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Grilling Basics - Chicken
There are a few tricks to cooking great chicken.To grill a perfect chicken breast DO NOT OVERCOOK IT. This sounds really simplistic, but it is so true. Grilled chicken does not have to taste like shoe leather.
It is helpful if the breast is uniform in thickness. This can be achieved by using a mallet to pound the breast, place it in a ziplock bag and pound gently, to about 1/2-3/4 inch thickness. Also, whether or not you want to eat the skin, it is great at helping the breast retain moisture.
Another method for even cooking of the breast, is to score the top. Not too deep, about 1/4-1/2 inch is sufficient. Scoring will also allow the chicken to absorb more flavor from brining or marinading.
There are so many different ways to prepare a piece of chicken for grilling. Below are several examples of preparation methods:
The quick and easy way is to rub your chicken breast/or other piece with a little canola oil and about 1 tsp of seasoning per piece. Always use a little more seasoning than you think you need. In this example we used Up North Grilling spice.
Another great method for super juicy chicken is to brine it. You can make a simple brine by combining: 1/3 cup of salt, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup MSC grilling spice into a quart of water, stir till salt and sugar are dissolved. You can toss in a couple chopped garlic cloves if desired. This is enough to brine 8 assorted chicken pieces. Place chicken and brine in a gallon zip-lock bag and refrigerate 30 minutes for boneless skinless and up to 8 hours for skin on pieces. Make sure to put the bag on a cookie sheet or plate to catch any leakage.
When it is time to grill, remove chicken from brine and rinse it under cold water and dry the skin really well with a paper-towel. Rub with a little oil and season with about 1 tsp per piece with your MSC seasoning of choice and you are ready to grill.
Marinating your chicken in buttermilk is another option that tenderizes the meat and also gives it a lovely tangy flavor. Use 2 cups of buttermilk and 2 tbsp of your favorite MSC seasoning, mix well, place chicken and buttermilk mixture in a large ziplock back and marinate a minimum of 3 hours up to overnight. When done, wipe excess mixture off with a paper-towel. Ready to grill.
You can also marinate your chicken in an oil & vinegar based marinade. The basic formula is 3:1 oil to vinegar and a heaping 2 tablespoons of your favorite MSC spice mix. In this example we used 1 cup canola oil, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar and 2 heaping tablespoons Keego Harbor Kickin' Chicken. Place your chicken pieces in a non-reactive bowl or plastic zip lock bag, mix together oil, vinegar and seasoning, pour over chicken and mix well. Cover and refrigerate 4-12 hours.
One really important step that people seem to forget, is to clean your grill grates! Use your cleaning brush and clean the grates when the grill is nice and hot. Next you should oil the grates by using a paper towel and tongs. This really helps the chicken not to stick and creates nice grill marks.
To grill skin-on chicken: Preheat the grill to medium-high. Grill skin side down for about 10 minutes and you see that it is developing a nice charred crust, turn over and continue to cook 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the chicken while cooking it. Skin-on chicken has a tendency for flare-ups, use a spray bottle filled with water to control. LET IS REST under a loose foil tent 5 minutes to allow juices to recirculate. If you chicken is bone-in, increase the cooking time 2 to 3 minutes per side. Use instant read thermometer to double check that it is at 165º.
To grill boneless/skinless chicken: Preheat grill to medium-high. Cook your chicken about 6-8 minutes per side. Please use a instant read thermometer to ensure that it is cooked to 165º.
Chicken thighs cook in almost the same way as boneless breasts, though they seem to stay moist even if you cook them a little too long. The thigh has a sturdier texture which makes them ideal for the grill. Plus, they are super flavorful!
To cook a whole chicken on the grill we recommend either spatchcocking (click here for this method) or setting the chicken in a grill roasting rack (to hold it upright, such as beer can chicken). Cooking a whole chicken by just laying on the grill and rotating it is not recommended.
Remember these safety tips for handling raw chicken:
- Cutting boards and cutting tools (knives, shears, tongs) need to washed with hot soapy water. Do not use same cutting board or tools for anything else until cleaned.
- Raw chicken can be very wet and slippery. It is really helpful to use a folded paper towel to grip chicken when cutting to hold firmly in place.
- Place any spices you want to use in a small bowl prior to seasoning to prevent touching spice bag, tin, to prevent cross contaminating.
After you master the basics, the sky is the limit! Chicken is so versatile and works with almost any spice mix. Be creative and have fun!
Suggested Milford Spice Company Grilling Rubs & Spices for Chicken: