Italian-Style Charcoal-Grilled Chicken

Yesterday was the best grilling day so far in 2014, so I took advantage by making a simple, grilled, herb chicken.  The recipe uses common bricks, wrapped in foil, to ensure that the skin will brown evenly and completely rendered. The skin was delicious, but tore away in spots because I didn’t loosen it using a metal spatula in step 11. I originally made this recipe about 4 years ago, but again somewhat under-estimated the time required to make the recipe. Because I used a 5-lb chicken (the recipe is timed for a 4-lb chicken), I added 5-minutes to each of the grilling times given in the instructions. The chicken was perfectly cooked and flavorful. Just be sure that you start early enough in the afternoon, allocating 4 hours for a 5-pound chicken. 4-stars.

Beautifully grilled chicken; but takes 4 hours

Beautifully grilled chicken; but takes 4 hours

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball says that you can use a cast iron skillet in lieu of bricks, but I recommend bricks for each of clean-up.
  2. Be sure to use a thermometer to ensure that the chicken is fully cooked. The timings were off by more than 20 minutes, based upon the size of my chicken.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $7.00
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 2:30 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 medium garlic cloves
1 teaspoon finely grated zest from 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons juice
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
4-pound whole chicken
Vegetable oil for cooking grate

  1. In a small saucepan, add olive oil, lemon zest, and pepper flakes. Peel garlic and press the 8 cloves directly into oil. Place saucepan over medium-low burner and bring up to a simmer; about 3 minutes. Meanwhile chop thyme and rosemary, and when oil begins to simmer add 3 teaspoons thyme and 2 teaspoons rosemary and cook for 30 seconds more (reserving 1 teaspoon of each herb for sauce in step 13). Set a fine mesh strainer over a small bowl and strain oil, pressing on solids to extract as much oil as possible (for use in sauce in step 13). Empty solids into another small bowl (to apply onto chicken in step 5), and set aside both bowls.
  2. Butterfly the chicken by cutting through bones on both sides of backbone (with kitchen shears); either discard backbone or save for making homemade chicken stock.
  3. Flip chicken over and use the heel of your hand to flatten the breasts; tuck the wings behind the back. Use your fingers to loosen the skin over the breasts, thighs and drumsticks. Trim away any excess fat to prevent flareups.
  4. In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon kosher salt ( or 1-1/2 teaspoons table salt) and 1 teaspoon pepper. Mix 1 tablespoon salt/pepper mixture (or or 1-1/2 teaspoons if using table salt) with cooled garlic solids.
  5. Use your fingers to evenly spread the salt/garlic mixture under skin on the breast, thighs, drumsticks.
  6. Flip chicken and sprinkle remaining salt/pepper on the meat on the boney side of the chicken.
  7. Set a wire rack in foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Put chicken skin-side up and refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 to 2 hours.
  8. With about 20 minutes remaining, light a 3/4-filled chimney starter filled with charcoal and allow 20-minutes to ignite. Meanwhile wrap 2 bricks with aluminum foil.
  9. After coals become mostly covered in fine grey ash, evenly spread all coals over half the grill, leaving the other half empty. Set the cooking grate and position the wrapped bricks directly over coals. Cover and pre-heat for 5 minutes. Clean the cooking grate (using dish towels to handle the hot bricks); scrape grill and wipe with a wad of vegetable-oil dipped paper towels. You should only be able to hold your hand 5″ above grill grate for 3 to 4 seconds.
  10. Set chicken with skin-side down over the cool side of the grill with the legs facing towards the fire. Using dish towels to handle the hot bricks put them lengthwise over each breast. Cover and cook for 25 minutes; until you see faint grill marks.
  11. Use a metal spatula to carefully ensure that the chicken hasn’t stuck to the grill. Use tongs and a kitchen towel, gripping legs, a flip chicken. Position with skin-side up directly over the coals with the breasts towards the center of the grill. Replace bricks over breasts, cover grill, and continue cooking for 12 to 15 minutes until the chicken becomes well-browned.
  12. Remove bricks (you won’t use them anymore) and flip chicken skin-side down to crisp the skin over the hot coals.  Continue cooking for at least 5 to 10 minutes, moving chicken around to cook evenly and to prevent flare-ups. When the internal temperature of the chicken reaches the proper temperature (165-degrees for chicken breasts and 175-degrees for thighs and drumstick), move to a cutting board and allow to rest, uncovered for 10 minutes.
  13. Meanwhile, add lemon juice into oil reserved from step 1. Add remaining thyme and rosemary, and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Carve chicken and serve, passing the sauce separately.
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