Sunday, May 23, 2010

Grilled Chicken

If you are not a year-round griller, now is the time to roll the grill onto the patio and shake down the equipment before Memorial Day weekend arrives.   Herewith, a reminder of things we know you know and some ideas for three great chicken grill outs.  Have a safe summer. 

Grill Prep
Set the grill on an even surface and away from overhanging branches or building parts (like porch roofs and soffits).  You and the grill should be several feet from exterior walls or high fences.

The best time to clean a grill is when it is piping hot.  The heat will assist you in removing debris.  If your grill has been in storage, give it a little extra attention before firing it up. Dust off the casing and legs and, if needed, wash with mild dish washing soap and water using non-abrasive tools.  Check the soot catcher on charcoal grills to be sure it is empty and clear.  Scrape out any soot and debris in the belly and hose the whole thing off, removing all suds.  Let dry. 

Gas grills using propane tanks should get a safety check.  Follow the instructions for cleaning, maintenance and hooking up tanks. Most things around a grill go wrong after a period of disuse or after refilling and reattaching the grill's gas container.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) began releasing safety tips for grills as early as 1997. Check for their advice, particularly on checking hoses and tubing for wear and blockages. 

When you are ready to clean the grill rack and cook, heat the grill and cover it to heat the grate.    Turn on gas grills, preheat and close the cover.   For charcoal grills, place the grill over hot coals and close the cover briefly to heat the grate.  Scrub the grill with a stiff wire brush once it is hot.

Some back yard cooks like to follow up with a small amount of vegetable oil on a paper towel administered carefully with tongs.  Too much oil will cause flare-ups but a small amount will prevent sticking of more delicate foods like fish and vegetables.  Your choice.   

Firing It Up
Charcoal Grills
If you are a fan of charcoal grills like us, invest in a chimney starter.  They are inexpensive (under $15) and eco-friendly.  They eliminate the need for lighter fluid to ignite the coals and the decidedly unappetizing eau d’lighter fluid on your cooked food.

To use a charcoal starter, you will need about 3 half-sheets of newspaper and a long-necked lighter or long match.  Place the newspaper in the bottom section of the chimney.  Place the chimney right side up on grill grate and fill the large cavity with charcoal.  Light the paper with the lighter.  The flaming newspaper will light the charcoal and the cylinder will quickly ready the charcoals, in about 15 minutes.  When the coals have developed a ashen exterior pour the glowing coals into the grill and place grill rack on top.

Control in charcoal grilling comes from the placement of the coals, the distance the grill rack sits from the coals and the amount of time the coals have been ready.   Although there are no hard and fast settings, seasoned grillers learn that coals 10-15 hot are at about medium heat and piling coals to one or either side of the grill allows for a range of temperatures from direct or indirect heat.  It is easy to get a feel for it and, for purists, half the fun of grilling. 

Gas Grills
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for preheating and grilling.  When cooking with gas grills, you have great control.  Cook your chicken on a low setting for the initial cooking and when the meat has reached the proper temperature,  finish the chicken on a higher setting to crisp the skin more or continue on low to baste with sauces. 

Prep the Food Safely
Treat marinades like raw meat, that is, separate from other foods.  It is very important to prevent cross contamination with  other foods both cooked and raw.  Once you have used a marinade,  throw away any excess.  If you would like to use part of the marinade to baste the meat while it is cooking, set aside a portion before it comes in contact with raw meat or double the recipe and keep the second half separate for basting.  

Basting Rules
Sugars in sauces cause chicken skin to char and burn. To prevent this and still attain a crisp skin, brush on the sauce after the meat has been turned once so the sauce can cook and adhere to the top of the meat.  After brushing sauce on the second side, place the piece off direct flames or over dying coals.  The sauce will thicken and cook onto the meat but will not burn.

How to Grill Chicken
Cook chicken on medium to medium-low heat.  Be patient and you will have beautiful bronzed poultry that is tender, juicy and most important, cooked thoroughly.  

Place chicken bone side down and let cook 12-15 minutes.  Larger pieces will take longer, smaller ones like wings will be ready sooner.  You can accommodate the differences in size by placing the larger pieces over the hotter sections of the grill.  Turn the chicken and cook another 10-12 minutes.  Check your each piece with a meat thermometer.  

