Journalist, photographer and barbecue expert Rick Browne, the author of numerous barbecue books, including The Ultimate Guide to Grilling and 1,001 Best Grilling Recipes, shares the secret to grilling perfectly cooked, juicy, chicken.
Chicken cutlet lovers will find Browne's following statement tough to hear -- but no tougher than eating a dry, leathery dinner: "I very, very much do not like boneless, skinless chicken." For reasons of "moisture and flavor," he suggests grilling whole bone-in, skin-on pieces, and then removing the skin after grilling if you prefer not to eat it.
If you'd like to grill a whole bird rather than parts, try beer-can chicken, which Browne is credited with popularizing. (You can find the whole recipe at barbecueamerica.com -- search for "beer butt chicken." Just remember to open the can!)
Browne likes to marinate chicken pieces in a simple mixture of olive oil, lemon and garlic. And if you've disregarded his advice and are cooking boneless, skinless breasts, Browne says, "I would marinate the bejesus out of them."
Chicken can be marinated anywhere from an hour to 24 hours, but if your marinade is highly acidic -- containing a large amount of lemon juice, tomato juice, vinegar or cola -- don't let it soak for more than an hour or the acids will start to "cook" the meat and make it mushy, Browne says. Marinades that are predominantly made of oil or contain less acidic fruit juices, such as apple, can be left on longer (most recipes will have a recommended marinating time).
Put oiled and seasoned chicken pieces skin-side-down over direct heat on an oiled grill and cook for about two minutes; turn and cook for an additional three minutes. Then move the pieces to indirect heat, turning once during cooking, for a total of about 12 to 15 minutes. (Reduce the cooking time by 20 to 30 percent for boneless, skinless breasts).
Add barbecue sauce, if you'd like, in the last five minutes of cooking (any earlier and it’ll burn). The best way to judge doneness is to use an instant read thermometer. The USDA recommends letting all chicken parts and whole chickens reach an internal temperature of 165°. Once you've removed the chicken, let it rest for at least three minutes before serving. (Note that some experts, including Browne, recommend slightly lower internal temperatures since the temperature will continue to rise once the meat has been removed from the grill).
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