Grilling enthusiasts know that one of the most versatile meats to prepare at any cookout is chicken. You can dress it up for an upscale meal, or serve it casually for a simple snack on any night of the week. But chicken’s flexibility stretches past its presentation. Check out these tips to learn how to grill the perfect chicken at your next barbecue!
1. Marinades and Seasonings
Like most meats, chicken tastes better when it’s packed full of taste from a flavorful marinade, or plenty of seasoning. Keep the taste buds of your guests guessing by preparing your chicken in several different ways. Making a marinade is often the first step in creating a unique chicken recipe, and our page of marinades and rubs is a great place to get some inspiration for the next day out at the grill. A few simple ingredients can easily change the style of chicken you’ll be having for lunch or dinner. For example, this Fajita Marinade, with fresh thyme and oregano, will create a much different taste for your chicken than this Korean Chicken Marinade that features soy sauce and hot chili paste.
Don’t be afraid to use spices, rubs, and seasonings on your chicken as well. While marinades help infuse taste into the center of your chicken, a good rub will give it that great outside flavor.
2. Searing vs. Indirect Cooking
Once your chicken has absorbed its marinade, it’s finally time for the fun part: firing up the grill. Grilling chicken requires a little bit of patience and familiarity with your grill. Grilling methods like searing and indirect cooking are essential to making the best tasting chicken. The process of searing simply means cooking the surface of your meat at a high temperature to seal in juices and caramelize the sugars found naturally in food. Indirect cooking, however, is just the opposite. This is where you utilize a low-to-medium heat to cook your food, preventing it from burning. Both of these methods are valuable when grilling chicken. Thin cuts of chicken breast require less cooking time, and the higher heat that comes with searing will allow your chicken to make its way from the grill to your plate in no time. Thicker cuts of chicken will require a longer period of time to cook. Rather than using a consistent high heat for a long time, use indirect heat to cook your chicken evenly until it reaches a safe internal temperature. With chicken, you have the option to sear briefly to get those great grill marks, then cook it mostly indirect to finish it off. You can also reverse sear your chicken, allowing you to grill over indirect heat first, then use the high heat at the tail end to achieve those grill marks.
3. Checking your chicken’s temperature
A meat thermometer is one of the most useful grilling accessories to have in your arsenal. Unlike other meats, chicken must reach a higher internal temperature in order to be fully cooked. Serving chicken before it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit is not safe. Once you believe your chicken is ready to be plated, stick your meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken and confirm that the internal temperature meets the minimum safety standard. Do not depend on your grill’s built-in thermometer, thumb tests, the color of juices or other methods, as these can be unreliable. Chicken cannot be served at different doneness levels. Eating anything short of “well done” chicken can pose a health risk. For additional details on minimum internal temperatures of all meats, consult our grilling temperature guide.
4. Types of chicken
Tired of making the same chicken breast on the grill? Lucky for you, there are plenty of ways to enjoy chicken, and each variation offers something unique. Whether you prefer the dark meat of the chicken thighs made in this Wheat Beer Braised Chicken Thigh recipe, or you’re a fan of the whole chicken shown in this Beer Can Chicken recipe, you can’t go wrong. Your guests will be able to experience chicken in a way they haven’t before, putting a new twist on this cookout classic. An honorable mention also goes out to chicken wings and roasted chicken as two favorites that can be found across plenty of backyard barbecues. Take a look at all of our chicken recipes on the poultry section of our recipes page.
5. Sauce is the boss
No chicken recipe is complete without a healthy amount of sauce. Whether you like to brush it on while the chicken is still on the grill, or add a little onto the side of your plate, there’s no denying that the sauce reigns supreme at any barbecue. Because your chicken is already packed full of flavor from your marinade, seasoning, and searing, you can opt to leave the sauce back in the kitchen, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, try creating a new signature sauce for your next cookout. From our Bourbon Whiskey BBQ Sauce to our Dijon Barbecue Sauce, the only regret you’ll have after making these sauces is that you hadn’t made them sooner.
Chicken is an incredibly versatile meat, and now that you know the basics on how to grill it, it’s up to you to perfect your chicken recipe! Check out all of the ways you can serve chicken at your next cookout by visiting our Blue Rhino recipes page.