Kate shows you How to Grill and Broil Chicken, with details on Indirect and Direct Grilling Outdoors, and Broiling Indoors, plus sheds light on the IACP foodie conference in Austin, Texas, and picks some of her favorite recipes in What To Eat This Month.
by Kate Heyhoe
Grilling chicken is far from an exact science. It requires much more intuition, attention, and practice than other cooking methods, but the advantages are well worth the effort: smoky flavors, mahogany skin, tasty charred bits, and a fun-filled excursion to the great outdoors. Not to mention the social aspects of a grill-out in the backyard or favorite park.
But grilling is also not rocket science. It's likely humankind's oldest form of cooking—we surely ate our first chickens hot off the open fire rather than from any skillet or oven. The trick, though, is cooking the meat until no longer pink inside, without blackening the skin or drying the meat out. So don't grill over a blast-furnace flame, but instead use a more gentle medium-hot to medium-low range of heat.
If you keep these rules of thumb in mind and pay attention to the fire, you'll end up with decently grilled birds. But because outdoor conditions of wind and air temperature affect every grill, you'll also need to be flexible and use your own judgment about when to move the pieces around, when to baste, and when to flip the pieces over.
Remember that the ultimate goal is a moist, tender interior, a handsomely browned exterior, and meat which is perfectly cooked (not raw or dry). Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. The USDA changed its recommendations a few years ago. Now, 165 degrees F is the minimal food-safe temperature, and applies to the whole bird, including white and dark meats. (The old standard, which overcooked the meat, was 170 to 175 degrees F. for white meat, and 175 to 180 degrees for dark meat, measured in the thickest portions, away from the bone). Even without a thermometer, you can visually see if the chicken is done: Juices will run clear, not pink or cloudy.
Finally, speaking of cloudy things, if your party gets rained out, no worries: just broil the chicken pieces indoors. Discover the basics of broiling in the section below.
This method uses a covered grill, which functions as both an oven and a broiler. Cook chicken not directly over the heat, but to the side. For charcoal grills, pile white-hot coals to the opposite sides of the grill, or in the center only, or just around the edges—the point is to leave an area away from direct heat so the chicken can cook, or roast, without charring. Leave the vents partially open, and close them slightly if the chicken cooks too fast or open them wider if it cooks too slow. For gas grills, ignite both sides of the grill (covered) until they heat up, then turn off one burner and cook the chicken over that side of the grill, on the same level or on an upper rack, with the lid down. For a crispier skin or exterior, brown the pieces directly over the heat, uncovered, or flip the pieces occasionally while they cook to help them brown.
What are the best pieces for indirect grilling? Whole birds, halves, quarters, and large to medium pieces with bone. Do keep the skin on, as it adds flavor, protects the meat from drying out, and can be removed later if you so desire. Basically any thick piece of chicken should be cooked primarily on indirect heat, but you can do a quick stint over direct heat to add color and crispness.
This is the same technique you would use for cooking steaks—setting the meat on the grill directly above the heat source, whether it be gas or charcoal. It uses a close, high heat similar to cooking on a broiler, only the heat cooks from below rather than from above.
You can grill directly with the lid closed (vents open) to help cook the interior, but watch that the chicken doesn't flare-up and burn. Cooking open, without a lid, works well for small or thin pieces, such as wings, boneless breasts, and kebabs. For thicker pieces, you run the risk of cooking the outside but not the inside. You can combat this problem by finishing the pieces further away from the heat source, such as on a higher rack, either covered or uncovered, or a bit of both.
Your oven's broiler is the original indoor grill. It's a quick method, cooking at high heat from above the chicken, rather than below it. Broiling works best with pieces of chicken similar in size and not too large, otherwise the exterior cooks faster than the interior. For best results:
Get the broiler really hot before sticking the chicken in. Allow at least 10 minutes of pre-heating.
Line a pan with foil for easy clean up and place a broiling rack on top. Some cooks recommend heating the pan and rack in the broiler before adding the chicken, so the skin gets grill-type marks on it and the heat bouncing off the pan bottom helps sear the skin more quickly. This works well, but you may also just place the chicken side-down down on an unheated rack and pan and slide them into a hot broiler.
