Bird Barbecue expert shares his top five tricks for delicious grilled chicken.

Bird
Barbecue expert Steven Raichlen
shares his top five tricks for
delicious grilled chicken.
When I was growing up, my family’s formula for grilling any cut
of chicken was simple: Marinate the meat in a sticky-sweet
barbecue sauce, put it over lighter-fluid-soaked charcoal, grill
it until seemingly cooked through (which was usually long after
the barbecue sauce had burned), and serve it, often still raw
near the bone. Then fill up on potato salad or order Chinese
take-out.
Fortunately, the dark days of dried out, burnt, and under­
cooked barbecued chicken are behind me. I’ve spent years
documenting the grill traditions of Europe, Asia, and elsewhere for my books on barbecue, and if there’s one thing my
research has taught me, it’s this: For great grilled chicken, you
have to divide and conquer.
Meets
There’s no one-size-fits-all technique for cooking chicken
on the grill. Instead, you get the best results when you adapt
your recipe and grill method to the cut of chicken you have.
This makes sense, since each cut is so distinct—why grill
chicken breasts, which dry out quickly, the same way you
would fattier chicken legs or smaller, less meaty wings? In the
recipes that follow, I’ll share my favorite ways to grill chicken
legs, wings, and breasts, as well as whole and halved chickens,
and show you why each method—from spit-roasting and
smoking to skewering—is my go-to. Of course, these aren’t the
only ways to grill chicken, but they do guarantee that you’ll be
chowing down on chicken, not Chinese, at your next cookout.
Grill
42
fc117ra-fin.indd 42
fi n e coo k i n g • j u n e / j u ly 2 0 1 2
4/3/12 4:14 PM
How to Set Up
the Grill
The recipes that follow call
for either indirect or direct
grilling. The former creates
hot and cool zones on the
grill, while the latter means
your grill is evenly hot.
Below are instructions for
preparing charcoal and gas
grills for both methods. For
tools to ignite charcoal, see
Test Kitchen, page 87.
INDIRECT GRILLING
Charcoal Ignite 5 to
6 quarts of charcoal. When
the coals are covered with
white ash, bank them to one
side or arrange them along
two opposite sides of the
grill (as indicated in the recipe). Cover the grill. If your
grill does not have a built-in
thermometer, drop a heatproof probe thermometer
through its top vent. Adjust
the top and bottom vents to
reach the desired temperature (decrease the air flow
for a lower temperature, increase it for higher), leaving
the cover ajar, if necessary.
Gas Heat the grill with all
the burners on high. Turn
one or more burner(s) off
to create the cool zone and
adjust the active burner(s)
to reach the desired temperature.
DIRECT GRILLING
Charcoal Ignite 5 to
6 quarts of charcoal. When
the coals are covered with
white ash, spread them
evenly over the charcoal
grate. Cover the grill and
follow the indirect charcoal
grill instructions above to
reach the desired temperature.
Gas Heat the grill with all of
the burners on high. Adjust
the burners to reach the
desired temperature.
fc117ra-fin.indd 43
4/3/12 4:14 PM
Spit-Roast whole birds
When it comes to grilling
a whole chicken, nothing
beats spit-roasting. As the bird slowly rotates above the grill, it bastes
itself both inside and out, which produces incredibly moist meat and
beautifully browned skin. Even the breast meat stays succulent.
Before you attach a whole chicken to the spit, be sure to tie the legs
together for a compact shape. This helps the bird cook and brown more
evenly and prevents the legs from flopping around with every turn.
Special equipment needed: A rotisserie attachment for a gas or
charcoal grill.
spit-roasted chicken with tarragon butter
For extra-moist, flavorful chicken, I like to work some softened seasoned butter
under the skin before cooking and then drizzle the grilled meat with melted butter
before serving. When the chicken comes off the spit, be sure to let it rest for a few
minutes so the juices are evenly distributed through the meat. Serves 2 to 4
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh tarragon,
plus 2 large sprigs
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest plus 1/8 tsp.
fresh lemon juice
Set up the rotisserie attachment according
to the manufacturer’s instructions.
MAKE a TARRAGON BUTTER
Kosher salt and freshly ground black
pepper
In a small bowl, mix the butter, chopped tarragon, lemon zest and juice, 1 tsp. salt, and
1/2 tsp. pepper with a fork until well combined.
PREPARE and grill THE CHICKEN
1 3½- to 4-lb. whole chicken
PREPARE THE GRILL
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect
grilling over medium-high heat (400°F).
If using a charcoal grill, bank the coals
against opposite sides of the grill, parallel to
the spit. Put a 9x13-inch foil drip pan on the
charcoal grate between the banked coals and
fill it halfway with water.
If using a gas grill, remove the grill grates,
put a 9x13-inch foil drip pan on the inactive
burner(s) and fill it halfway with water.
