Way, way back a fire master brewed coffee for me and kept it heated all morning at a perfect temperature over hot embers that resulted from a fire he made out of woodsy elements he gathered around our campground which was on a desolate savannah in Kenya. Blew my mind. Fire, to me, was either a teardrop candlewick glow or raging wild through mountainsides. My lack of fire finessing shows up each summer when I present scorched meats that are either undercooked or dried out. “I don’t want the black part,” my son has pleaded on more than one occasion. The problem: I put the effort into the sauce and not the fire. Thanks to my new summer bible,The Grilling Book, that changed with a few duh? tips. Fire good.
Barbecued Chicken – done right
- Start with bone-in, skin-on chicken (I’m a breast gal, but you can use the whole bird too). Season with salt and pepper at least 30 minutes and up to one day in advance so the meat can absorb the flavor. Take it out of refrigerator one hour before cooking.
- Set up grill for indirect heat – prepare grill (gas or charcoal) to cook the chicken within the grill, but not directly over the flames. Build a medium low fire. Brush the grate, where chicken will cook, with oil. Place a drip plan under that grate.
- When the grill is hot, place the chicken on the grates that were set up for indirect cooking. Close lid.
- Turn every 5 minutes until the skin is crisp and an instant-read thermometer registers 165°.
- Brush chicken with sauce, applying to every little part of the chicken.
- Turn and apply more sauce – this will go on another 5 minutes. You can move the chicken over direct heat here to produce the char effect you desire, but watch it closely so it doesn’t burn.
- When cooked to perfection, remove the pieces and let the chicken rest for 10 minutes.
- Serve with sauce on the side and this superb charred corn salad.
What did we learn? Season ahead – indirect heat – sauce at end. For those of you suffering in crunchtime, use bottled sauces. They’re processed, sure, but it’s just a little coating full of sugar and salt – no guilt. Those wanting a homemade brews, I offer two of my favorites here and here.
Savor the summer, it’s passing quickly.