Tailgating 101: You’ve been grilling your chicken all wrong
Grilled chicken is a favorite cookout staple, but all too often, the juicy, flavorful chicken you crave can turn into a charred, overcooked — or worse, undercooked — mess.
Whether you’re a seasoned grill master or a novice, grilling chicken can be a challenge. But if you avoid a few common mistakes and make a few simple adjustments, you can serve up moist, delicious chicken every time.
Give these recipes a try to wow your guests with perfect poultry that will be the star at your next tailgate.
1. Don’t skimp on the bird
One of the biggest mistakes you can make happens before leaving the store. While you may be trying to feed a crowd on a budget, it stands to reason that a better quality bird will yield better results for your recipes.
Pound for pound, it’s cheaper to buy a whole chicken than one cut into pieces. That’s perfect for grilled chicken cooked under a brick, which makes use of the entire bird (and just a few ingredients).
2. Brining — it’s not just for Thanksgiving turkey
Brining is an easy way to add flavor and to ensure that your grilled chicken will turn out juicy and tender using a few common pantry ingredients.
Plan ahead, because you’ll need at least 12 hours (mostly hands-off time) for the chicken to soak in the brine. Try a wet brine for a succulent bird or a dry brine for crispy, golden skin.
Already familiar with brining? Try citrus BBQ beer can chicken, which uses both the wet and dry methods. Or if you’re new to this technique, try brined grilled chicken. It uses eight ingredients that you probably already have at home.
3. Hotter isn’t always better
Often the tendency is to keep the flames as high as you can and the coals as hot as possible so you can cook your chicken on a piping hot grill.
This is a recipe for disaster.
You don’t want to burn or dry out your meat, but you don’t want to undercook it, either. So, what do you do?
Split your grill into two separate temperature zones (or if you’re using a gas grill, adjust your temps at the appropriate times). Start cooking at high heat (around 400 degrees) and finish at medium heat (300-325 degrees) until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, as measured by a meat thermometer.
Dijon grilled chicken will help you practice with zones and temperature regulation.
4. Don’t add sauce to your chicken before it’s done
Slathering your chicken in barbeque sauce before putting it on the grill is a waste of time.
The sauce isn’t going to stick to the chicken — it’s likely going to stick to the grill grates. Not only that, but if your sauce has a high sugar content, it’s going to caramelize well before your chicken is done.
It won’t take long for the sauce to go from caramelized to burnt, possibly resulting in underdone chicken with bitter, charred skin.
Save the sauce until the last few minutes, when you’re ready to take the chicken off the grill.
Remember, bathing the chicken in sauce will not make up for improper seasoning, so be sure you’ve marinated or brined your bird. The sauce should be an enhancement, not the main focus of your dish.
Try these zesty fast and spicy grilled BBQ wings. The sauce is added after you’ve grabbed them off the grill.
Proper planning and attention to detail will help make your next tailgate or backyard barbeque a hit. More time, less heat and a little patience could make your next outdoor grilling experience the best one yet. Use these tips and recipes to take your fowl from foul to fab!