Grilling 101: The Basics of Grilling Chicken
Grilling chicken is a delicious and healthy way to enjoy this versatile protein, but it can be a bit intimidating for those who are new to the game. However, fear not! With The Basics of Grilling Chicken from American Made Grills' Grilling 101 series, you can become a grilling champ in no time.
Understanding the cooking times for different chicken parts, whether boneless or bone-in, and the effects different marinades and spices have on the end result are all key to mastering the art of grilling chicken. So next time you fire up the grill, let these tips and techniques help you create a perfectly juicy and flavorful chicken dish that will impress even the most discerning palates.
Let's dive into the next installment of Grilling 101 - The Basics of Grilling Chicken.
The Benefits of Grilling Chicken
Grilled chicken has become a staple on many dinner tables and backyard grills. Versatile and delicious, chicken is adaptable to almost any cooking style. But why has grilling chicken become such a beloved cooking method? Let's delve into the numerous benefits of grilling chicken.
- Easy and Tasty Preparation: Grilling chicken is an easy and tasty way to prepare food. You can create a flavorful meal that will impress your family and friends with just a few basic ingredients and a reliable grill.
- Adaptable to Different Cooking Styles: Chicken is incredibly versatile. Whether you prefer direct or indirect heat, smoking, or rotisserie, chicken can quickly adapt to different grilling styles.
- Variety of Cuts and Parts: From whole chickens to individual parts like breasts, thighs, wings, or drumsticks, there are various cuts to choose from when grilling chicken. Each cut offers its unique taste and texture, providing endless culinary possibilities.
- Uniform Cooking: When adequately arranged on the grill, chicken cooks uniformly, ensuring each piece is perfectly done. This is particularly important for larger gatherings where consistency in the cooked food is critical.
- Affordable: Chicken is a budget-friendly protein, making it an excellent choice for those looking to cook on a budget. Grilling chicken at home can also help save money compared to dining out.
- Quick Cooking Time: Boneless cuts like chicken breasts or thighs have a quick cooking time, making them ideal for weekday dinners or impromptu barbeques.
- Indirect Heat Method for Bone-In Pieces: The indirect heat method works wonders for bone-in pieces. Slowly cooking the chicken away from the heat source allows the meat to cook evenly without burning the skin.
- Infusion of Moisture: Marinades and brines are fantastic ways to infuse moisture into your chicken before grilling. Not only does this ensure juicy chicken, but it also allows you to introduce a range of flavors.
- Seasoning with Rubs and Sauces: Rubs and sauces are your best friends when grilling chicken. They add an extra layer of flavor, transforming your grilled chicken from good to great.
- Experimentation: Grilling chicken provides the perfect opportunity to experiment with different recipes and techniques. Whether trying a new marinade, testing a smoking method, or attempting a complex recipe, the grill is your playground.
The Basics of Grilling Chicken - The Parts
What makes chicken so versatile is the different parts of the chicken, but this is also the primary challenge when grilling. When grilling multiple items, uniformity is your friend because everything cooks equally. However, each section has differing characteristics with chicken, most notably the presence or absence of bones and differing sizes.
- Wings and legs contain bones but are different sizes,
- Breasts are usually purchased boneless and are much thicker than the other parts,
- And thighs vary in size, can be purchase bone-in or boneless, and are generally much thinner than breasts.
All of these factors require different approaches when grilling to yield consistent and tender results.
The Basics of Grilling Chicken - Bones
In every type of meat, the presence of bones makes a big difference in the cooking method and time. In general, pieces with bones are thicker, causing the inside to take longer to cook and increasing the likelihood of burning the outside in the process. Bones also take longer to heat up, further increasing the time the inside of the cut needs to cook.
With chicken, when grilling bone-in pieces, always set up the grill for indirect heat with two zones. Sear the chicken for a couple of minutes over the hot zone, and then move it to the other side of the grill to finish cooking throughout at a slower rate. Since it is dangerous to eat undercooked chicken, have an instant-read thermometer to make sure it reaches 160 degrees inside near the bone. For more about using different heat zones when cooking check out, "Grilling 101: What is Direct and Indirect Heat?"
The Basics of Grilling Chicken - Boneless
Boneless cuts generally cook faster, but the caveat is the thickness of the piece. Today, many boneless breasts are large and almost an inch or thicker. These large pieces need to be split and pounded, so the parts are of uniform thickness. Some boneless thighs can also get relatively thick, also requiring some thinning.
The best way to pound chicken into uniform thicknesses without making a huge mess is to:
- Grab a cutting board
- Place a piece of plastic wrap on the cutting board.
- Lay the piece of chicken on the plastic.
- Cover the chicken with another piece of plastic wrap.
- Lightly pound the chicken starting in the center and working your way out.
These pounded chicken pieces will grill in just a couple of minutes per side on a medium-hot fire.
