Perdue Farms Guide: Cooking Chicken on the Grill
Grilled chicken: It’s a dinnertime staple once the summer months roll around. Whether you need a refresher or a full-on tutorial, this primer will help you hone your technique. Perdue Farms’ Corporate Executive Chef Chris Moyer, CEC,CRC, walks you step by step through the grilling process, from properly seasoning your grill and marinating chicken to cooking up moist, juicy and delicious chicken breasts, thighs, wings and drumsticks every time. Note: Instructions for gas grills.
How to Prepare Your Gas Grill
Grilling the tastiest, tender chicken begins well before you place product on the grill. The secret to perfectly grilled chicken starts with grill prep. Follow these steps:
- Preheat and clean the grill: Turn the grill on high heat, close the lid and let set for approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Preheating the grill allows the grates to heat through and burns off stuck-on particles. Once preheated, lift the grill lid, and using a grill brush, scrape grates clean. Close lid and allow the grill to heat back up.
- Season the grates: Fill a small bowl with olive or vegetable oil. Dip a clean kitchen rag in oil, being sure not to oversaturate, and, using a pair of extra-long stainless steel tongs, run rag along grates.
- Monitor temperature: Using both the grill’s built-in lid thermometer and an oven thermometer placed inside the unit, keep tabs on the grill temperature, ensuring that readings are identical.
- Establish direct and indirect cooking areas: Adjust the flame of each burner to create areas of high heat (where protein can quickly sear) and low-to-no heat (where protein can slowly cook).
- Organize tools and grilling utensils: While the grill is heating, take time to assemble necessary cooking tools, accessories and serveware, paper towels, plastic wrap or aluminum foil and any necessary basting sauces, salt and pepper and seasonings. Note: Choose a high-quality digital meat thermometer, which unlike analog models, does not require calibration or produce false readings.
The Best Seasoning for Grilled Chicken
Seasoning lends flavor as well as helps retain moisture as the chicken cooks. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Marinate chicken for two to four hours per inch of thickness. For larger, more dense pieces, consider marinating overnight. Note: For an overnight process, avoid high-acid solutions, as acid denatures protein and may toughen thinner sections of chicken.
Easy Grilled Chicken Marinade
The best grilled chicken marinade is a mixture of four elements:
- 15% Oil (1.2 oz.)
Low in flavor, olive or vegetable
- 5% Acid (.4 oz.)
Orange or lemon juice, your favorite vinegar or a cultured dairy product (yogurt)
- 40% water or unsalted stock (3.2 oz.)
- 40% herbs and spices (3.2 oz.)
Garlic, ginger, herbs, pepper and salt (preferable large, fresh grind)
Kid-Friendly Grilled Chicken Marinade
Combine a packet of ranch-flavored dressing mix with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar. This will create a marinade for 1 pound of chicken. Follow instructions listed below. To turn up the heat, add cayenne or chili pepper, or a dash or two of your favorite hot sauce.
- Whole bird: Wearing disposable food service gloves and following food safety practices specific to raw chicken, evenly distribute seasoning on the outside of the chicken, inside the cavity and underneath the skin. (Butter or olive oil may also be placed underneath the skin to maintain moisture.)
- Chicken pieces: Place in a large zipper storage bag with marinade and seasonings. Squeeze out as much air as possible (which helps to push seasoning into the meat), seal the bag and place it in the refrigerator. Halfway through the marinating process, shake the bag to redistribute seasoning and thoroughly coat all pieces.
Thirty minutes prior to grilling, remove chicken from the solution and pat dry. Transferring chicken directly from marinade to the grill will cause flare-ups. Wetness also cools the grates and results in sticking.
How to Grill a Whole Chicken
We can’t think of any better way to celebrate a lazy summer Sunday! Cooking a whole chicken on the grill takes time, patience and a willingness to closely monitor both the temperature of the grill and the chicken meat.
Beer Can Chicken on Gas Grill
Turn grill on medium heat. Close the lid and preheat until the grill registers 350 to 375 F.
Pat chicken dry, open a can of pale lager or pilsner, pour half out and insert, tab side up, in the cavity of the chicken. Place chicken in a heat-proof pan to catch drippings. Open the grill lid and place chicken on the grill over indirect heat. Close lid.
As the chicken cooks, the beer will boil, evaporate and form a steam that helps to cook the interior of the bird.
Check several different areas of white and dark meat for doneness. For bone-in chicken, grill until a meat thermometer registers at least 180 to 185 F, which allows the marrow to cook through and meat juices to run clear.
Spatchcock Chicken on the Grill
Using a pair of heavy duty kitchen shears, remove the backbone of the whole bird, open up the cavity and flatten the chicken. Season following directions above.
Turn the grill on medium heat. Close the lid and preheat until the grill registers 350 to 375 F.
Cooking chicken slowly, skin side up, dries the skin so that when chicken is flipped, skin will not stick.
Remove chicken from solution, pat dry and place, bone side down, on the indirect heat area of grill. Monitor temperature of chicken with a meat thermometer, and when chicken is 80 percent cooked through, turn the direct-heat section of the grill to high. When grill thermometer registers 500 to 545 F, move chicken from the indirect to the direct heat area of the grill, placed skin side down. Let cook 1 to 1 1/2 minutes to create grill marks. Check doneness with a meat thermometer. To cook longer, move chicken back to the indirect heat area of the grill. If skin is overbrowning, flip chicken to the bone side and continue cooking.
