Best Ways to Prepare Different Types of Chicken on the Grill

Best Ways to Prepare Different Types of Chicken on the Grill

Chicken has a thin line between perfectly cooked, tender goodness, and so dry that you wouldn’t want to eat it even if you douse it with a ton of barbecue sauce.

Realizing that you don’t like grilled chicken even when it is perfectly cooked? 

The Secret Sauce: A Meat Thermometer

Grilling has a long history, and has used a variety of different containers and types of contact with heat, but the premise has always been the same: get the meat to a high enough temperature to where it won’t hurt you. Chicken, infamously, needs to be cooked well all the way through to prevent disease or illness from the food to transfer.

You need to invest in a thermometer if you’re going to cook good chicken, because cooking chicken for too long will absolutely ruin the stuff beyond rescue from any amount of sauce, and cooking chicken for not long enough can be really dangerous. Chicken needs to be cooked to 165, measured by putting a thermometer into the deepest part of the chicken but not touching the bone. The bone can easily heat up more than the surrounding meat and so you can get a false 165 from going too far into the chicken.

Armed with a quality thermometer, you can grill chicken to perfection, never really overcooking it but also making it safe to eat.

Different Cuts of Chicken

Chicken Breast

There are three secrets to a great grilled chicken breast:

  • Don’t overcook it
  • Don’t overcook it
  • Have a great marinade

The marinade has a lot of wiggle room. After all, it’s just the liquids and spices that will add the extra fun kick to the meat. It’s best to find a good base marinade and then experiment with variations from there on out. Chicken remember naturally lacks a lot of the salt and savory flavor that other kinds of beef and pork have, even without heavy seasoning. You’ll have to help chicken out a little bit with the right kind of marinade. Using marinades that have a good salt or umami characteristic will drastically increase the savory vibe that the chicken has. Good spices for this are garlic powder, cumin, and even a little bit of turmeric. Also, adding heat to chicken through hot sauce is a great way to bring out extra flavors. Even if you aren’t trying to grill a spicy chicken, try adding just a touch of hot sauce to the marinade.

Photo by Denis Agati on Unsplash

Chicken Thighs

The bone makes all the difference for how long you’re going to want to cook the chicken thigh. You should be grilling for about 8 minutes in a situation where the bone is not in, and up to 10-13 minutes to make sure that they are cooked all the way through when the bone is left in. Of course, as with any piece of chicken, your thermometer is going to be your most useful tool for determining when the thigh is all the way cooked. Be warned, however, that the thigh has some odd shapes, bones, and tendons going on inside. This can make it a bit more difficult to get an accurate temperature reading, so you may want to poke the bird in a couple of different places before calling it done.

Chicken Wings

Wings are an awesome snack for the perfectly-run tailgate grill. Word of advice: wings are a little bit small and can be hard to handle on the grill, so you’ll want to have a good pair of fitted grill gloves to avoid losing any wings.

Grilled wings are an absolute treat, and you can vary this simple recipe with your favorite flavors to get the exact kind of wings that you’re looking for! Get your grill started, and dust the wings with salt, pepper, and a little bit of garlic powder. You want to evenly coat all of the wings with the mixture.

The key to popping off great chicken wings on your grill is to keep the wings close together. In fact, you want the wings to be touching each other on the grill. Now, sure, you’re thinking that this flies in the face of everything you’ve ever been told about grilling. But the reason that you huddle the wings (yes, like your favorite sports team) is so that the wings give off a bit of steam to each other. It prevents them from drying out. You’ll want to cook the wings for anywhere from 15-25 minutes, depending on how hot your grill gets up to. Flip the wings every 5ish minutes so that they cook evenly.

Need the perfect wing sauce? Heat about 6 tablespoons of butter, about a half cup of hot sauce, a tablespoon of vinegar, and a tablespoon of honey in a small pan. Stir the sauce to combine. Now take the wings off the grill and generously toss them around in the sauce that you’ve just made. After they’ve been tossed and doused in the sauce, put them back on the grill for a couple of minutes to crisp up the exterior and burn off the excess moisture. If you like dryer, more charred wings you can take a bit longer. If you like your wings moist and shiny, just a minute will do.


How to Get Perfect Sear Marks

There are two ways that you can grill: lid open and lid closed. When you opt to grill with the lid open, you’re choosing to sear the meat, introducing fresh heat and getting the exterior nice and charred. When you go with the lid closed, you’re creating a heat convection which will help cook the interior of the meat.

There are a few different ways to get the perfect sear marks. Sear marks can actually come from a couple of different things--it might be residue that is on the grill, or it might mean that the marks are an extra burnt part of the meat. You can get simple sear marks by taking meat that is cooked all the way through with convection and then pressing it down on a hot, untouched part of the grill. Be careful though, because applying too much pressure can cause the meat to lose some of its juices. The best way to get good sear marks is to continue to line up the meat in the same spot on the grill when you flip it back and forth. This will create a natural sear in the hotter spot of the meat.

General Tips

Some people like grilled chicken, while others appreciate the flavor of grilled chicken only when it is paired with some non-chicken foods! 

With beef, you want to throw the meat on only after things heat up a little bit. This prevents the exterior of the beef from cooking too quickly and drying out compared to the center. Grill chicken tip: You don’t run as much of a risk when grilling chicken. Use the right torch to get everything fired up, then get your chicken on once things begin to warm up.