World's Best Grilled Chicken
by Kate Heyhoe
The advantage of having a really large grill is that you can cook copious amounts of food on it and keep some for leftovers. Almost all grilled foods serve up well a second time, but grilled chicken in particular makes tasty encores cold or hot, and it morphs easily into other dishes— salads, tortillas, sandwiches, fried rice, pasta...the opportunities for using grilled chicken are endless.
Global Marinades for Chicken
Chicken, being a favorite bird around the world, lends itself well to exotic seasonings, ones that can stand up to the intense thrill of the grill. But without a bit of marinating, grilled chicken can be bland. Marinating is a tricky subject among chefs. Some feel that the acids in a marinade "cook" the chicken if left too long, obliterating the delicate taste of the bird. Others prefer a long marinade, as much as overnight or more, deeply infusing the bird with stronger flavors. Whichever method you select, break away from bottled Italian dressing as marinade, and explore the wider world of chicken fixin':
Indian Chicken: Indians typically marinate chicken for 12 hours, and often as long as 3 days. To enable the marinade to penetrate throughout the meat, they stab the chicken pieces in several places with the point of a small knife, or make deep gashes in the flesh. The famous Tandoori Chicken uses yogurt, lime juice and garam masala as the marinade. You can also adapt a spicy chutney for use as a marinade base, as in Grilled Chicken Thighs with Cilantro Chutney. Indian chicken makes an excellent and easy meal served with Indian flatbreads, warmed in foil on the grill, and a Minty Raita-Style Cole Slaw.
Greek Chicken:The Greeks have been spit-roasting and grilling for centuries; ancient fire-cooking equipment is commonly found in archeological sites. The rustic land produces intense olive oils, garlic, and lemons, which create a trinity of flavors for everything from lamb souvlaki to green bean salads to grilled octopus and roasted or grilled chicken. These flavors mixed with oregano and onion form the marinade for Greek Grilled Chicken with Skordalia Sauce, a robust sauce of garlic, lemon and ground almonds.
Jamaican Chicken: Jamaica specializes in allspice, a major ingredient in the island's famous dish: Jamaican Jerk Chicken. The Jamaican jerk paste includes thyme, scallions, and their fiery Scotch Bonnet Peppers, along with such warm spices as cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper, all of which deliver complex layers of flavor.
Japanese Chicken Skewers: Teriyaki Chicken, found in every mall in America, no longer seems exotic, but this slightly sweet dish never loses its appeal. A flavorful relative of teriyaki can be found in yakitori. Yakitori are tasty, skewered tidbits, usually chicken, grilled over a charcoal fire. They make excellent hors d'oeuvres, or are delicious in larger quantities as entrees. The Chicken & Shiitake Yakitori recipe mixes meaty shiitake mushrooms with both chicken breast meat and livers, though liver-phobic cooks may omit the livers if desired.
Chicken Grilling and Marinating Tips
Besides adding flavor, marinades tenderize by breaking down the meat. Boneless breasts can be marinated for as little as 30 minutes. Chicken pieces on bone can take hours to marinate. Keep these few points in mind when fixing grilled chicken...
Planning: Allow 6 to 8 ounces raw chicken meat per person; this will yield 4 to 6 ounces cooked.
Marinating vessels: Marinate in glass, plastic, ceramic or stainless steel. Don't marinate in aluminum containers, as the acid will react with the metal.
Scoring the meat: Score chicken breasts for even cooking and to allow the marinade to penetrate deeper. Using a sharp knife, make shallow parallel cuts in one direction, about 1/2-inch apart. Rotate the chicken and make another set of cuts at angles to the first set, crossing at about 45 degrees. If using boneless breasts, score them on both sides. The scoring also makes more attractive, crisped edges on the grilled surfaces.
Grilling to perfection: Clean the grill. Oil the grill. Heat the grill until medium hot. Make sure the chicken surface has oil on it, from the marinade or from the chicken skin, or lightly spray with spray with vegetable oil (don't oversaturate or you'll end up with grease flare-ups). Place the chicken on the grill. Leave it alone. Do not move the chicken around until grill marks start to appear; this will help prevent sticking. Tip: Start grilling with the skin down to prevent sticking. Skin helps baste the meat; rather than using skinless pieces, which dry out quickly, cook chicken with skin on and then remove the skin if desired. Or, cook skinless chicken thighs: the thigh meat contains enough fat to help it avoid sticking, if you follow the rules above.
Avoiding cross-contamination: Keep raw poultry (and anything it touches, including utensils, cutting boards, and hands) away from vegetables; make sure all contamination is removed by washing thoroughly in hot soapy water. Before basting, boil marinade in which chicken has been soaking for at least 3 minutes to kill bacteria and pathogens.
You can also apply these tips and recipes to other poultry, such as turkey, quail and Cornish Hens. For a festive summer platter, consider a mixed grill of many birds. Be creative— or as I like to say: Just wing it!
Grilled Chicken Recipes:
Chicken & Shiitake Yakitori
Greek Grilled Chicken with Skordalia Sauce
Grilled Velvet Chicken
Indian Grilled Chicken Thighs with Cilantro Chutney
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
That Smokin' Lemon Chicken
For more recipes, visit the Summer Grilling Guide
Kate's Global Kitchen for August, 2000:
Copyright © 2000, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created August 2000
This page modified August 2007