Many guys dream of mastering the perfect steak on the grill. But more and more, we see the ladies tackling the grill and sometimes they just want a well-cooked, flavorful piece of chicken. And guys, let’s face it. Sometimes you simply need to whip out a weeknight dinner, so learning how to master chicken that’s juicy and tasty, rather than dry and bland, is important.
Red meat lovers─you’re next!
Don’t worry─we’ll get to the red meat! Watch for our next blog post (soon) on grilling the perfect steak.
In the meantime, here are 9 tips for grilling delicious, no-fail chicken:
1) Start with the right cut of chicken
Some pieces of chicken take longer to grill than others, so if time is a factor, you’ll have to choose your chicken pieces accordingly. You’ll need more time for thicker pieces or bone-in breasts. If time is limited, choose boneless breasts or cut boneless chicken into small pieces and thread onto a skewer.
If you use wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 20-30 minutes before using. Skewer meat and veggies from end to end leaving no skewer exposed. (If necessary, buy shorter skewers or trim off excess skewer with kitchen shears.) Following these tips will keep the skewers from catching on fire.
2) Pound boneless chicken breasts before cooking
The uneven shape of boneless, skinless chicken breasts makes them difficult to grill. Take just a few minutes to pound the thicker part of the breast so that it’s thinner. This helps in two ways─you’ll shorten cooking time and the meat will cook more evenly.
3) Add flavor to the chicken before grilling
Take a little bit more time to add some flavor to the meat before grilling. It can be a brine, a rub, or a marinade. Something simple will do the trick─don’t worry about needing anything complicated. Adding a little flavor to the meat before cooking has several benefits.
First, you won’t have as much basting work to do during grilling. Plus, the flavor of the grilled chicken will be better. Another plus: when you don’t have to do as much basting work, you have more time to enjoy one of the best parts of grilling─kicking back with a cold drink and relaxing while dinner cooks.
4) Prep the grill
For the grill to cook well, it needs to be maintained, cleaned, and prepped. Before starting to cook, make sure you have enough fuel and that you have clean grill grates. Right before putting the chicken on, rub a little oil on the preheated grates to keep it from sticking.
Use long tongs to add oil to your grill plates. Then use either several layers of heavy-duty paper towels or an old kitchen rag saturated with vegetable oil. We recommend that once the grill is heated, your turn the burners off while oiling to avoid a flare up. (If you use vegetable spray instead, you absolutely MUST turn the burners off!) Don’t forget to reignite the grill once the grates are oiled!
5) Stay away from high heat
Unlike steak or burgers, where you want a fairly high heat to get a good sear on the outside, chicken needs to stay away from high heat. You want to cook chicken thoroughly, but without the skin burning. This works best over medium, indirect heat.
If you’re using a charcoal grill, build a two-level fire or put coals on only half of the grill. If you’re using a gas grill, keep the heat on medium.
6) Close the lid!
One of the biggest mistakes that novice grillers make is to leave the grill open. This not only makes cooking time longer, but you’re unnecessarily losing a lot of heat and fuel. A covered grill creates a sealed, oven-like environment where the heat surrounds your food on all sides. This is especially helpful when you’re cooking chicken because, unlike steak or burgers, chicken must be cooked thoroughly.
7) Avoid cross-contamination
You have to be careful not to get cross-contamination when handling chicken. Anything that touches raw chicken (including your hands!) needs to be washed with hot, soapy water. Never use a platter to carry raw chicken out to the grill and then put the cooked chicken back on the same platter. At least not without a good hot, soapy wash in between!
8) Baste often, but not until the end
It’s delicious when sauce glazes grilled chicken and caramelizes onto it. But wait to brush on the sauce until the end of cooking or it will burn. Don’t start basting until about five to seven minutes before the chicken is done. Then baste all over, turning the chicken a few times. That way each layer has time to cook and stick to the chicken.
9) Use a meat thermometer
Chicken needs to be cooked thoroughly to be safe. Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thickest piece of chicken and make sure that it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. Also be certain that the thermometer is not resting on a chicken bone─this gives a false reading.
If you don’t have a thermometer (we strongly suggest that you get one!) cut into a thick part of the chicken and make sure the juices run clear.
A family favorite
We found this recipe from Betty Crocker years ago, and it’s been one of our family’s favorite summer chicken recipes ever since. This recipe calls for boneless breasts, but you can certainly use thighs or leg quarters. Give it a try─we think you’ll love it!
Grilled Chicken with Chipotle-Peach Glaze
1/2 cup peach preserves
1/4 cup lime juice
1 canned chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, seeded, chopped*
1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from can of chiles)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
8 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 lb) SAVE $
1 teaspoon garlic-pepper blend
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 peaches, cut in half and pitted, if desired
*Please note: this is ONE pepper, not one whole can. You can always raise the heat by adding more peppers or by not seeding, if you want it hotter.
Heat gas or charcoal grill to medium. In 1-quart saucepan, mix preserves, lime juice, chile pepper, and adobo sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until preserves are melted. Stir in chopped cilantro; set aside.
Sprinkle chicken with garlic-pepper blend, cumin and salt.
Place chicken on grill. Cover grill; cook over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes. During the last few minutes, turn a few times while brushing with the preserves mixture. Cook until juice of chicken is clear and when center of thickest part reaches 165 degrees.
Add peach halves to grill for last 2 to 3 minutes of grilling, just until heated.
Heat any remaining preserves mixture to boiling; boil and stir for one minute.
Serve cooked sauce with chicken and peaches. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.
And don’t forget─we’re not leaving out the red-meat lovers! Watch for our next post soon on grilling the perfect steak.