Barbecue chicken is a very popular barbecue in the world, if not the most popular. This act of placing chicken parts or entire chicken on the grill brings a lot of people together and helps them connect. A perfect feeling for the taste buds that will leave you wanting more. But then, it requires skills to pull it off and also cooking it to the perfect timing. But for how long?
Heat your grill to between 425°F and 450°F for chicken breasts. This should take about 10-15 minutes. To properly cook your chicken breast, grill for about 9-10 minutes, flipping halfway through. That is, grill each side of the chicken breast for 5 minutes each.
This will ensure the heat gets even down to the center, plus an added sear mark on both sides of the chicken. Remember you are cooking to an internal temperature of 165°F, so always confirm that the chicken is properly cooked by checking the internal temperature.
How do you keep chicken breast moist?
Between chewing a thoroughly dry, crispy grilled chicken and a crispy chicken with a moist juicy interior that gives you all the taste bud experience in full, I am quite sure you would prefer the latter. Well, to get that, you have to cook a moist chicken. But how do you do that?
There are several ways of keeping your chicken breast moist before cooking. They include the following;
- Soaking the chicken in marinade. This softens the chicken as it absorbs the moisture, and adds flavor to it depending on the ingredients used in the marinade. For good results, soak the chicken in the marinade overnight, but if that is not possible, soak it for not less than 4 hours. This is enough time for the chicken to have soaked up enough moisture from the marinade to keep it moist throughout the cooking process to the end.
- Another way of keeping your chicken moist before cooking is to use a salt solution. Soaking the chicken in a solution of salt, water, and maybe a pinch of sugar will keep it moist. The salt increases the concentration of the water outside the chicken, causing moisture to flow from the high concentration area to the low concentration area which in this case is the chicken. You can also add spices to the water, depending on what you want to achieve, to spice up your chicken as it absorbs moisture. You can end up making your chicken too salty if you do not brine it carefully. All it takes is 30 minutes in a simple brine solution of 1/4 cup kosher salt dissolved in 4 cups water. This is all the time you need for the chicken breasts to absorb enough moisture so they can better hold up to the heat of the grill without drying out.
- Basting the chicken also keeps it moist. Basting is the act of pouring sauce, which could be oil or butter, on what is being cooked while it is cooking. Basting your chicken helps in adding moisture to the chicken and also seals the existing moisture inside, keeping it moist. A good way to make this effective is to baste the meat every 20 minutes. Or you can do it every 30 minutes, whichever one works for you.
- You can tenderize your chicken by beating or pounding it to flatten the size. This helps break down the meat fibers, making the chicken cook faster before the moisture dries out. Use the method for boneless chicken only as you might end up piercing the bones in a chicken that has one.
While grilling your chicken, if you want to help in keeping it moist, you should observe the following:
- Never cook frozen chicken directly as it may result in a dry and tasteless dish. Cook only room temperature chicken. This helps a lot in keeping your chicken moist. Allow the chicken to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes after removing it from the fridge until it reaches room temperature before you proceed to cook. Cooking a frozen chicken directly from the fridge may result in a dry and tasteless dish as it will take longer to cook properly down to the frozen center; this results in overcooked meat drained of its moisture.
- Allow the grill, pan, or whatever you are using to heat up before placing the chicken in. Putting the meat from the beginning before it fully heats up will cause a lot of moisture in the meat to start to evaporate while the pan heats up. So allow it to reach the right cooking temperature before putting the meat inside. This way, the chicken starts cooking immediately without losing its moisture unnecessarily.
Do you oil chicken before seasoning?
It is a common practice to lightly oil and coats the surface of the meat with a high smoke point oil before adding the chicken to the grill. This helps to prevent the chicken from drying and sticking to the grill surface. And aside from that, the oil adds a kind of flavor and when combined with spices.
Olive oil is preferably used for this because of its flavor. Now, we also have to apply our spices to the chicken before putting it on the grill. But which comes first, the oil or the spice?
Either the oil first or the spice, both ways have their ups and downs depending on what you are using. If you have very fine powdery spice, rubbing them in before applying the oil will be better as oil first on the surface will not ensure even spread of the spice since they will clump together when mixed with oil.
