Discover the art of perfectly barbecued chicken on a charcoal grill with our easy-to-follow guide that ensures juicy, flavorful results every time.
Summer is here and it’s time to fire up the grill! Nothing beats the smoky flavor of perfectly grilled chicken, but getting it just right can be a challenge. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, grilling chicken on a charcoal grill can be intimidating.
But fear not! In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to cook juicy and delicious BBQ chicken on your charcoal grill like a pro. So grab your apron and tongs, let’s get started!
Choosing the Right Chicken
When it comes to grilling chicken, choosing the right cut is crucial. You want a cut that will hold up well on the grill and won’t dry out or become tough.
The best cuts for BBQ chicken are bone-in, skin-on pieces like thighs, drumsticks, and wings. These cuts have more fat which helps keep them moist during cooking.
If you prefer white meat over dark meat, go for bone-in chicken breasts with the skin still intact. This will help prevent them from drying out while they cook on the grill.
It’s also important to choose high-quality chicken from a reputable source. Look for organic or free-range options if possible as these chickens tend to be healthier and better tasting than conventionally raised birds.
Best Cuts for BBQ Chicken
Some cuts are better suited for grilling than others, and choosing the right cut can make a big difference in the final result. Here are some of the best cuts for BBQ chicken:
1. Chicken Thighs: This is one of the most popular choices for grilling because they have more fat content which makes them juicier and flavorful.
2. Chicken Drumsticks: These meaty pieces cook up quickly on a hot grill and offer plenty of juicy flavor.
3. Whole Chickens: Grilled whole chickens can be intimidating but they’re worth it! They take longer to cook but provide an impressive presentation when served whole at your table.
4.Chicken Wings : A classic favorite that’s perfect as an appetizer or main course with its crispy skin texture.
Preparing the Charcoal Grill
First, remove the cooking grate and clean any debris or ash from the bottom of the grill. Next, add enough charcoal to cover the bottom of your grill in a single layer.
Use a chimney starter or lighter fluid to light your coals until they are covered with white ash.
Once your coals are hot and ready for cooking, use tongs to spread them out evenly across one side of the grill (for indirect heat) or on both sides (for direct heat). Place an aluminum drip pan under where you will be placing chicken pieces if using indirect heat method.
It’s also important that you have all necessary tools nearby before starting: long-handled tongs for flipping chicken pieces; oven mitts for handling hot items; spray bottle filled with water in case flames get too high; meat thermometer etc.
Marinating the Chicken
Marinating is an essential step in ensuring that your BBQ chicken is juicy and flavorful. A good marinade not only adds flavor but also helps tenderize the meat.
To make a basic marinade, mix together olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper along with any other herbs or spices of your choice such as garlic powder or paprika. You can also use store-bought marinades if you’re short on time.
Place the chicken in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in enough marinade to coat all sides of the meat evenly. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes up to overnight for maximum flavor infusion.
When ready to grill, remove the chicken from the bag and discard any excess liquid before placing it on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb moisture from its surface which will help achieve crispy skin when grilled over high heat later on.
Ingredients for BBQ Chicken
The beauty of this dish is that you can customize it to suit your taste preferences. Here are some essential ingredients that will take your BBQ chicken from good to great:
1. Barbecue Sauce: A good barbecue sauce is a must-have ingredient for any grilled meat, especially chicken.
You can use store-bought or homemade sauce depending on what suits you best.
2. Dry Rub: A dry rub adds flavor and texture to the surface of the meat before grilling, creating a delicious crust when cooked over high heat.
3. Olive Oil: Brushing olive oil on both sides of each piece helps prevent sticking and promotes even browning.
4.Lemon Juice – Lemon juice not only adds flavor but also tenderizes tough cuts like thighs or drumsticks.
5.Garlic Powder- Garlic powder gives an extra kick in terms of flavour.
6.Paprika- Paprika enhances colour as well as flavour.
7.Salt & Pepper – Salt & pepper are basic seasonings which enhance overall taste.
Applying the Dry Rub
A good dry rub is essential for adding flavor and texture to your BBQ chicken. It’s a mixture of spices that are rubbed onto the meat before grilling, creating a delicious crust on the outside while keeping it juicy on the inside.
To make a basic dry rub, mix together salt, black pepper, paprika (smoked or sweet), garlic powder and onion powder in equal parts. You can also add other spices like cumin or chili powder depending on your taste preferences.
Before applying the dry rub to your chicken pieces (breasts, thighs or drumsticks), pat them down with paper towels so they’re completely dry. This will help ensure that all of those flavorful spices stick well to each piece.
Next up is applying an even coat of seasoning over every inch of each piece using clean hands – don’t be afraid to get messy! Once coated evenly with spice blend let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before placing them onto preheated charcoal grill grates. Remember not too much pressure when rubbing as this may cause tearing into delicate skin which could lead juices escaping during cooking process resulting in drier meat than desired.
