If there is one type of meat that dominates the dinner table across the U.S., it’s chicken. Each year, Americans consume upwards of 8 billion chickens. And there’s one clear reason for it — chicken is affordable. It’s also super versatile, healthy, and delicious (when grilled or cooked correctly).
From stir-frys to sandwiches, salads, wraps, tacos — the list goes on, you can use chicken in just about any dish imaginable. But despite its versatility, not many people know how to cook chicken the right way.
If you’re a fan of the grilled variety, here are a few secrets to grilling chicken perfectly.
1. Always Opt for Top-Quality Chicken
You don’t have to have a cooking qualification in order to cook great chicken. It’s actually a simple process, but it does begin with good-quality chicken. The fact of the matter is that poor-quality chicken will dry out and cook unevenly. It can even cause serious illnesses, such as salmonella.
The quality of the chicken you buy lies in how the chicken was fed and raised. As well as its freshness. This is what shapes the flavor of the meat and its tenderness. You want to buy chicken from a trusted local source — the closer to home, the better.
2. Allow Enough Thaw Time Before Grilling Chicken
If there is one common error when cooking chicken it’s that most people throw it on the grill when it’s too cold. Cooking chicken straight from the refrigerator shocks the meat and results in even cooking. It can become dry and overcooked on the outside before the inside even has time to warm up.
In an ideal world, you should take your chicken out of the freezer the night before and allow it to thaw in your refrigerator. Then, before grilling, remove it from the fridge and allow it to reach room temperature before cooking. You’ll need about 30 minutes for it to reach the right temperature.
3. Pound Your Meat If It’s Uneven
This tip pertains to chicken breast — which is one of the most popular cuts of chicken. If you’re looking to grill them, you might want to pound them out first.
This is because of the shape of the chicken breast which is usually thicker in the middle. Pounding them out so that they’re an even thickness allows for even cooking. The last thing you want is burnt edges, and a raw chicken breast in the middle!
If you don’t have a meat pounder, all you need is a rolling pin and a Ziploc bag.
4. Cook Cuts of a Similar Size Together
Similar to the tip mentioned above, you want to cook similar-sized cuts of chicken together so that they all cook evenly, at the same time. In other words, simplify your grilling process by cooking all the chicken legs together, then the wings, then the thighs, etc. so that you don’t have to keep track of which pieces cook faster.
If you want to throw different cuts of chicken on the grill at the same time, just bear in mind that each cut may have a different cooking time.
5. Salt, Salt, Salt
While chicken has a great flavor of its own, a little bit of extra salt can amplify that flavor better than anything. Don’t underestimate the power of salt when grilling chicken — you don’t need a bunch of fancy spices, sometimes salt is as good as it gets.
Not only does it ramp up the flavor, but it helps to seal in moisture, too. Before you grill your chicken, season it well on both sides with salt. If it looks like a lot of salt, don’t worry, much of it will fade during the cooking process.
6. Treat Skinless Chicken Differently
Keep in mind that chicken with skin on it has an extra layer of insulation. This means that skinless chicken, such as the chicken breast will cook far quicker than other cuts.
The same goes for chicken cuts with bones, i.e. the drumstick or wing. They tend to cook a little slower. Chicken breast has a tendency to dry out much faster because of its lack of skin and bones. So remember to treat this cut differently and focus on shorter cooking times.
7. Always Prep Your Grill Well
Half the success of grilling chicken well is the state of your grill — and the type of grill you use! Check out full info on ownthegrill.com for the best grill types to invest in.
Before you slap your chicken on the heat, you’ll need to clean down your grill. Use an old rag to remove pieces of debris, then oil up the grill racks with a little vegetable oil so that your chicken doesn’t stick to it. Vegetable oil is best because of its high smoke point.
8. Keep the Temperature Controlled
Another common grilling faux pas is cooking your chicken on excessively high heat. You want to avoid this at all costs because this is what leads to dry, unevenly cooked chicken. When the heat is too high, this causes the chicken to burn on the outside, while not cooking through on the inside.
In short, chicken cooks better on medium-to-high heat. If you’re using a charcoal grill, a medium-to-low heat works best.
Have a Passion for Food, Health, and Fitness?
There is no rocket science behind grilling chicken. But with these preparation and grill tips, your grilled chicken dinner will always come out succulent and juicy — as it should be!
If you have a true passion for food and entertaining or want to learn more about how to stay fit and healthy, check out the rest of this site for more.