But for large particles of seasoning, adding oil first will make the surface sticky and moist enough for them to stick to the chicken, unlike a dry surface where they will likely fall off.
If you want to get your fine spice inside the chicken, it is advisable to rub it in so it gets into the hidden parts before applying the oil.
Do you grill chicken with the lid open or closed?
Opening the grill lid or leaving the lid closed when grilling are options that can both affect positively or both be of negative impact to whatever you are cooking. So knowing when to leave the grill lid open or when to close it might seem insignificant, but trust me, when done properly, it does wonders to the overall taste and texture of your chicken.
Now, what you should know about grills is that when the lid is open, the heat coming from the bottom of the grill, which is always rising upwards, goes up into the open without any obstruction.
When the lid is closed, the heat does not escape into the environment, rather it hits the lid and spreads all through the grill making the inside temperature a bit steady and higher than when the lid is opened. So you see, the grill lid staying open or closed has a role to play too in grilling that chicken.
So, the question of whether to leave the grill lid open or closed when grilling chicken depends on the size of the meat you are grilling. For thin pieces of meat, it is advisable to leave the grill lid open if your target is to have a crispy and juicy piece to bite on.
If the grill lid is closed when grilling a thin piece of meat, the rising heat does not escape into the atmosphere but rather fills up space in the grill compartment. This makes the heat come at what is been cooked from all sides – up, down, left, and right, rather from just one side – underneath from the grill heat source.
Now, this even distribution of heat causes the meat to get cooked almost evenly, meaning the center of the meat will cook properly before the outside of the meat is dried, browned, and crispy. But if you grill with the lid open, the heat will be rising to the open and just to one side, the underside, of the meat.
This makes it possible to dry and crisp the outside of the meat to taste before the center of the meat gets properly cooked.
Closing the lid will speed up the cooking time for a thicker piece of chicken making it cook more evenly too. Thicker meat pieces have more center to cook and a covered grill will ensure that it gets enough heat to make that happen.
With an open lid, while grilling, the outside of the chicken can get cooked and dried faster while the inside is still undercooked since heat is coming from just one side and is enough to evenly cook the chicken. And I am sure you will not like to have such on your plate to eat.
Now, keeping your lid open or close when grilling your chicken is a choice you have to make depending on what you are cooking and what you want it to look, taste, and feel like. You can keep the lid closed, keep it opened or decide to combine both ways to achieve what you want.
There is a popular strategy known as the “sear” strategy that combines leaving the lid opened and leaving it closed to grilling thick meat pieces. It requires a two-zone grill setup. First, you scorch the surface of the meat by grilling it directly over the flame to a partially burnt blackened surface. Now you have a cooked crispy outside with an undercooked inside.
The meat is now moved from the direct heat to the indirect heat zone where the center is cooked properly with the lid turned down to ensure the heat from the direct heat zone spreads evenly to the meat without searing the outside of the meat. Or you can do the reverse of the process, cook first with the lid down before searing with the lid opened. This known as the “reverse sear” strategy
Can you cook chicken straight from the fridge?
Preserving your chicken in the fridge is not bad. And cooking it straight from the fridge should not be that bad, right? You can cook your chicken straight from the fridge quite alright, but, you should not do it if you want to have perfectly cooked chicken inside and outside.
Tempering your chicken after removing it from the fridge by allowing it to sit out for a while to get to room temperature before cooking, has an added advantage over cooking it straight from the fridge. One key advantage of this is that it increases the temperature of the chicken and this helps it to cook faster or reach the cooking temperature faster.
Another one is that it helps to ensure the chicken cooks evenly inside and out as opposed to a frozen chicken getting heat mainly on the outside while the center of the meat is still very cold.
You might want to cook straight from the fridge because you feel the chicken can get contaminated or contaminate some other things while you allow it to sit. Well, it is good to be health-conscious.
However, you don’t need to worry about that. You just have to be careful. Ensure you keep the chicken in a place it would not come in contact with other foods or things and/or not for too long; It should not get up to 3 hours. Do not forget to wash your hands after handling it, or you will be helping to do the contamination yourself.