How To Make Grill Chicken

The advantage of grilling different chicken pieces is that everyone can pick the piece they want. The problem is getting all the pieces grilled perfectly so that everyone is happy. This is one of the reasons many people have switched to grilling only one cut of chicken. Of course, you can choose to go this way and use the information here to help perfect your chicken. I am, however, going to be grilling breasts, thighs, legs and wings and doing them all together; perfectly cooked.

You should start by deciding on a flavor combination for the chicken. I will begin with a good poultry rub, then add barbecue sauce at the end. These are optional, but they do enhance the texture and flavor of the chicken. If you are going this route, have your flavor decisions made before unpacking the meat.

The supplies you will need for this are:

•  One whole chicken cut up
•  A good poultry rub
•  Some Barbecue Sauce
•  A trusty meat thermometer

○  Preparing the Pieces
Start by preparing your chicken pieces for the grill. You will need to look for large clumps of fat and loose, unnecessary pieces of skin. Trim these off. This will help reduce the risk of flare-ups on the grill and result in a presentable piece of chicken. It is also a good idea to wash the pieces before seasoning them. Make sure that you pat the chicken dry with paper towels afterward.

○  Seasoning the Chicken
Applying a poultry rub to the chicken before you start grilling not only adds flavor to the chicken but helps build up crispness to the surface as it cooks. Whatever rub or seasoning you like best will do. The secret is to get it on as much of the actual meat as possible. The skin will keep the flavor out, so work your herbs and spices under the skin where you can.

Don't be shy with the seasonings. If you get too much on, it will fall off on the grill. Since you will lose some while cooking, you might as well put as much on as will stick.

○  Cleaning the Grill
It is important that your grill is clean before you start cooking your chicken. Make sure that not only is the cooking surface clean but that there is no grease in the bottom of the grill. The truth about flare-ups is that they are more often caused by what you grilled last than what you are cooking now. Preheat your grill on high and make sure that any drippings in the bottom of your grill are completely burned off.

○  Placing Chicken on the Grill
Now we get to the most important part of the process. The larger pieces of chicken are going to cook slower than the smaller pieces. We could adjust for this by putting the large pieces on first and adding the remaining parts until everything is cooked properly. However, this isn't necessary. What we want to do is make one side of your grill hotter than the other.

On a charcoal grill, we accomplish this by banking the bulk of the hot coals to one side of the grill. This gives us a hot side and a warm side. On a gas grill, we want one burner on high and other, set at a lower temperature. This will depend on the number of burners on your grill. On the grill I am using, there are three burners that run side to side (most grills have burners that run front to back). I have the back burner on high, the middle burner on medium, and the front burner on low. Get your grill up to temperature and then adjust the heat down to around 350 to 375 degrees F. (177 to 190 degrees C.)

Now we are going to put the chicken on the grill. We want to put the larger pieces closer to a higher temperature and the smaller pieces as far from the high temperature as possible. In this layout, we put the breasts closest to the high heat. Next comes the thighs, then the legs, and finally the wings in the corners of the coolest side of the grill. With this setup, everything will cook evenly and nothing will burn. Okay, maybe it isn't that simple but we'll correct a little as we go.

With this arrangement, the total cooking time will be determined by the largest pieces, the chicken breasts. Expect about 45 minutes to get through the whole grilling time.

○  Dealing with Flare-Ups
One of the problems with cooking chicken pieces on the grill is flare-ups. As the chicken heats up, fat will turn into a fine liquid and begin dripping into your grill. Since we are keeping the chicken away from the hottest part of the grill the problem shouldn't be too big, but you may still have flare-ups.

Your best bet is to take control of the flare-ups. Whenever you move the chicken on the grill take it to one corner that you are not using and give the piece a good shake. This will drop the grease where it can burn off harmlessly. By doing this, you shouldn't have any serious flare-ups.

If you do have a large flare-up, remove the chicken from the grill entirely. Leave the lid up and let the fire die down. Once the flare-up is over return the chicken to the grill and continue cooking.

○  Turning the Chicken
After about 15 minutes, it will be time to check the chicken for turning. As the chicken cooks it becomes firmer. You want to look for a nice brown color and firmer meat on the bottom side of the chicken. Once you have this, it is time to turn the chicken over. Turn it over and rotate the pieces so that the top side closest to you is now the bottom side farthest from you. This way you get even heat on each piece of chicken.

As you turn the chicken, check to see how the pieces are cooking. Move more cooked pieces away from the higher heat and less cooked pieces towards the heat. If the chicken appears to be browning on the outside but not firm in the middle, turn down the heat so that the inside can cook without burning the surface of the chicken.

By about 30 minutes, the chicken should be mostly cooked and ready for sauce. If you are not going to be putting barbecue sauce on your chicken then continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. (74 degrees C.) Go to step 9 for more details.

○  Adding Barbecue Sauce
If you are putting a barbecue sauce on your chicken, start when the chicken is nearly done. Reduce the heat of the grill by turning down the burners on your gas grill or closing down the vents on your charcoal grill until the temperature goes below 265 degrees F. (128 degrees C.) This is the burning temperature of sugar. After you have reduced the heat, slather on several layers of sauce. This will give the chicken a thick, sticky coating.

The secret to a good coating is to let the sauce cook onto the chicken. Apply the sauce to one side of the chicken and close the lid of your grill for about 5 minutes. Then open the grill, turn the chicken and sauce the other side. Continue in this way until you have a good coating of barbecue sauce.

○  Checking the Temperature
As the chicken gets close to being done, it is time to start checking the temperature. You need to reach and internal temperature to 165 degrees F. (74 degrees C.). Check all the pieces of chicken to be certain that they are indeed, cooked. Once you have hit the target temperature remove the chicken from the grill. Cover and allow to rest for about 5 minutes then serve.

One note on cooking chicken. You can't really overcook chicken, but you can dry it out. As long as your chicken stays tender and moist, the temperature can go higher than our minimum temperature for safety.