Cooking food over an open flame tends to produce unique flavors. But some people may avoid grilling certain foods because of the perceived difficulty of creating that distinctive grilled flavor. One such food is chicken. Some people have difficulty grilling flavorful chicken, while others cannot put chicken over an open flame without over- or undercooking it. The following tips for grilling chicken can help poultry lovers grill flavorful chicken.
Cook to the appropriate temperature. Many cooks have conducted the eyeball test when grilling chicken, removing chicken that appears cooked from their grills only to cut the chicken open and see it’s pink. Putting chicken that’s been sliced open back on the grill can compromise its flavor once it’s fully cooked. Guidelines established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommend cooking poultry, whether it’s whole chickens, turkeys, poultry parts, or duck and goose, to 165 F. Measure the internal temperature using a food thermometer, only removing the chicken once it’s reached 165 F.
Employ two-zone cooking. Chicken cooks most evenly when grilled at a lower temperature. When the grill temperature is too high, the outside of the chicken may burn while the inside might still be pink. Grill chicken over a two-zone fire in which the heat source, whether it’s charcoal briquets or propane gas, is on one side of the grill. Once the outside of the chicken has crisped over, it can be moved to the cool side of the grill. Shut the lid and allow the inside of the chicken to reach the recommended temperature.
Wait to apply barbecue sauce. Barbecued chicken is a favorite food to grill, but it’s important to apply barbecue sauce at the right time. Many barbecue sauces contain lots of sugar, which burns quickly over an open flame. That can give cooks the impression that their chicken is cooked, even if it needs significantly more time to reach the recommended temperature. Cooks should wait to apply barbecue sauce until right before the chicken is done cooking. This prevents the sauce from turning to char and ensures that the flavor of the barbecue sauce is preserved.
Recognize not all chicken cooks at the same pace. Different parts of the chicken will cook more quickly than others. Chicken breasts may take the longest time to reach 165 F, while thighs might need only a few minutes to reach that temperature.