Cook the chicken pieces skin side down first, and always broil pieces with skin on. Skinless pieces just dry out and cook unevenly.
Broil close to the heat-source, but not too close or the chicken may flare-up or burn. Small pieces (wings and drumsticks) do fine when their surface is about 4 inches from the heat source, while larger ones (breasts and thighs) need a further distance, some 5 to 8 inches from the heat. (Some broilers are not adjustable, so small pieces are best for them.) For mixed pieces, arrange the larger ones in the center and the smaller ones around the edges of the broiling pan, and broil the chicken surfaces about 6 inches from the heat.
Cooking times vary with the broiler's heat output and the pieces being cooked. Because the skin cooks more quickly, broil the pieces with the skin-side down for about 2/3 of the total cooking time, before flipping them over.
Plan on about 15 to 20 minutes with skin-side down, then flip pieces over and cook another 10 to 15 minutes, checking to make sure the skin is browning but not blackening. If the chicken seems to be cooking too fast, move it further away from the heat source.
Food professionals and dedicated amateurs will be savoring Austin at June's IACP conference. The International Association of Culinary Professionals is the largest group of food experts in the world, and they'll be in Austin, Texas from June 1 to 4, 2011. From Food Network stars to New York Times writers, groundbreaking chefs to ingénue bloggers, this group explores current and future trends, culinary history, global cuisines, and—taking advantage of Austin as a high tech hub—the impact of new media, social media, and digital photography on everything food. An annual high point: the IACP Awards for the year's best cookbooks and food writing will be announced. (Here's the list of the 2011 IACP Award Nominees.)
If you live in Austin and aren't a member, you can still participate in some or all of the events. If you're not local, tune into my column next month for a recap (and look forward to the 2012 conference in New York City.)
Events at non-member prices are listed here, and you can buy into a la carte events or the whole enchilada:
And for non-members who are culinary professionals, the IACP offers a sweet deal: a full year's membership included in the price of the full conference registration (open to new members only; please mention that Kate Heyhoe sent you.)
Full details for public events are found here: https://iacppublicevents.eventbrite.com/.
The most popular events include:
Wednesday June 1, 2011, 8:00—10:30 p.m.(Limited to 125 participants)At the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin's South Congress neighborhood, three exciting chefs will showcase the fusion of great taste and fresh, healthy ingredients. Featuring: Austin's Tyson Cole, chef of Uchi and Uchiko (one of GQ's 10 best new restaurants); Holly Smith of Kirkland, Washington's Café Juanita; and Brad Farmerie of New York's Public In a setting known for its music, edgy art and vintage décor, guests will sample a variety of dishes, meet and mingle with the chefs and bid on unique experiences in a special auction. Proceeds support the Culinary Trust.
Friday June 3, 2011, 1:30 p.m.—3:30 p.m.
Meet and mingle with your favorite cookbook and culinary book authors. Books will be available for purchase and authors can sign and personalize your copies. Tickets in advance are $10; tickets at the door are $15 and subject to availability. (Admission is included for IACP Friday conference attendees.)
For those attending the conference, just some of this year's personalities include White House Chef and Senior Policy Advisor Sam Kass; Jacques Pepin, John Besh, Dorie Greenspan, Amanda Hesser, Diana Kennedy, Deborah Madison, Ellie Krieger, Kim Severson, and Shirley Corriher. Locals will recognize these featured panelists and places, too: Jim Hightower, Case Fischer (Fischer and Wieser), Fonda San Miguel, FINO, the Soup Peddler, Sweetish Hill, Lucinda Hutson, David Alan (The Tipsy Texan), TRIO, El Arbol, Marla Camp (Edible Austin), Parkside, the Driskill, and many, many others.
If you live in Austin, brace yourself for an economic and food lovers' explosion; expect to see food professionals of every rank and file roaming the streets, shopping in stores, partying in bars, and jamming the restaurants from morning to night. We're a jolly group of serious food folk, and when converging en masse, both the dollars and the wine flow freely. Bon appétit, and salud!
Copyright © 2011, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified May 2011
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