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Butterflied chicken sticks to grill. Help please.

Have made Cooks Illustrated Best Recipes rosemary garlic butterflied chicken several times and the skin always sticks to the grill. Looks awful but tastes great, but feel I miss out on lots of flavor by losing so much skin. What can I do to prevent the skin from sticking?

The bird marinates in olive oil/lemon juice in fridge, brought to room temp then placed on hot grill (skin-side down first), temp dropped to medium then flipped. I tried pre-spraying with Pam or rubbing oil on the grill grates, but the still always sticks and rips off when flipping. I'm no grill expert, so any help appreciated.

BTW, I have a Costco-special First Avenue gas grill (natural gas), with what I believe are stainless steel grates. I usually brush the grill clean after each use. Mistake?

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  1. Are you making sure that the bird is good and seared/marked before attempting to flip? And the grill is super hot?

    I have noticed that skin on chicken which has been marinated in oil sticks more than non-marinated. Maybe play around with it a little. Try drying it off, or putting the underside down first.

    Good luck! I have a gas grill too...and the grates leave something to be desired...

    1 Reply
    1. re: jlbwendt

      Hmm. I'd rub more oil on the skin right before grilling, oil the grate, and make sure the grate is super hot (hold off on turning down to medium maybe?) I've got a smoker with a side firebox, so I grill over indirect heat--natural lump banked to the sides. Lump burns pretty hot, so I don't know how this will translate to your gas grill. Could you use the same recipe but switch to the beer can method for grilling the bird upright?

    2. Grill the chicken skin-side up first so the skin firms up and dries a bit, then just before you turn it brush the skin with more of the marinade. You'll probably have a bit of sticking, but you won't sacrifice it all to the grill. Also be sure the heat is not super hot. I get the best results cooking chicken over medium or even indirect heat in the turned-off center burner, outside burners set to medium to medium/low, and then crisp the skin at the end by moving the chicken over direct flame/heat.

      1. I make a similar recipe and spray, then oil the grill. I crank the heat so when I put the skin on, it sizzles. I have noticed, like another poster said, that if I try to flip it before it is good and crispy, I lose it. Maybe by turning the heat to medium so quickly, it loses its searing.

        1. As others have suggested, make sure the grill is clean and well-oiled before you put the chicken down, grill the meat side first to give the skin a chance to dry and firm up, and brush the skin with oil before flipping the bird. But when you do flip, do so gently, so that you're not pushing the chicken down between the grates. And when removing the skin side from the grill, use a pair of tongs to gradually lift the bird away, using a spatula in your other hand to coax free any spots that do stick so that you don't leave the whole skin behind. You should be able to get a good-looking and tasty skin this way.

          1. Thanks for the tips. I always run the burners full for 10-15mins as per the recipe, before adding the chicken. Will have to experiment with applying more oil to the grill or chicken just before cooking (or maybe less as jlbwendt mentioned). I've become a bit obsessed with the skin thing, so maybe I do poke & prod a bit too much. Will have to just trust the recipe's recommended cooking times. Might definitely try cooking breast-side up first or maybe the beer can chicken.

            Maybe I need to season the stainless steel (I think) grill grates some how?

            4 Replies
            1. re: pharmnerd

              No they don't take seasoning, just brush them well with a steel brush once hot and just before putting the chicken on. If the chicken wasn't marinated in an oil marinade, then oil the grates after brushing, otherwise just leave the chicken alone for 10 minutes or so (but never on high heat!).

              1. re: pharmnerd

                It should be as simple as putting the bird on and not touching it till its time to flip. As strange as it sounds, the more you move it the more it will stick. Once it gets a nice crust/sear, the skin will release from the grill.

                1. re: ESNY

                  ESNY's on the money, pharmnerd.

                  If you want to avoid sticking -- grilling, searing, whatever -- the hardest thing is to learn to leave it alone. Lay it down and DON'T TOUCH IT until it's ready to flip. The other suggestions are all good ones, but you'll probably find it's just that simple.

              2. Get thee to Target and buy thyself a Thermos brand expandable grilling basket thingie. It's $12.99 - I just looked at one and decided when my old rickety one gets too tired that's the one I'm gonna get. It's big enough to encase a whole butterflied chicken, or two if they're Cornish hens. While you do have to let the handle protrude, so the lid won't be quite all the way shut, the two big advantages are that (a) the chicken won't stick - CAN'T stick! - to the grill, and (b) turning it over is a piece of cake. It also hold the chicken quite firmly in position. They're utter pigs to clean, but a nice polypropylene-bristled brush (and an apron, because scrubbing it makes for lots of spatter) does the trick for me. One thing I will lose is the rosewood insert in the handle - that'd probably go up in smoke anyway, and it seems that it'd preclude putting the thing in the dishwasher if you wanted to.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Will Owen

                  Great idea. Probably would've been better than trashing the jelly roll pan the recipe recommended to use.

                  1. re: pharmnerd

                    I didn't mention it at first, because the wire basket will render the point moot, but if those grill surfaces are stainless steel that could be part of the problem as well. That stuff is the devil for sticking under any circumstances.

                2. OK. So, next time, will 1) make sure grill is hot, 2) brush/spray on a bit more oil, 3) don't touch until ready to flip. Last time, was in a rush to get the main courses out at same time, so may have slacked on all of the above. If doesn't work, will try grilling bottom side first and/or getting the non-stick grill basket. Thanks for tips. Keep 'em coming.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: pharmnerd

                    These are all good tips. But the one that will really work is this: spray some cooking spray (Pam) on the grates just before you put the chicken on, then wait, as above, until the skin crisps up and releases by itself before flipping. I used to have the same problem. I think it's better to start the chicken skin side down, then finish it with the skin up; by that time the fat from under the skin is melting into the meat, keeping it moist; other way, it just drips into the fire.

                  2. Never have bothered to oil my grate. I rub it with half an onion, speared on a fire poker, just before putting the meat on. not sure why this works, but it has for me.

                    1. Tried it again. This time, mainly made sure the grill was as hot as possible (all 3 burners on high for 20 mins), then turned down to med after placing the chicken. Placed pan & bricks on top of chicken. Didn't mess w/ it at all until recommended time (12 mins). As janniecooks mentioned, was marinated in oil (olive), so didn't add more to grill (mistake?). Same results. Skin stuck like crazy to the grill.

                      I'm beginning to think maybe the burners don't get the grates as hot as it should be. Maybe the oil couldve helped, but I'm pretty sure I oiled the grates plenty before. I'm about to give up.

                      BTW, it's a Costco version of a CharBroil BBQ, converted to natural gas w/ a kit.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pharmnerd

                        Recently read about foolproof grilling for chicken parts, tried it and it worked great for me; I have a three burner weber genesis gas grill. Heat the grill, all three burners, on high heat. When preheated, turn off the middle burner and turn the other burners to medium/medium low. Lay out the chicken parts, skin side up, across the middle burner. Close the lid and leave the chicken alone for 45 minutes, at which point it will be done with crispy skin. You want to keep the temperature at about 300 degrees to 350 degrees during cooking.

                        This worked so well for me, not to mention that with no turning it was so much less effort, that this is how I plan to cook chicken on the grill from now on.

                        I would think it would work equally well for a butterflied chicken, as long it's not one of those humongous perdue oven stuffers.

                      2. Follow-up. Bought a non-stick grill basket as suggested & it worked great. Bird fit perfectly. Easier cleanup too. Felt like cheating. Thanks everyone.