The image of chicken on a barbeque pretty much counts as an icon of summer, or at least warm weather. Certainly it summons up sense memories of the delightful smell of chicken cooking over an open flame. Yet doing it successfully remains trickier than it sounds. Why? Simply because chicken needs to be cooked all the way through. Unlike beef, grilling chicken done wrong can make you sick. Very sick.
In fact it all depends on a few details. First and foremost, thaw your chicken out completely. You need not do this with steak or other red meats. A bit of rare at the center of lamb or goat adds to the flavor. Not so chicken or poultry in general.
The second part of successfully grilling chicken focuses on a quick sear of the outside. For one thing, this helps trap the heat within the flesh, but also (no less important, at least in terms of taste) helps keep the chicken moist even when cooked thoroughly. This last remains the abiding problem with cooking chicken–retaining the juiciness while not undercooking.
Many choose to marinate or sometimes brine (i.e. soak in mild saltwater) to avoid this problem. If this is your choice, go ahead. Of course, doctors will insist chicken is better without the skin, which makes the whole process harder, but carry on.
Prepare the grill properly. Ideally a covered one, because that just works better. But place your coal along one side of the grill to generate as much heat on that half as feasible. A good tip, incidentally, is to lightly brush oil on the actual grill itself just prior to placing the chicken directly over the heat. Note that–at first, place your chicken directly over the coals (using tongs).
Assuming you’re cooking breasts, sear each side directly above that heat for three minutes each side. You’ll know its is right because the flesh will turn a light golden brown.
Then–move the chicken breasts to the other side of the grill. The idea here is to use indirect heat to finish the cooking process. Best if your grill has a cover, but if not you’ll have to move the chicken around (as opposed to flipping them over). This will take some time, possibly as much as twenty minutes or so. During the last ten minutes or so is the best time to apply any kind of glaze such as terriyaki or barbeque sauce or whatever suits your personal preferance.
What you need to is test the “done-ness” of the chicken. Essentially there are two way. First, and safest, is to use a meat thermometer. Insert the pointed end into the center of the chicken, next to the bone if you’re not cooking boneless. The temperature you’re looking for is 165 degrees fahrenheit.
Or you could slice into the chicken and look at the condition of the meat. It should look white, not at all pink, and the juices run clear.
After removing them from the heat, place your chicken on a cutting board and cover it with foil, to retain the heat and allow the juices to “resettle.”