Grilling Chicken Breasts on a Gas Grill
A classic main course at any backyard barbecue! The secret to moist and juicy chicken breasts is searing first, cooking second. To season chicken: For thin breasts or meat marinated in a high-acid solution, let set for 30 minutes to an hour. If breasts are 1 to 1 1/2 inches or thicker, let set for 2 to 4 hours.
Preheat grill to 500 to 545 F. Grates should be searing hot.
To create checkerboard grill marks: Place chicken breasts, top or “show side” down, on the grill at a slight angle to the grates. After 1 to 2 minutes, lift up one end of breast to check grill marks. When ready, lift chicken breasts off grill and place back on grates, top side down, in the opposite direction of grill marks.
To cook chicken through: Turn the grill temperature down and move breasts, show side up, to the indirect heat zone. Close the lid. Monitor the grill thermometer to ensure that the grill stays at a constant 350 to 375 F. Half way through the cooking process, lift breasts off the grill and place back down in the opposite direction of grill marks on the underside. Open the grill lid and with a meat thermometer check the temperature of chicken every 8 to 10 minutes until done (temperature of meat should register 170 F).
Note: Chicken breasts can be grilled with the lid open; doing so may extend cooking time and lessen the appearance of grill marks.
How to Grill Chicken Thighs, Chicken Drumsticks and Chicken Wings
Skin-on, bone-in chicken cuts are best when slowly cooked on the grill, then quickly seared before serving. Season chicken with marinade of choice, following directions listed above and being sure to season under the skin. Note: It’s difficult for marinade to penetrate chicken wings. Consider grilling as is and once wings are fully cooked, tossing in a sauce.
Turn the grill on medium heat. Close the lid and preheat until the grill registers 350 to 375 F.
Pat chicken pieces dry. Place, bone side down, on the indirect heat area of grill. Monitor temperature of chicken with a meat thermometer, and when chicken is 80 percent cooked through, turn the direct-heat section of the grill to high. When grill thermometer registers 500 to 545 F, move chicken from the indirect to the direct heat area of the grill, placed skin side down. Let cook 1 to 1 1/2 minutes to create grill marks. Check doneness with a meat thermometer. To cook longer, move chicken back to the indirect heat area of the grill. If skin is overbrowning, flip chicken to the bone side and continue cooking.
Note: Dark meat is higher in fat than chicken breast meat. If cooked too quickly, the fibers of the meat will tighten and push natural juices or some of the marinade out. Cooking dark meat slowly will lessen constriction, retain moisture and result in tender meat. For bone-in chicken, grill until a meat thermometer registers at least 180 to 185 F, which allows the marrow to cook through and meat juices to run clear.
Answers to the Most Common Chicken Grilling Questions
Q. How long does it take to grill chicken?
A. Always cook by temperature not by time. The size of breasts, wings, thighs and drumsticks varies from bird to bird. Rely on a digital meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Bone-in products should be cooked to an internal temperature of 180 to 185 F. Boneless, skinless breasts should be cooked to an internal temperature of 170 F.
Q. Can you bake chicken breasts in the oven and finish on the grill?
A. To do so, you would follow directions for reverse caramelization. Cook chicken in the oven as you usually would. When chicken is 75 to 85% cooked through, finish on a searing hot grill (500 to 575 F) to achieve grill marks. Cooking chicken in the oven before grilling offers an advantage in that the oven will dry out the skin so that when pieces are placed on the grill, they won’t stick. If chicken is cooked in a sauce or other liquid, be sure to pat pieces dry before you place them on the grill.
Q. How do you keep grilled chicken moist?
A. Don’t cook too quickly – be patient. If the grill is too hot, meat will tighten, which pushes marinade and natural juices out. Temperature that is too high is the No. 1 reason why chicken dries out. Searing the product first helps to keep moisture inside. Once seared, lower the temperature of the grill (to as low as 350 F) and cook slowly.
Q. Can you grill frozen chicken?
A. It’s not preferable. Here’s why it’s a bad idea: The ice crystals in the fibers of the chicken will melt and cause the product to stick on the grates. Plus, it will take longer than thawed chicken to cook. There’s also the issue of doneness. To fully cook the frozen center, the outside of the chicken may overcook and burn.
Easy Grilled Chicken Recipes
Who says summer is the only time you can fire up the grill? Grilling is an all-season sport! Stock up on our selection of premium chicken, from breasts and wings to drumsticks and thighs, and give these sensational grilling recipes a try!
Meet the Perdue Farms Corporate Culinary Team
Chef Chris Moyer, CEC, CRC, and Chef Shawn Reese, CEC, CRC, bring decades of combined culinary experience to their roles at Perdue Farms. Day to day, the chefs contribute to recipe development, culinary ideation and all culinary aspects of the company business. Along with keeping a close eye on emerging trends, new flavors and innovations in the industry, Chefs Chris and Shawn are involved in food photography for Perduefarms.com and head up planning and preparation of meals for both internal corporate functions and external consumer-focused events. The duo represents Perdue Farms and its brands at food shows across the country and remain 100% focused on a positive consumer experience with Perdue Farms products. "We truly love what we do," they say, "and it is exciting to be in an environment that allows us the freedom to be innovative."LEARN MORE