When is it done? 
The USDA says chicken is cooked when the internal temperature reaches 180˚F.  Many chefs look for 165˚F. If you are considering the lower temperature,  consider who you are serving.  The very young, elderly and those that have been sick are most susceptible to food borne illnesses. The internal temperature will continue to rise when the meat is off the grill so you can remove it when you are a few degrees short of goal and still retain a juicy interior. 

A Little Rest
Your dinner has been dancing on a bed of hot coals so give it a chance to rest.  You’ll be glad you did.  The internal temperature will even off, juices will be re-absorbed and it will give you time to collect everyone and everything else together for serving.  To keep chicken crisp while it rests, use a large platter so you don’t need to pile the pieces up and inadvertently steam the skin.  Give yourself at least 10-15 minutes.  If the wait is longer that 15 minutes,  cover the chicken lightly with tin foil. 

Today’s Recipes
All the marinades make enough for a whole, cut-up chicken or 4-6 pieces of either dark or light meat. 

Tandoori Inspired Grilled Chicken
No Tandoor oven? No problem.  Marinate this skinned chicken dish in tenderizing yogurt and spices overnight and put it on the grill for a taste of India that will beat the spice blues.  The chicken takes on the color of the spices, especially the yellow hue of turmeric.  Tandoori chicken is not a spicy dish and the cayenne can be eliminated if yours is not a heat seeking group.

6 oz plain yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Skin chicken parts and with a sharp knife, make a few slits in the muscle of each piece.   Place chicken in a large bowl.  
  2. In a smaller bowl,  mix the yogurt with remaining ingredients.  Pour yogurt mixture over chicken and marinate overnight or at least 10 hours.  Turn chicken every few hours to coat completely. 
  3. When ready to cook, remove chicken from yogurt marinade and place on a medium- low fire.  Cook chicken 30-40 minutes turning once until cooked through.   
Serve Tandoori chicken with Basmati  rice, a selection of chutneys and Indian breads.  Make a simple vegetable curry of cauliflower, green beans and chick peas by tossing the cooked vegetables with a curry spice blend and a little coconut milk or Greek yogurt. This side astes good hot or at room temperature. (Pack leftovers in a pita packet with any extra chicken the next day.)

American Barbecue Chicken
Orange and lime gives this tomato-based sauce a citrus note that is addictive.  This recipe was adapted from a barbecue sauce for spare ribs in the 1963 edition of The Good Housekeeping Cookbook.  The key to barbecued chicken is to hold off on basting it with sauce until the chicken is almost done.  This yields tender, juicy chicken with a cooked on glaze and a bit of crispness instead of a charred and thick exterior casing a dry bird. 

1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
zest  and juice of 1/2 orange
zest and juice of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch ground clove
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4/ teaspoon pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

  1. Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until bubbling.  Lower  heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens a bit and takes on a glossy sheen. Use immediately or cool, cover and refrigerate.  Use within 3 days. 
  2. If you are marinating chicken, try buttermilk and some salt and pepper or plain milk with  lemon juice (1 tablespoon for every cup of milk).  Chicken can float around in a buttermilk marinade for up to 24 hours.  When ready to cook , remove chicken from marinade and pat dry.  Discard marinade. 
  3. Grill chicken according to directions above.  After turning chicken over, start basting with sauce. Keep on eye on the flames once the second side is basted.  Keep chicken pieces away from direct flames or over medium-low coals just long enough to form the coating/crust you like. Basted chicken will cook very nicely over indirect heat if you are the patient type. 
Serve American Barbecue Chicken with cole-slaw, potato salad and steamed corn on the cob. Brownies, anyone?

Boyfriend Chicken
This was my husband’s go to marinade when we met.  It is easy but impressive.  It tastes good with pork chops too, especially with the addition of some freshly grated ginger. 

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup cold water

  1. Mix the ingredients in a gallon sized zip lock bag.  Place chicken pieces in marinade and seal bag.  Place bag of chicken in a shallow bowl or pie plate and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.  Turn bag over after a few hours to evenly distribute marinade. 
  2. When ready to cook, remove chicken pieces and discard marinade.  Grill as directed above.

Boyfriend Chicken deserves some colorful vegetables on the side and a fabulous salad.  Try roasted or grilled asparagus, zucchini or yellow squash.  Sweet summer tomatoes and fresh mozzarella over lightly dressed greens and torn basil completes the table. A perfect at-home date for two or anniversary dinner with family years later....