Along with hamburgers and hot dogs, barbecued chicken is equally as classic as it can get when it comes to grilling. Chicken takes longer to cook than either hamburger or hotdogs and requires lower cooking temperatures.
Preparing the chicken for grilling
Picking and cutting the right sizes
How you prepare your chicken for grilling is crucial and it is as important as the whole process itself. The first thing to think about before grilling is how to cut your strips. The bigger the pieces, the longer it will take to cook them. Large strips tend to hectic to grill as they may not let I enough sauce when marinating. For this reason, they may have a flat taste, unlike smaller chunks which allow in the sauce and heat for faster cooking. Stick to boneless, skinless chicken it will save you from disasters.
Pound the boneless, skinless chicken
Consider pounding your chicken before anything else. The rough shapes of skinless, boneless chicken breasts make it difficult to grill. By just taking your precious five minutes to pound the meat will not only reduce your cooking time but ensure even cooking and surprising results. Pounding has another advantage, and it allows the sauce to enter the meat evenly on all sides.
Below are some guiding tips on how to prepare your chicken before grilling.
- For very slender pieces of chicken, lay the palm of your hand on the upper side of the chicken and run a sharp knife through the midsection producing two thin half strips. Pound them to refine the thinness.
- Take the bones out by running a sharp knife over the rib cage trying to get as much flesh as you can. Take the skins off unless you love skins and set them aside. Sprinkle the skins with little pepper and salt. Cut them into halves and render them slowly till they are golden brown and crisp. Stir them ensuring they do not burn and sprinkle them on the finished meat.
- Always cover your meat before pounding it to keep the fluids from flying and spattering everywhere. You can cover the meat with a plastic sheet and lay it flat on the table. Don’t use waxed paper or foil; they tear easily, you can use a ziplock bag instead especially if you are going to use it for marinating.
- Use a skillet or a saucepan to flatten your meat. Do it gently to avoid messing up and focus on the bulb end. Several whacks will work magic and when done marinate your chicken and keep it in the fridge and use it the next day.
Brining the chicken
Salt is one of those magical, overpowering seasonings that we can’t do without. If you like your meat tender, juicy and flavorful, you might not want to miss brining your chicken. The choice of how you want to brine your chicken is utterly yours. You can choose to either dry brine or wet brine. Dry brining is the process where you sprinkle salt directly on your grilling meat while wet brining is when you submerge your meat in a salted water solution of 5 -10% salinity.
Salt helps your meat in several ways, and one of them is improving the taste of the meat. There is no exact real amount of salt you can put in your meat; salt preference and tolerance are very personal. If you put too much, then you might spoil your moment, but just the right amount works in the most unusual ways.
Salt is made up of sodium chloride ions which carry electrical charges. These ions attack the proteins in meat causing them to unwind a little by the process of denaturing. The altered proteins have a higher chance of retaining water making meat remain tender, flavorful and juicy at the same time.
Preparing the grill
Another dominant contributor to successful grilling is the ability to control heat. The critical success of every grilling is to develop a two set up which gives you both direct heat to turn your meat golden and indirect heat where the chicken can cook through convention airflow. Indirect heat helps cook slowly and gently providing internal temperature to cook the whole chicken breast.
Hardwood or firewood adds a smoky flavor to your meat, but too much smoke can quickly turn the delicacy into a nightmare. Consider using wood that isn’t wet and can burn for a long time without being smoky. Hardwood is most recommended, but soft stems like bamboo are not recommendable.
If you are using grill ensure that you have it pre-heated at 225 degrees for about 10 minutes. Pre-heating ensures your meat does not stick on the grill when grilling. Do the same for charcoal, make sure the charcoal burns for about 20 minutes because you won’t like the smoke that comes out which is also very harmful to your health.
Bank your charcoal on two sides separately one for direct grilling and the other for indirect cooking. You can accomplish this with a pan of water in the middle. Alternatively, you can bank your charcoal against one side and start the fire only on one side.
A great grilled chicken recipe
This recipe takes 15 minutes to make the marinade and 3 to 24 hours to thoroughly marinate and 45 minutes to cook.
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- ½ tsp kosher salt (per pound of chicken)
- ½ cup of dry white wine
- 1/3 cup of lemon juice
- ¼ cup of brown sugar (most preferably white)
- Two tbsp Dijon mustard
- Two tbsp soy sauce dark or light
- Two tbsp of vegetable oil
- One tsp of ground black pepper
- One tsp garlic powder
- Pound your chicken breast to make them flatter. Use a skillet or a saucepan for your pounding. Make sure your chicken is covered before you pound to avoid spattering all around your kitchen. This way, it will allow more surface area for flavors and in-depth cooking. Brine the meat by sprinkling the brine all around the meat about 4 hours before cooking to let the characters to settle inside the chicken breast.
- Put all the other ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk them together. Pour the mixture into a zipper-lock plastic bag and toss the meat inside then lock the bag and place it in the fridge for more than two hours before grilling. You can cut diamond like patterns at the surface of both sides 1/8 deep. These grooves help hold the marinade.
- When grilling ensures you grill over direct heat to keep the sugar from burning. Sugar may mess your cooking by drying your meat. Keep the indirect heat at 325 degrees. Grilling time may vary depending the quality of the chicken breast, the thickness and size of your strips. Large pieces of meat take longer to cook than small strips. If you did not pound your meat, then it may also take longer to cook. Use a meat thermometer to get it off at optimum safe temp.
Optional: Serve these delicious breasts on a toasted bun with tomato, lettuce chicken skin cracklings and mix some little mayo with few drops of sesame oil to help sesame mayo spread on the bread.
Sauce: Add one teaspoon of cornstarch to half a cup marinade. Stir the sauce in the bowl until it thickens enough, add the mead and your preferred veggies to heat and coat and serve while hot.