How many times have you been to a barbecue only to be served sad chicken? What, you may ask, is “sad chicken”?
Oh, we think you know.
Burnt chicken, dry chicken, chicken with no discernable flavor, chicken that looks alright at first and then turns out to be raw in the middle — ah, that might be the saddest chicken of them all. Grilled chicken should be delicious, moist, tender and full of flavor, but all too often, it just isn’t.
But if you're in control, all is not lost. Dry your eyes and read on for everything you need to know about the biggest chicken grilling mistakes and how to fix them.
From the right heat for your bird, to the prep before it even hits the grill, there are a few simple things you can do next time you're cooking chicken.
1. You aren’t brining your chicken.
If you aren’t brining your chicken then you, my friend, are missing out. It takes just a little bit of planning, and the rewards are well worth it. There are two kinds of brine you can use (dry or wet) and which type you use really depends on your preference and how much time you have. Generally a dry brine needs less time on the bird, compared to a wet brine that is best to leave overnight for the most tender and juicy results.
2. You’re cooking on a high heat the entire time.
Some people seem to think that the point of a barbecue is to put on a show — stoke the coals, feed the flame, and throw your poor poultry into the raging fire. Stop this nonsense. High heat is important for crispy skin — everyone’s favorite, right? — but it should be used wisely. Medium-low is the best temperature to use on a charcoal grill (and medium on a gas grill) to end up with both crispy skin and perfectly cooked meat.
3. You’re slathering it in sauces right from the get-go.
Cease your slathering. Put down your mop! By covering your chicken with barbeque sauce from the first moment it hits the grill, you are setting yourself up for burnt disappointment. Barbecue sauce is filled with sugar, which burns quickly. This will not only ruin the flavor of the sauce and the chicken, but will also give you a false sense of when the chicken is cooked through. Hold off on the sauce until the last few minutes of cooking.
4. You’re cooking all of your chicken the same way.
Boneless and bone-in, skinless and skin-on, each kind of chicken is different and should be treated as such. A bone-in, skin-on chicken breast will take significantly more time to cook than one that is boneless. Cooking over a high heat with bone-in chicken significantly increases the risk of serving undercooked chicken that is still raw at the bone. To make things easier, try cooking either all bone-in or all boneless to ensure deliciously even results.
5. You’re not using a meat thermometer.
Too often a piece of grilled chicken looks great from the outside — all grill marks and crispy skin — before you take a bite and discover the truth: It’s raw. How disappointing! Brush those undercooked fears aside by purchasing a good meat thermometer. The FDA-approved internal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees F. You can take chicken off the grill at 160 degrees and allow the chicken to rest, which will allow the rest of the chicken to come up to the right internal temperature before digging in.