The Basics of Grilling Chicken - Marinades and Sauces
Marinade & Brine
The recipe or preparation used affects the cooking times and how the meat reacts with the grill. For example, when grilling Mexican-style Pollo Asada (marinated chicken) from a local carniceria, this type of chicken comprises thighs or breasts that have been pounded and split, so they are of very similar thickness. Also, the long marinade has infused plenty of moisture, making it easy to cook these pieces quickly over a hot fire without burning.
Using a marinade or a brine is a great way to infuse moisture into chicken, especially thicker pieces and whole chickens. Expert chefs and grillers would say that the brine is an absolute necessity when grilling so that the white meat areas are moist throughout. Plan on keeping the chicken in the brine overnight for maximum effectiveness and at least an hour with marinades.
A vital step to making a delicious chicken is ensuring that it's been appropriately seasoned beforehand. Your poultry rub should be applied with care, as you want all areas of meat covered in herbs and spices – some even go so far as rubbing under the skin! An example of a standard rub would be a combination of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, black pepper, salt, and cumin.
There's nothing like a sticky, get-all-over-your-face sauce on barbecue chicken that is sweet and addicting. Most sauces contain sugar and should be added in the last five minutes of cooking to caramelize. If added too soon or even from the beginning, the sauce will burn, and you will be tempted to remove it from the grill too early, leaving the inside undercooked.
Another method of working with sauce is to divide the sauce in half and water it down some, so it's thinner. Use this watered-down sauce to baste several times through the grilling process for exquisite flavor, while its lighter texture can keep the chicken from charing too early. You can then still baste with the thicker sauce in the last five minutes to get that beautiful caramelization that everybody loves.
The Basics of Grilling Chicken - The Final Tips
- Clean the Grates - It's essential to clean the grill before you start cooking chicken, ensuring no grease or debris is left and burned off by preheating your grill. Chicken will easily stick to dirty grill grates, and flare-ups are often caused by what was last grilled.
- Arrange the Chicken - When grilling multiple chicken parts simultaneously, place the chicken on the grill by setting larger pieces closer to the fire and smaller pieces further away. Move pieces closer to the heat in the following order: breasts, thighs, legs, wings. This arrangement will help everything cook evenly without burning if the fire isn't too hot. The total time it takes for your meal is determined by the larger pieces - about 45 minutes or so should do it depending on the portions used.
- Flip the Chicken - Every grilling enthusiast's temptation is over-flipping and manipulating the food too much. With chicken, it is essential to let it cook and wait approximately 15 minutes before flipping to the other side. If you flip too soon, the chicken will likely stick to the grill grates, and needed moisture and juices can needlessly escape. Patience is necessary to resist the urge and let the grill do its job.
Don't Forget About the Rotisserie
When it comes to grilling chicken, most people think of the classic method of laying it flat on a grill or placing it on skewers for kabobs. However, there is another method that often gets overlooked - the rotisserie. The rotisserie has been a staple of outdoor cooking for centuries, and for good reason. Not only does it infuse chicken with flavor, but it also provides a juicy, evenly cooked result every time. Here are some of the benefits of grilling chicken on the rotisserie:
- Flavorful and Juicy: One of the standout benefits of using a rotisserie to grill chicken is the flavor it imparts. As the chicken rotates, the juices and marinade spread throughout the bird, resulting in a tender, juicy, and flavorful finished product. The chicken bastes itself as it spins, so you don't have to worry about constantly basting it to keep it moist. Plus, the heat distribution is even, ensuring that all chicken parts are perfectly cooked.
- No More Flipping: Another benefit of using a rotisserie to grill chicken is that you don't have to worry about flipping the chicken over. Instead, the chicken rotates slowly, ensuring it cooks evenly on all sides without constant flipping. This means sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying a cold drink while your chicken cooks perfectly.
- Perfectly Crispy Skin: If you're a fan of crispy skin on your chicken, then the rotisserie is the perfect cooking method. The constant rotation of the chicken allows the skin to crisp up as it cooks, providing a satisfying crunch with every bite. Plus, since the chicken isn't directly on the grill grates, this also means that the skin doesn't stick and tear when you go to remove it.
- Versatile Cooking: While the rotisserie is commonly associated with whole chickens, it can also be used for other cuts of chicken, such as drumsticks, wings, and even boneless, skinless breasts. This versatility makes it a valuable addition to any grill master's collection, allowing you to cook various chicken dishes quickly.
- Time-Saving: Using a rotisserie to grill chicken can be a time-saver. Since the chicken cooks evenly on all sides, you don't have to worry about monitoring it as closely as you would with other cooking methods. This means you can focus on preparing side dishes or spending time with your guests while the chicken cooks independently.
Grilling 101 Continues
Using these tips and techniques, you should have great success thrilling your family and guests with tasty grilled chicken from many different regions. Experiment with various recipes, dry rubs, and marinades to find your favorite and refine your grilling chops.
Join us next time on Grilling 101 as we look into the joys and basics of grilling beef. From burgers and steaks to brisket and ribs, we'll cover everything you need to know to achieve that perfect char and tender, juicy meat. Keep grilling and happy eating!