How to make Grilled and Glazed Chicken.
I must admit a few years ago I was so uninspired when grilling chicken (but my wife requested it several times a week!). Frankly, I just felt that the flavor was bland and half the time it was either too charred or not cooked enough, meaning it would end up getting charred by the end of the cooking process.
Then I saw the light. Chicken is a blank canvass. And with the correct technique you really could make the flavors pop. There are tons of ways to consider doing it — brines, rubs and all the other craziness. But for simplicity sake, I thought I’d share the most common way we now make our chicken at home.
First and foremost it starts with quality meat. When cooking chicken I found that I have to buy quality! Maybe it’s the inner Ina Garten in me, I don’t know, but I don’t skimp on meat quality. I always chose free range and usually organic. It is not cheap, but the reason I do is preference on flavor, plus it just feels good. That and it is typically local and I love supporting the local market.
When buying chicken to grill, I love a fully quartered chicken versus the entire roaster. Does the meat counter not have it cut up? Ask the butcher. They should be more than happy to do it.
Chicken Breast – I get it with the bone in. Not only does it add flavor, but when you let the breast cook, you cook bone side down protecting the meat from overcooking.
Chicken Wings – Don’t be fooled, you need to do some trimming here. Check out this post for wings and preparation for smoked Buffalo chicken wings. These cook fast and can easily overcook. They are also insanely delicious.
Chicken Leg Quarters – This will be the leg and the thigh. You need to do a little butchering to separate the thigh from the leg, because often the leg/thigh combo is cheaper. In my opinion the thigh is the best part of the chicken. Rich flavor, moist and the perfect bone to hold when munching.
When is it done? Well when in doubt go to the food safety page of our very own government. For non-ground chicken I am looking for 165 degrees.
How to Prep Chicken for the Grill
Start with the basic dry rub. Next, trim off excess skin, bone fragments, and fat. Then rinse the chicken under cold water and get it dry. Once dry, apply some olive oil and about three tablespoons of the basic dry rub. Remember to get under the skin too.
I like to give it about an hour to sit with the rub before cooking, but feel free to apply the rub longer, just keep in the fridge until ready to grill. (I know some like to get it to room temp, but frankly I never do and I never have issues).
Charcoal Grill – Using a chimney*, prep your coals. A small amount of newspaper in the bottom and then fill up the chimney with your favorite coals. Light the paper and it should take, just don’t overstuff the paper or you may not get the flame started. Usually it’s 20 – 30 minutes to get up to temp. Set up the grill for an indirect cooking method.
*Lighter Fluid – I don’t use it, and never will. Nothing against it, but it’s easy to get the coals lit using a chimney and avoiding any unpleasant odor or flavor from the stuff.
Gas Grill – Start some of your burners at a medium/high heat and let the grill grate get hot. I use the hand method, hover the hand over the heat and if I can’t let it linger to long, that’s perfect for the sear. Leave some burners off so you can move the chicken to the indirect side after you get the right amount of char.
How to Grill Chicken
Start with placing the chicken over direct heat. Monitor closely, especially with charcoal, to avoid burning. With sugar in your rub, it can happen quickly. The idea is to get a quick sear on both sides of the meat. I usually have no more than 2 minutes per side, enough for some color and/or grill marks.
Move then to your indirect side. Make sure the breast is bone side down, protecting that white meat. You can control the look of the skin, and then when moving to indirect heat, get the nice crispy texture without burning it and still cooking the interior meat. Usually it’s about 15 – 20 minutes. But when grilling, it’s done when it’s done and with a quartered bird you will likely see the wings done first. So pull the chicken off when the temp reads 165 degrees. And yes, I use a thermometer (always) to make sure the temp is perfect, and not overcooked.
As you monitor the temperature with a quality thermometer, begin to add your glaze when the chicken is almost done (around 155 – 160 degrees). Why? There is sugar in the sauce, which can burn the meat. By adding the sauce towards the end you avoid over caramelized or burnt flavors. I like to add it just before I remove the meat the grill.
Once the temperature of the meat reads 165 degrees remove from the grill add a little more glaze. I let it stand about 10 minutes to allow the juices to distribute. Remember you may be pulling your meat at different times (the different pieces take different times to cook) so you may be multi-tasking. Just cover the finished meat with foil to keep warm.
Extra Flavor — Consider adding wood chips by placing in an aluminum foil with some holes poked in. You’ll want a couple bags prepped because one tends to burn up with a large handful in about 10 minutes. Place the bag over the direct heat right before you cover then replace as you see the smoke diminish.
Sides – Consider your favorites. I love roasted potatoes or grilled asparagus. For those wine lovers out there afraid of pairing asparagus with wine, once you grill it I find the texture and flavor to be very appealing as a pairing, so don’t be afraid to serve it alongside your wine!
Want to add variation to your flavor? Instead of the basic glaze, try mango chutney or jam like this recipe.
- 1 Quartered Chicken
- 3 tablespoons basic dry rub
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup barbecue sauce
- ½ cup raspberry jam any jam will do, we just used raspberry
- Prepare grill or charcoal.
- Prepare chicken by trimming excess fat and bone fragements, rinse in cold water and pat dry.
- Coat chicken in olive oil and apply dry rub. The rub will stick to the oil. Be sure to apply rub under skin on breast, thigh and leg. This can be done up to four hours in advance.
- For coals, if it’s still too hot, just wait another few minutes until desired heat. Coals should be red, not too many flames.
- Place chicken on direct heat for 2 minutes or until desired look of skin and then flip.
- Move chicken to indirect heat and cover for up to 20 minutes (But check often to be sure you don’t overcook as each cut of meat will vary in time).
- When meat reaches close to final temperature (155 – 160 degrees) brush first coat of glaze over all sides of chicken.
- Remove chicken when temp is at 165 degrees and add second coat of glaze.
- Let the chicken stand 10 minutes to let juices redistribute and glaze thicken.
- Combine the barbecue sauce and the jam and stir over low to medium heat for about 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat.
Wine Pairing for Grilled Chicken
A girl’s gotta open something while the cooking is happening. On a sunny spring day the answer is always rosé. Incidentally, a fruity rosé with strong acidity is a great match for the juicy chicken. The fruitiness and slightly sweet flavors balance any heat you may have from your sauce.
Alternatively, a fruity red with good acidity is also great with the rich flavors of the sauce. Barbera is a great example of this. Just be weary of overdoing it on the sauce! No wine wants to compete with a pool full of sweet and spicy sauce. If you’re a dipper and like your chicken drowning in sauce the rosé balances that out better than the red. Or you can just stick with a cold beer… but where’s the fun in that?
Rosé has great fruitiness and a slight sweetness that tames the heat from the sauce, and Barbera has excellent rich fruit that makes for a lovely match for the juicy chicken and balances well with the sweetness of the sauce. Whatever your preference – crisp fruity rosé, or rich red – they both pair well with the meat.