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May 31, 2005 11:46 AM

Grilling chicken: I can't take it any more

  • d

I've got steaks and lamb and burgers down pretty well. I do a mean beer can chicken. Grilled veggies? No problem. Tuna? Delightful. But I cannot grill chicken on the bone to save my life. Yesterday's disaster was chicken breasts (bone in.) I used a marinade yesterday and it charred the skin, though I flipped several times. I've tried lower heat, higher heat, lid up, lid down. (We have a Weber gas grill). My husband belatedly suggested that I should have parboiled the chicken. It's an embarassment. I've consulted books, but now I turn to you.

Got any good tips, and good, quick recipes? I'm on a mission now to get this right before I hang up my chicken grillin' toque.

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  1. k
    King of Nortern Blvd.

    Do not par boil...Try searing over heat on one side of grill then use indirect heat to finish them off lid down...

    1 Reply
    1. re: King of Nortern Blvd.

      Absolutely agree - don't parboil. Roast, rather than grill them to a finish. Pile all your coals on one side, crisp up the skin there, turn them over and create a crust on the other side as well, then move them to the area with no coals underneath, put the top on, and leave them there for 20-30 minutes.

      You can still get into trouble if your fire is too hot - it would be like putting them in a 500+ degreee oven. I generally use less charcoal than I would for red meat. If you have questions, use an oven thermometer on the grill over the no-charcoal area, put the top on and see what it says. There is a limited amount of control by choking off the air flow down below and on the cover vent - but mostly, it's about how much charcoal you have in there.

    2. Bone-in chicken breast does take a while to cook. Like Applehome says, you need to sear both sides first. Then cook bone-side down on indirect heat for about 20 mins.

      I just did this with a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, fresh rosemary, salt & pepper (any sugar in the marinade will cause burning).

      BUT, I did brine my chicken first because I do not like leathery chicken. It came out moist and flavorful.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Funwithfood

        Brine: In a Ziploc bag add 1/2 cup Kosher Salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and 4 cups water; shake to dissolve. Add 6 chicken breasts and refrigerate for 1 hour. Drain, rinse, and pat dry.

      2. Ah, bone-in chicken...perhaps the hardest thing to get right in the whole pantheon, aside from boneless chicken breast or pork chops which have to be taken off the grill within a 90-second time window to be juicy...

        I cook bone-in chicken parts on my Weber gas grill frequently, as it's become a favorite in my house.

        The first thing you must realize is that the breasts are twice the size of the other parts- which makes cooking them together trying. What I do (and would even if cooking breasts alone) is to bisect the breast halves, across the meat (against the grain of the flesh, if you will). Not only does this make the pieces the same size to finish at the same time as thighs, drums, etc, but it reduces the surface-to-mass ratio so that the outer parts of the meat are not dry by the time it's cooked through to the bone.

        The next thing to realize is what the other posters have already said: You must cook direct to start, then indirect to finish. I have a 3-burner Weber, but you should be able to produce the same results with a smaller one.

        First, let the parts come to room temp. While this is going on, I apply a dry rub. If you wish to marinade, dry the pieces before putting on the grill, to reduce flare-ups and pre-mature carmelization of any things like garlic chunks or sugars (off taste and black chicken.) Crank the grill to max power.

        Put the (unsauced!) chicken parts on the grill. I almost always cook lid-down. Cook about 5 minutes to brown, and then flip. Repeat until all sides are browned.

        Towards the end of the browning, I turn off the rear-most burner and turn the middle one down to medium, and gradually start migrating the chicken towards the back. Wings will be pretty much done by the end of the browning stage. The other, larger,parts I put int the middle, gradually moving towards the back as they cook through. This takes about another 10 minutes.

        When all of the pieces are just barely cooked through, I turn the middle burner to low, and the front one down to medium. I then apply barbecue sauce (typically just a blend of commercial ones in my fridge, plus maybe some extra ingredients) and push the chicken more towards the middle to back-middle. This cooks for 2-3 minutes, just to get the sauce to stick/set. I then flip sauce-side down at the back where there's no direct heat, sauce the other side, and cook for another minute or two. Then I put the second sauced side down over the middle for a little direct heat for just a minute to set that sauce too.

        With a little practice, you'll have consistently juicy chicken without black crap on it!

        1. I heart you all. I'm going to print out your suggestions, study them, and then attempt the grilling of chicken again. Perhaps as soon as this weekend. Before grillochickophobia permanently sets in.

          1. Bah to most of those suggestions. Here's what I do. First - I cook chicken halves, not just individual parts. The bigger the pieces of chicken the less likely to dry out or burn.

            Second - brine. Often I'll take a frozen chicken out of the freezer and throw it directly into a bowl of brine and let it defrost therein. That way it loses little or no moisture.

            Third - indirect cooking almost all the way. I have a 3 burner Weber, so I turn on all the burners to preheat the grill, then turn off the center one and line up the chicken halves over it. Turn down the outer two burners to medium (or sometimes low). Cook, skin-side-up basting liberally and often with a mixture of water (yes, water), lemon juice, garlic, a splash of oil and some salt and pepper. Turn over when it's about halfway done. Continue to grill and baste until the chicken is very nearly done. Only then would I turn on the middle burner and, never leaving the chicken's side, grill turning often until nicely browned and crisp. I'm not a big fan of sweet or tomatoey barbecue sauce, but if you are you can slather that on at the very end. Hack into serving pieces to eat.

            That should pretty much do it. Grilled chicken is a labour of love. You have to watch it carefully and baby it all the way.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Nyleve

              The indirect is the biggest key. Takes about twice as long but is so worth it. you can relax more while it's cooking and the flavor just gets better and better. Put the thicker cuts and dark meat closer to the fire, and the smaller cuts and white meat further from it.

              I also put it over the heat of the fire at first for good grill marks and a bit of searing.

              1. re: Dennis S

                Another rec. for brining.
                You can't mess it up after it's been brined.
                And the indirect method?
                You can't burn it either.
                Yeah, it takes a little longer, but that's time enough to put the rest of the dinner together and have a beverage.

                If I am in a hurry, then I'll do a traditional method of grilling, but I like to use those Reynolds non-stick bbq foil 'liners' on the grill.
                They solve two problems:
                I'm less likely to burn things because of the foil barrier (no flareups)
                and if I'm slathering on some sweet-ish bbq sauce, no
                messy grill to clean either.
                You can create your own simply by Pamming some foil, putting some slits in it.
                Bingo. Done.