilled chicken recipes, and our 25 best grilled chicken recipes is a great place to start
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