Why is it that chicken seems to present the bbq chef with so many problems?! I suppose the principle reason we tend to get so worked up about it is the consequences of getting it wrong can be pretty extreme! On one hand we may very easily burn our chicken, which is just a pain for all involved! But on the other hand if it's undercooked we might be sending the diners on a detour to the hospital before they go home!!
Raw chicken can contain the dreaded salmonella, which in extreme cases can be life threatening if it gets into your system! All this is compounded by the fact that it can be quite difficult to regulate the cooking temperature on an outdoor grill or bbq! Put these two factors together and the results can be pretty unpleasant!
So first things first, how do we get it cooked so it doesn't kill anybody? You can get all hung up on cooking temperatures and exact cooking times per pound, but really the only numbers you need to remember are 180 degrees and 170 degrees. The dark meat, the legs for example are done when the meat reaches 180 degrees. The white meat is cooked through when the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees, it's that simple!! Obviously a meat thermometer is required to determine the temperature, possibly one of the most important cooking tools is the trusty meat thermometer, if you haven't got one, get one, they take the guesswork out of barbecuing!ADVERTISEMENT
Once you're happy you're not going to accidentally poison any of your guests, you can start to think about turning your plain old bbq chicken into a culinary masterpiece. One of the biggest problems with cooking chicken on the bbq is drying it out! A great way around this is to leave the chicken soak overnight in a sugar and salt solution, add three quarters of a cup of salt and three quarters of a cup of sugar to a gallon of tepid water, and let the chicken sit. The chicken will draw up extra moisture, reducing the chances of drying out!
Another really good tip is to inject the chicken with marinade while it's cooking; this is great for keeping it moist! A mistake a lot of people make when grilling chicken is putting the sauce on throughout the grilling process, this has several drawbacks, the first is that the dripping sauce can cause the fire to flare up, searing the sauce onto the chicken flesh, resulting in an over crispy texture. The other major flaw with this approach is that when the grill is too hot, the sauce doesn't penetrate into the meat effectively instead it just crisps up and hardens on the surface, sealing the meat and stopping any more sauce infusing into the chicken! Any further sauce that's applied then just builds up into a crust on the outside of the chicken, not the desired effect at all!! So to avoid all this, only when the chicken is cooked and about three to five minutes before it's about to be taken off the bbq should you apply the sauce. This way it has enough time to add flavour to the chicken without searing onto the meat.
Finally a note on the grill itself, rubbing olive oil over the grill will stop the chicken skin from sticking to the grill. In terms of the heat, a low to medium heat works best, definitely not a flaming monster!! So there you have it, a little bit of preparation, and you'll be cooking award winning bbq chicken in no time!