44
fc117ra-fin.indd 44
f i n e c o o k i n g • j u n e / j u ly 2 0 1 2
Remove the giblets from the chicken and
discard or save for another use. Remove and
discard any fat inside the body and neck cavities. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
Starting at the neck cavity, carefully work
your fingers under the skin to separate it
from the breast meat without tearing the skin.
Continue to separate the skin from the thighs;
you may need to reach in with your whole hand.
Measure 4 Tbs. of the tarragon butter into a
small bowl. Using your fingers, spread the but-
ter evenly under the skin of the breast and
thighs. Arrange a sprig of tarragon under the
skin of each breast. Pat the skin back into place,
then gently massage the chicken to distribute
the butter. Tie the legs together with twine
and tuck the wings behind the neck.
In a small saucepan, melt 2 Tbs. of the
remaining tarragon butter over low heat.
Secure the chicken on the spit, making sure
it’s balanced. Brush the chicken with the melted
butter and then season it with salt and pepper.
Attach the spit to the motor and turn on the
motor. Make sure the drip pan is directly under the chicken. Cover the grill and spit-roast
the chicken until the skin is deep goldenbrown and the thickest part of the thigh registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer,
40 to 60 minutes.
Carefully remove the chicken from the spit
and transfer to a carving board or platter.
Let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the
remaining 2 Tbs. tarragon butter.
Carve the chicken, arrange on a platter,
drizzle with the melted butter, and serve.
Photographs by Scott Phillips
4/3/12 4:15 PM
southeast asian chicken wings
Let’s get one thing straight: Buffalo does not have a monopoly on wings. In Thailand,
you’ll find them glazed with a sweet chili sauce; in Vietnam, they’re seasoned with
lemongrass and fish sauce. Here, several ingredients, including coconut milk, fish
sauce, lemongrass, and sweet chili sauce, recreate a bit of that Asian flavor. Serves 4
31/2 lb. large whole chicken wings (12 to 16)
12 to 16 twelve-inch bamboo skewers,
soaked in water for 30 minutes
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, tender white
core from the bottom third only, coarsely
chopped (about 3 Tbs.)
2 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 scallions, white parts coarsely chopped,
green parts thinly sliced (3 to 4 Tbs.)
2 Thai bird chiles or 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
(including seeds)
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro
3 Tbs. fish sauce
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
Pat the chicken wings dry with paper towels.
Thread each wing on a bamboo skewer, starting at the meaty end and ending at the wingtip
so that the wing is stretched out as much as
possible without ripping the skin. Arrange the
wings in a large, shallow dish.
In a blender, purée the coconut milk, lemongrass, garlic, scallion whites, chiles, cilantro,
fish sauce, ginger, lime juice, and sugar until
smooth. Pour the marinade over the wings,
turning to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap
and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for direct
grilling over medium heat (350°F). When
ready to cook, clean the grate with a wire
brush and, using tongs, wipe the grate with
a paper towel or cloth dipped in oil.
Stretch your wings
The look may be unusual, but using a skewer
to stretch out your chicken wings increases
the amount of exposed skin that can crisp up
during cooking, as well as absorb the marinade and smoky flavors from the grill. What’s
more, wings on a stick are fun to eat.
Special equipment needed: Twelve to
sixteen 12-inch bamboo skewers.
Shake off any excess marinade from the
wings and wrap the ends of each skewer with
a small piece of aluminum foil to protect them
from burning. Grill the wings (covered if using a
gas grill), flipping halfway through cooking, until
golden-brown on the outside and an instantread thermometer inserted in a thick part of a
wing reads 165°F, 16 to 24 minutes total.
Brush the wings on both sides with the sweet
chili sauce and grill until the glaze sizzles, 1 to
2 minutes per side. Transfer the wings to a platter, sprinkle with the scallion greens, and serve.
Vegetable oil for the grill
1/2 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
(such as Mae Ploy)
f i n e c o o k i n g .c o m
fc117ra-fin.indd 45
45
4/6/12 3:12 PM
tandoori chicken legs
These legs get a triple blast of flavor: first from a soak
in lemon juice and salt, then from a pungent marinade of
spices and yogurt (which also tenderizes the meat), and finally
from a bit of butter brushed on at the end of cooking. Serves 6
For the chicken
PREPARE THE CHICKEN
Combine the lemon juice and 1 tsp. salt in a
large zip-top plastic bag and massage the bag
until the salt crystals dissolve.
Pull the skin off the chicken legs. Using a
sharp knife, make 2 or 3 deep slashes in each
leg, almost to the bone. Toss the chicken legs
in the lemon juice, seal the bag, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Kosher or sea salt
6 whole chicken legs (2 to 3 lb.)
