How To Grill

Our textbook
Season 1

Show 112: Fowl Play

Chicken has bedeviled grill jockeys almost from the moment man learned to make fire. The challenges are many: how do you cook the bird through without setting it on fire, drying out the breast meat, or burning the skin? If these sound like familiar problems, listen up-this show will teach you how to grill chicken without tears every time.

Today's menu:

  • Garlic lemon chicken
  • The ultimate rotisserie chicken
  • Spatchcock chicken with walnut dill pesto
  • Perfect bbq chicken
  • Chicken under a brick
  • Seal in the moistness with coating the chicken breast with a rub or spice paste.
  • Marinate the chicken breast or soak it in brine. Both have a hydrating effect on the breast.
  • Brush the breast as it grills with a butter or glaze.
  • Minimize the cooking time by pounding the chicken breasts into wafer-thin sheets called paillards. Place each breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a scallopini pounder or a small skillet.
  • Use the most theatrical grilling technique of all: grill the chicken breast under a brick.
  • Chicken breasts are sold trimmed to various degrees: whole with skin and breastbone, split with skin and bones, split and boneless but with skin, etc.
  • The most common and popular form is the boneless skinless breast. This may or may not come with the "tender"-a long, skinny, cylindrical strip of meat on the inside of the breast, which coincidentally makes a terrific sate or kebab. Remove the tender from the breast before grilling (start at the loose end and simply pull it off with your finger). Save the tender for sates and yakitori.
  • Trim off any visible fat or sinew, using a sharp paring knife, and you're ready for grilling.
CHICKEN GRILLED UNDER A BRICK printer-ready version

Serves 4

4 chicken breasts (6 to 8 ounces each)

for the marinade:

  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Special equipment: 4 bricks, each wrapped in aluminum foil Oak chunks for building the fire, or 2 cups oak chips, soaked in cold water to cover for 1 hour, then drained

1. Trim any sinews or excess fat off the chicken breasts. Generously season the breasts on both sides with salt, cracked black pepper, and hot pepper flakes. Sprinkle the breasts with garlic and rosemary, patting them in with your fingers. Arrange the breasts in a baking dish. Pour the lemon juice and olive oil over them and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes, turning several times.

2. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to high. In the best of all worlds, you'd build your fire with oak chunks. Alternatively, use gas or charcoal, plus soaked wood chips for smoke. 3. Brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the chicken breasts on the grate, all going the same way, at a 45 degree angle to the bars of the grate. Place a brick on top of each. Grill the breasts until cooked, 3 to 5 minutes per side, turning the breasts after 1-1/2 minutes to create an attractive cross-hatch of grill marks. I like to serve chicken under a brick on a bed of chopped arugula that's been lightly dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

© 2006 Steven Raichlen | site design Benjamin Wilchfort