Guide to Grilling Chicken

Chicken is one of the most versatile and grill friendly foods out there. With so many great cuts to cook, from drumsticks and thighs to whole or split breasts, to thin-sliced strips, and so many ways to season them, you can conceivably grill chicken every day for weeks on end and not get bored. A popular cookout food, chicken offers a choice for your guests beyond burgers and dogs.

Regardless of what type of chicken you’re cooking, there are two very important rules that cover them all. Unlike burgers, hot dogs, sausage, and steak, which are all cooked on high heat, chicken is cooked on medium heat. The reason for this is simple, and leads us to the second universal rule of chicken – unlike beef, which can be pink in the middle, or hot dogs, which are already cooked; chicken must be cooked thoroughly all the way through to avoid potentially serious health risks.

Chicken takes great to marinades, giving you a chance to flavor your chicken with any of countless different tastes. Chicken should not be frozen when placed on the grill, and one great way to marinade a piece of chicken is to pull it out of the freezer and toss it into a Ziploc back with your favorite marinade, and then let it sit on the countertop or in the fridge, depending on how long before you plan to cook it. It marinates while it defrosts, and by the time it’s ready to cook, the chicken has been infused with a lot of flavor. Chicken can take a while to defrost, though, so remember to take your meat out of the freezer well before you plan to grill (I take it out after breakfast if I plan to cook it for dinner).

Once your chicken is defrosted and marinated, you’re ready to get grilling. With a gas grill, turn the grill on “high” and let it heat up. When you throw the chicken on the grill, turn the heat down to medium and close the top. The “high” setting helps assure a clean grill surface and offers the chicken a chance to sear to lock in the juices. Cooking at medium heat with the top down allows the chicken to cook more slowly, using “indirect heat”. This allows the chicken to cook fully in the center without the outside burning. On a charcoal grill, you’ll have less control over the temperature, but by moving coals around, you can get the grill good and hot, and then lower the temp to medium.

Depending on what type of chicken you are cooking (legs, thighs, breasts, etc), the cooking time will vary, but the technique for cooking it will not. Keep the cover of the grill closed except to flip the meat every 3-5 minutes.

Make sure you use tongs to flip the chicken, and never a fork. Piercing the meat with a fork will let juices and flavor escape, leaving you with dry, flavorless chicken. Nobody wants that. At medium heat, an average size piece of chicken will cook through in about the time it takes the outside to look good and done. To give a baseline, the chicken breast pictured with this article take 15-20 minutes to grill, on average.

If you have any doubt about doneness, use a meat thermometer or cut into a piece – you want to be sure it’s good and cooked before serving. Every grill and cut of chicken is a little different, but you’ll soon learn to recognize when the chicken is cooked. Remember, grilling is as much an art as a science.

In addition to being versatile and popular, chicken also offers other advantages. While red meat, hot dogs, and sausage have relatively high fat content, skinless chicken has relatively little, making it a healthy choice. Grilled chicken, a vegetable, and a salad make up an easy, healthy, and delicious summertime dinner.

Chicken can also be very economical and convenient. I purchase five pound bags of individually frozen chicken breasts at my local “buy in bulk” club store. When buying in bulk, the price is quite reasonable, and being frozen, they last a long time. The fact that they’re individually frozen is very handyâÂ?¦I can make one chicken breast or ten, and they’re always in the house ready to go.

Happy Grilling!

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