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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.