Vegetable oil for the grill
For the marinade
1 Tbs. finely grated fresh ginger
1 large clove garlic, minced
Kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1½ tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. sweet paprika
3/4 tsp. hot dry mustard
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
For finishing
2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium lime, cut into wedges
46
fc117ra-fin.indd 46
f i n e c o o k i n g • j u n e / j u ly 2 0 1 2
MARINAtE the chicken
Mash the ginger, garlic, and 1 tsp. salt to a
paste with the side of a large knife and transfer
the paste to a small mixing bowl. Whisk in
the remaining marinade ingredients. Add the
marinade to the chicken legs and massage the
bag to thoroughly coat the legs. Seal the bag
and refrigerate the chicken for at least 4 hours
but preferably 12 to 24 hours.
GRILL the chicken
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect
grilling over medium-high heat (400°F).
If using a charcoal grill, bank the coals to
one side. Put a 9x13-inch foil drip pan on the
grate next to the coals and fill it halfway with
water. Replace the grill grate.
If using a gas grill, put a 9x13-inch foil drip
pan on the inactive burners and fill it halfway
with water. Replace the grill grate.
Clean the grate with a wire brush and, using
tongs, wipe the grate with a paper towel or
cloth dipped in oil.
Arrange the legs over the drip pan and away
from the heat. Grill, flipping once, until an
instant-read thermometer inserted into the
thickest part of the meat reads 170°F, 25 to
30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a platter and brush
each leg with the melted butter. Garnish with
the cilantro leaves, onion slices, and lime
wedges and serve.
skin & slash legs
Removing the skin from your chicken legs
before grilling may seem like a waste of
potentially crisp deliciousness, but there’s
a reason for doing this: increased flavor
absorption. The best marinades are full of
spices and aromatics, and both penetrate
the meat more easily without the barrier
of skin. Making deep slashes in the meat
before marinating helps, too.
Special equipment needed: None.
Photographs by Scott Phillips
4/3/12 4:16 PM
tuscan grilled chicken under a brick
I prefer to grill skin-on, bone-in breasts rather than the skinless, boneless alternative. As the skin crisps, it releases fat, which bastes the meat and prevents it from
drying out. The bones keep things juicy by partially buffering the meat from the
heat of the grill. Serves 4
1 small clove garlic
1 Tbs. fresh sage
1/2 Tbs. fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black
pepper
4 8
-oz. bone-in, skin-on chicken breast
halves
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup wood chips, preferably oak, unsoaked
Vegetable oil for the grill
4 bricks wrapped with heavy-duty
aluminum foil
1 medium lemon, sliced into 4 wedges
for garnish
In a food processor, pulse the garlic, sage,
rosemary, pepper flakes, 11/2 Tbs. salt, and
1 tsp. pepper until finely chopped.
Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper
towels. Lightly brush both sides of the chicken with olive oil and season each breast with
1 tsp. of the herbed salt. Let stand at room
temperature while preparing the grill.
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for direct
grilling over medium heat (350°F).
If using a charcoal grill, sprinkle the wood
chips over the coals. Replace the grill grate.
If using a gas grill, use two layers of heavyduty aluminum foil to make a V-shaped
packet to hold the wood chips. Set the foil
packet between two burners and add the
chips to the foil packet. Replace the grill grate.
Clean the grate with a wire brush and, using
tongs, wipe the grate with a paper towel or
cloth dipped in oil.
Arrange the breasts skin side down on the
grill on a diagonal to the grate. Put a brick on
top of each chicken breast. Grill (covered
if using a gas grill) until the skin is crisp and
golden-brown, 8 to 10 minutes. If flare-ups
occur, move the chicken to a different part of
the grill.
Using grill mitts or tongs, remove the bricks,
flip the chicken over, and replace the bricks.
Continue to grill (covered if using a gas grill)
until an instant-read thermometer inserted
in a thick part of a breast reads 165°F, 8 to
10 minutes more.
Transfer the chicken breasts to a platter
or plates and drizzle with additional olive oil.
Serve with the lemon wedges and the remaining herb salt on the side.
grill breasts
beneath a brick
Both the Tuscans and the Romans
claim to have invented the method
for grilling chicken under a brick to
keep it juicy and crisp. Although this
technique, called pollo al mattone,
is traditionally used with a spatchcocked whole chicken, I like to use it
for chicken breasts, which are notorious for drying out when exposed to
the high heat of the grill. The weight
of the brick presses the meat into the
grill for faster, more even cooking,
excellent crisping, and gorgeous grill
marks. It also works as a cover for
the meat, keeping it moist. In Italy,
pollo al mattone is often cooked over
a wood fire; I like to recreate a bit of
that smokiness by adding wood chips
to the grill.
