Naked Grilled Chicken

May 5, 2013

I usually prefer to leave the skin on chicken because it adds a lot of flavor to what can be an otherwise bland piece of meat. But one man’s blandness is another man’s blank canvas, and Chris Kimball fulfilled his promise that I wouldn’t miss the skin. He cuts slits into the chicken to allow the flavors to penetrate, and cook more evenly. His reason for removing the skin is as follows: the fat rendering from the skin causes flare-up which cause the exterior of the chicken to become fully cooked while the interior is still raw. Without the fear of flare-ups, the chicken can be cooked directly over the hot coals. The result is an extremely flavorful Grilled Lemon Chicken with Rosemary; 4-stars.

Grilled without the skin.

Grilled without the skin.


  1. Chris Kimball’s original instructions were unclear that the butter mixture and past are two separate things. The paste gets applied just before you light the charcoals, and the butter gets applied during the final stages of grilling the chicken. I added some clarification in my descriptions below.
  2. While his recipe calls for a 3 1/2-to-4-lb chicken, I had to feed a gaggle of kids. I used a 7-pound chicken. Of course, this meant a longer cooking time. So I created a cook zone on my grill, and moved the chicken there once the exterior was cooked. It cook an extra 15 minutes for the rest of my bigger chicken to reach an internal temperature of 165-degrees.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $8
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time: 4:00 PM. Dinner time: 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s version of this recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

1 whole chicken
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Salt and pepper
2 lemons
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  1. Use kitchen shears to open up your chicken by cutting out and discarding the backbone (I saved mine for making chicken stock). Open up the chicken and press down on the breasts until it flattens. Remove the skin from the chicken using paper towels to hold the slippery skin and kitchen shears to snip the parts that you can’t pull off, but leave the skin on the wings.
  2. Fold the wings back and tuck them behind the back and turn drumsticks to face inwards. Cut 1/2″-deep slits every 1/2″ apart in both the legs and the breasts with a chef’s knife. Insert two 12″ skewers to hold the chicken together during cooking. Insert the first skewer into the thigh, the bottom of the breast and then through the opposite thigh. Second, insert the second skewer 1″ lower through the thigh/drumstick of both sides. I didn’t understand completely, but really all you are trying to do is hold the chicken together while cooking.
  3. Brine the chicken in 3 quarts of water mixed with 3/4-cups of table salt and 3/4-cups granulated sugar. Refrigerate for up to an hour.
  4. Meanwhile, add the paste ingredients to a small bowl. Zest your 2 lemons, and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1-1/2 teaspoons minced rosemary, 1 teaspoon Dijon, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. This paste is to be applied is step 5. In a small saucepan set over low burner, melt the 2 tablespoons butter, and add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon, and another 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Once the butter has melted, remove from burner and juice one of the lemons into the pan. Stir to combine, and set aside until the final stages of grilling in step 8 (basting the chicken 3 times).
  5. When the chicken is done brining, use paper towels to pat it dry. Rub 1/2-teaspoon of the past into the underside of the legs, then flip the chicken breast-side-up, and rub the remaining paste over the entire chicken, especially working some into the slits.
  6. Completely open the upper and lower vents of your grill, and start a heaping chimney starter filled with charcoal. When the coals have ignited; about 20 minutes; empty the coals over half the grill leaving half the grill without any coals. Pre-heat the grill for 5 minutes and scrape the grill clean.
  7. Put chicken on grill directly over coals with the breast-side down. Also place the lemon wedges directly over the coals. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes until the chicken becomes lightly charred. Remove the lemon from the grill and put them on a small plate for serving.
  8. Turn the chicken leaving directly over the coals, then brush with about 1/3 of the butter mixture (you will baste the chicken 3 times). Place a large sheet of aluminum foil directly on top of the chicken, which will make the chicken cook faster. If your butter mixture has become too thick, you can loosen it up by putting the saucepan over the cooler side of the grill. Continue to cook with the lid on for another 8 to 10 minutes to brown the second side. Move chicken to the cooler side of the grill, baste for a second time with half the remaining butter, and continue to cook, covered with foil and the grill cover on, until the internal temperature of the breasts reaches 160-degrees and the dark meat reaches 175 degrees. This will take about 10 minutes for a small chicken, but my larger chicken took another 20 minutes.
  9. Remove chicken from grill and allow to rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes; tented with foil. Remove skewers and cut apart the breasts, thighs and drumsticks. Serve immediately with the grilled lemon wedges.
Resting just before carving.

Resting just before carving.

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