Grill Temperature and Setup
The first step is to ensure that the charcoal is evenly distributed in the grill. This will help maintain a consistent temperature throughout the cooking process.
Next, you’ll want to light the charcoal and let it burn until it turns white-hot. Once this happens, use tongs or a heat-resistant glove to spread out the coals into an even layer across one side of the grill (for indirect grilling) or both sides of the grill (for direct grilling).
The ideal temperature for cooking BBQ chicken on a charcoal grill is between 350-400°F (175-205°C). To achieve this temperature range, adjust your vents accordingly – open them wider for higher temperatures and close them partially for lower temperatures.
It’s important not only to monitor your thermometer but also keep an eye on how much smoke comes from under each lid as well as any flare-ups that may occur during cooking.
Direct Vs Indirect Grilling
Direct grilling involves cooking the chicken directly over the heat source, while indirect grilling involves placing the chicken away from the heat source and cooking it with indirect heat.
Direct Grilling: This method is best for smaller cuts of chicken that cook quickly such as wings or boneless breasts. The high temperature sears in juices and creates a crispy exterior.
Indirect Grilling: This method is ideal for larger cuts of meat like whole chickens or bone-in thighs that require longer cooking times. By placing them away from direct flames, they cook more evenly without burning on the outside before being fully cooked on inside.
To set up your grill for indirect grilling, simply place a drip pan filled with water under where you will be placing your chicken pieces. Then light only one side of charcoal briquettes (or turn off burners) so that there are two zones – one hot zone where you can sear meat if needed and another cooler zone where food can finish cooking through without getting charred too much by flames underneath it.
Grilling the Chicken
Use tongs to carefully place the chicken on the hot grill grates, skin-side down for bone-in pieces. Be sure not to overcrowd the grill as this can cause uneven cooking and flare-ups.
Cooking times will vary depending on your specific setup and temperature control but a general rule of thumb is 6-8 minutes per side for bone-in pieces or until an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C) has been reached.
During cooking, avoid constantly flipping or moving around the chicken as this can also lead to uneven cooking. Instead, use a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of each piece without touching any bones or fat pockets in order to monitor progress.
If you’re using a marinade that contains sugar-based ingredients like honey or molasses be careful not let them burn by keeping an eye out for charring which could ruin all your hard work!
How Long to Grill Chicken
The cooking time will depend on a few factors such as the thickness of the meat and whether you’re grilling with direct or indirect heat.
For boneless, skinless chicken breasts that are about 1 inch thick, grill them over direct medium-high heat for 8-12 minutes per side until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). For bone-in chicken pieces like thighs and drumsticks that are about ¾ inch thick, grill them over indirect medium-high heat for approximately 30-35 minutes until they also reach an internal temperature of at least165°F (74°C).
It’s always best to use a meat thermometer to ensure your grilled chicken is cooked through but not dry. Inserting a thermometer into the thickest part of each piece will give you an accurate reading.
Remember that every charcoal grill is different so keep checking your food regularly while grilling.
Monitoring Internal Temperature
This ensures that your chicken is cooked all the way through and safe to eat, while also preventing it from becoming dry or overcooked. The best way to check for doneness is by using a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching bone.
For BBQ chicken, you want an internal temperature between 165°F and 175°F (74°C-79°C). Be sure to take multiple readings in different parts of each piece as they may cook unevenly due to their size or shape.
Remember that cooking times can vary depending on factors such as grill heat intensity, weather conditions, and thickness/size/type of cut used. So always rely on your thermometer rather than just visual cues like color or texture when determining if your BBQ chicken has reached a safe internal temperature.
Basting and Saucing
Basting involves brushing the chicken with a liquid mixture while it cooks on the grill. This helps keep the meat moist and adds extra layers of flavor.
You can use a variety of liquids for basting, such as barbecue sauce, melted butter or oil mixed with herbs and spices.
Saucing is similar to basting but involves applying a thicker sauce towards the end of cooking or after removing from heat altogether. Be sure not to apply too much sauce too early in cooking as this can cause burning due to high sugar content in most BBQ sauces.
When using store-bought sauces, be mindful that they often contain high amounts of sugar which may burn quickly when exposed directly over flames so try adding them only at last few minutes before taking off from grill.
Grill Marks and Finishing Touches
Grill marks not only look great but also add a smoky flavor that enhances the taste of your BBQ chicken. To achieve perfect grill marks, use tongs to rotate the chicken 90 degrees halfway through cooking on each side.
This will create crosshatch patterns that are sure to impress.
For an extra touch of flavor, brush some barbecue sauce onto the chicken during the last few minutes of grilling and let it caramelize for a delicious glaze. Alternatively, you can serve with a side dish or garnish such as grilled corn on cob or fresh herbs like parsley.
Remember that presentation is key when serving up BBQ chicken hot off the grill! Arrange your perfectly grilled pieces on a platter with some colorful sides for an impressive display at any summer gathering or family dinner table.