Special equipment needed: Four
bricks wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil; wood chips, preferably oak.
fc117ra-fin.indd 47
4/3/12 4:16 PM
Smoke & sauce half chickens
Grilling chicken
over wood
chips lends it a rich, smoky flavor. A half chicken is perfect for this technique since it has more exposed surface area than a whole bird and can
absorb more of the smoke. As an added benefit, the rib cage shields the
delicate breast meat from the fire as the chicken slowly cooks. To make
sure the meat stays moist and to add even more flavor, I brush the birds
with a tangy, beer-infused mop sauce while they cook and then brush
them again with barbecue sauce right at the end.
Special equipment needed: Wood chips, preferably oak.
smoked chicken halves with lemon-ginger barbecue sauce
This chicken gets its rich complexity from wood smoke and layers of flavors: a spice
rub, a mustardy mop sauce, and a zesty-sweet barbecue sauce that’s seared onto
the meat for a gorgeous lacquered finish. For the best smoky flavor, use a charcoal grill. To learn the difference between a mop and a barbecue sauce, see Test
Kitchen, p. 87. Serves 4 to 8
For the spice rub
MAKE THE SPICE RUB
1 Tbs. dry mustard
1 Tbs. packed light brown sugar
1 Tbs. kosher salt
In a small bowl, whisk together all of the
ingredients and break up any lumps with
your fingers.
1 Tbs. sweet paprika
MAKE THE MOP SAUCE
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the
ingredients.
1/2 tsp. celery seed
For the mop sauce
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Pilsner-style or wheat beer
1 tsp. hot sauce, such as Tabasco
For the barbecue sauce
1 Tbs. unsalted butter (or bacon fat,
if you have it)
2 small shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large
lemons)
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper
For the chicken
2 3½- to 4-lb. chickens
1/4 cup vegetable oil; more for the grill
1½ cups wood chips, preferably oak,
soaked in water for 30 minutes, then
drained (plus 1/2 cup dry wood chips,
if using a gas grill)
MAKE THE BARBECUE SAUCE
Melt the butter in a 1-quart saucepan over
medium-low heat. Add the shallots and
ginger and cook, stirring, until lightly browned,
3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, lemon
juice, and mustard, increase the heat to
medium, and simmer gently, whisking often,
until the sauce has thickened, 4 to 6 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
PREPARE THE CHICKEN
Put each chicken breast side down on a
cutting board. Using kitchen shears or a sharp
knife, cut out the backbones of the chickens
(save for another use or discard). Open the
chickens like a book and cut through the breast
bones to separate the chickens into halves.
Pat the chicken halves dry with paper towels.
Using your hands, rub 1 Tbs. oil over the skin
of each chicken half, then rub each half with
a quarter of the spice rub. Let stand at room
temperature while preparing the grill.
PREPARE THE GRILL
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect
grilling over medium heat (350°F).
If using a charcoal grill, bank the coals to
one side. Put a 10x15-inch foil drip pan next to
the coals and fill it halfway with water. Sprinkle
the soaked wood chips over the coals. Replace the grill grate.
If using a gas grill, put a 10x15-inch foil drip
pan on the inactive burners and fill it halfway
with water. Use two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil to make a V-shaped packet to hold
the wood chips. Set the foil packet between
the active burners. Sprinkle the dry chips
into the foil packet and let them ignite. Once
they are smoking well, sprinkle a handful of
the soaked chips over the dry chips to create
even more smoke. Replace the grill grate.
Clean the grate with a wire brush and,
using tongs, wipe the grate with a paper
towel or cloth dipped in oil.
SMOKE THE CHICKEN
Put the chicken halves skin side
up over the drip pan and cover
the grill.
Smoke the chicken for 20 minutes, then use a heatproof barbecue mop or other brush to
coat it with some of the mop
sauce. Continue grilling the
chicken, brushing with the
mop sauce every 15 minutes,
until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the
thickest part of a thigh reads
160°F, about 45 minutes.
During this time, switch positions of the chicken halves
if they’re not cooking evenly,
but do not flip. If using a gas
grill, add more soaked chips
through the grate as necessary
to keep the smoke going. (Discard any remaining mop sauce.)
Continue to grill, covered (without
adding more chips if using a gas grill),
until the skin is deep golden-brown
and an instant-read thermometer
inserted into a thigh reads 170°F, 10 to
15 minutes more.
Brush the skin side of the chicken halves
with all of the barbecue sauce. Using tongs,
flip the chicken halves skin side down directly
over the heat and cook until the sauce begins
to sizzle and brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the chicken halves to a platter and
let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Steven Raichlen is a cooking instructor,
television cooking show host, and the author
of 28 cookbooks, many of which are dedicated
to grilling.
Fo r s o u r c e s , s e e W h e r e t o B u y I t
fc117ra-fin.indd 48
4/4/12 12:14 PM
f i n e c o o k i n g .c o m
fc117ra-fin.indd 49
49
4/3/12 4:16 PM
`