Resting and Serving
This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more flavorful and tender bite. Remove the chicken from the grill and place it on a clean platter or cutting board.
Tent with foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing or serving whole. When ready to serve, garnish with fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro for added flavor and presentation.
Pair your BBQ chicken with classic sides like coleslaw, potato salad, corn on the cob or grilled vegetables for a complete meal that will impress any guest at your next backyard barbecue. Now that you know how easy it is to make delicious BBQ chicken on a charcoal grill using our guide – get grilling!
BBQ Chicken Safety Tips
Raw chicken can carry harmful bacteria like salmonella, so it’s important to take precautions when handling and cooking it. Here are some essential BBQ chicken safety tips:
- Always wash your hands before and after handling raw chicken.
- Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.
- Make sure the internal temperature of the cooked chicken reaches 165°F (74°C) using a meat thermometer.
- Avoid partially cooking or reheating leftover grilled chicken as this can increase the risk of foodborne illness.
Common Grilling Mistakes
Here are some common grilling mistakes to avoid when cooking BBQ chicken:
1. Not Preheating the Grill: Make sure your charcoal is fully lit and ashed over before adding your chicken to ensure even cooking.
2. Overcrowding the Grill: Leave enough space between each piece of chicken so that they cook evenly without touching.
3. Flipping Too Often: Resist the urge to constantly flip your meat as this can cause it to dry out or stick to the grates.
4. Opening The Lid Too Often: Every time you open up that lid, you let heat escape from inside which will increase cooking time and affect flavor development.
5. Using Lighter Fluid Improperly – If using lighter fluid, use only a small amount in one spot on top of coals then wait for it burn off completely before placing food on grate.
Side Dishes and Pairings
Whether you’re hosting a backyard party or just enjoying a family dinner, the right sides can take your meal to the next level.
Some classic options include coleslaw, potato salad, and baked beans. These dishes are easy to make ahead of time and can be served cold or at room temperature.
For something a little different, try grilled vegetables like corn on the cob or zucchini skewers.
If you’re looking for something lighter, consider serving a fresh green salad with homemade dressing or sliced watermelon for dessert. And don’t forget about drinks! A refreshing pitcher of iced tea or lemonade is always welcome on hot summer days.
Pairing-wise there’s nothing better than an ice-cold beer with BBQ chicken but if that’s not your thing then go for red wine such as Zinfandel which pairs well with smoky flavors; alternatively white wines like Chardonnay work great too!
Grilled Chicken Recipes and Marinades
A good marinade can take your BBQ chicken from ordinary to extraordinary, infusing it with delicious flavors that will have everyone coming back for seconds. There are countless recipes and variations out there, but some popular options include a classic BBQ sauce-based marinade or a tangy citrus-based one.
For something more exotic, try marinating your chicken in a blend of soy sauce, ginger and garlic for an Asian-inspired flavor profile. Or go Mediterranean by mixing olive oil with lemon juice and herbs like oregano or thyme.
When choosing a recipe or creating your own marinade from scratch, keep in mind the type of cut you’re using as well as any dietary restrictions (such as gluten-free or low-sodium). And don’t forget to allow enough time for the meat to soak up all those delicious flavors – at least 30 minutes is recommended but overnight is even better!
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Proper storage and reheating are crucial to ensure the safety and quality of the food. To store leftover chicken, let it cool down to room temperature before placing it in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.
Store it in the refrigerator for up to four days or freeze for longer storage.
When reheating leftover BBQ chicken, make sure that it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before consuming. You can reheat your chicken on a grill by using indirect heat until heated through or in an oven at 350°F (175°C) until warmed thoroughly.
Remember not to leave cooked food out at room temperature for more than two hours as bacteria can grow rapidly between temperatures of 40-140°F (4-60°C).
How long does it take to grill BBQ chicken?
It takes about 9-10 minutes to grill BBQ chicken, flipping the chicken breasts at the halfway point for even sear marks on both sides.
What temperature should I set my charcoal grill for chicken?
Set your charcoal grill for a temperature of 350-375˚ Fahrenheit directly above the grilling area, using an infrared grill thermometer to check before adding the chicken.
Do you charcoal grill chicken skin side up or down?
When charcoal grilling chicken, place it skin side down over moderately low heat to render the fat and achieve crispy skin.
How can I ensure even cooking of chicken pieces on a charcoal grill?
To ensure even cooking of chicken pieces on a charcoal grill, maintain a consistent heat distribution by turning the pieces frequently and positioning them evenly over the hot coals.
What are some tips for marinating chicken prior to grilling on a charcoal grill?
Tips for marinating chicken prior to grilling on a charcoal grill include using acid, oil, and seasoning, allowing it to marinate for at least 30 minutes, and evenly applying the marinade.
How can I prevent flare-ups and burning while grilling chicken on a charcoal grill?
To prevent flare-ups and burning while grilling chicken on a charcoal grill, maintain a medium heat, avoid excess fat, and use indirect grilling techniques.