Hey grilling fans! I’m excited to share my top tips for grilling up the most mouthwatering, tender and juicy chicken you’ve ever tasted. In this guide, we’ll cover the age-old question: should you grill chicken skin side up or down?
Grab your favorite BBQ rub and tongs, and let’s get grilling!
- Proper preparation and grill placement are vital for delicious chicken
- Chicken thighs, drumsticks and legs should be grilled skin side down over medium-high heat
- Allow 15-20 minutes for your grill to preheat before cooking to prevent sticking
- Always thaw frozen chicken fully in the refrigerator before tossing it on the grill
Preparation and Placement
When it comes to prepping chicken, preparation is key. For bone-in cuts like legs, thighs and drumsticks, I highly recommend grilling them skin side down over medium-high heat.
Laying the skin directly on the hot grates allows the fat to slowly render out, basting the meat and achieving a blistered, crispy skin.
Be careful not to let the skin burn! Grilling over direct medium-high heat cooks the chicken evenly without drying it out.
Another vital part of prep is brining. Soaking poultry in a saltwater brine before cooking seals in moisture and seasons the meat to the bone. Feel free to experiment with different brine flavors! I like using citrus juices, garlic, herbs and spices like onion powder, paprika and chili flakes.
The brining process couldn’t be easier – simply submerge your chicken pieces in the flavored brine, cover and refrigerate for a few hours. The salt in the solution makes the chicken deliciously juicy and flavorful.
By focusing on proper preparation and placement, your chicken will caramelize beautifully on the grill for finger-licking results.
Thawing and Seasoning
Always make sure your chicken is fully thawed before grilling. Frozen chicken takes longer to cook through and the center could still be icy if you throw it on the grill frozen.
I recommend placing frozen chicken in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. As a quicker option, use your microwave’s defrost setting then allow the chicken to finish thawing in the fridge.
Once thawed, let the chicken sit out and come up to room temperature before hitting the grill. Cold chicken straight from the fridge will take longer to cook. Bringing it to room temp helps it grill up evenly.
Proper seasoning is also imperative for flavorful, juicy chicken. I like to coat my chicken in a savory dry rub before grilling – feel free to get creative with your own spice blend! Typical rub ingredients include smoked paprika, garlic powder, cumin, brown sugar and cayenne pepper. The seasoning permeates the meat for incredible barbecue flavor.
Never underestimate the importance of correct thawing and seasoning for the ultimate grilled chicken!
Preheating and Oiling
Before grilling up any delicious barbecue, it’s vital to preheat your grill thoroughly. Preheating allows for more even cooking and helps prevent food from sticking to the grates.
For gas grills, I recommend cranking up all burners to medium-high and closing the lid for 15-20 minutes. This gets the grates piping hot.
For charcoal grills, spread hot coals evenly across the bottom.
I also lightly coat the hot grates with vegetable oil before adding any chicken. Greasing the surface helps the chicken release cleanly when flipping, giving you those perfect grill marks. Spray or brush oil over the entire cooking surface – no need to drench it.
By properly preheating and oiling your grill, you set yourself up for succulent, evenly cooked chicken every time. Don’t skip these simple but important steps!
Grilling Skin Side Down
Alright, your grill is hot and ready for action – time to grill that chicken skin side down! Laying the skin directly on the preheated grates allows the fat to slowly render out.
As it melts, the fat bastes the meat, keeping it incredibly moist and juicy. The rendered fat also crisps up the skin for an unbelievable crunch in every bite. Grilling skin side down prevents oven charring and helps avoid sudden flare-ups from fat drippings.
For even more flavor, I recommend marinating chicken before tossing it on the grill. Soaking chicken in an acidic marinade tenderizes the meat and infuses tons of flavor.
Try marinating in juices, vinegars, wines, ethnic sauces like teriyaki or yogurt-based marinades.
I also love using zesty herb marinades brightened with lemon, garlic and oregano. Endless possibilities!
Remember, placing chicken skin side down is only one key grilling technique. Proper seasoning and preparation are equally important for phenomenal results.
Flipping and Cooking Time
Once I’ve got that skin nicely crisping up, I’ll flip the chicken occasionally to promote even browning. Use tongs to gently maneuver the chicken when flipping – piercing the skin with a fork will cause flavorful juices to escape!
I cook the chicken until the thickest part registers 165°F on a meat thermometer. The safest option is to grill until the chicken is cooked through completely.
Undercooked chicken can harbor dangerous bacteria. If using charcoal or smoking the chicken, consider indirect heat and repositioning the pieces once initially seared.
This prevents the exterior from burning before the interior cooks fully.
Learn to properly flip chicken and monitor its temperature, and you’ll be rewarded with incredibly tender, juicy meat every grilling session. Never serve pink chicken!
Resting Before Serving
Once my chicken reaches the perfect internal temperature of 165°F, I always let it rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Here’s why resting is so important:
First, it allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. The chicken finishes cooking gently without overcooking. No more dry spots!
Second, resting gives the mouthwatering barbecue flavor time to really develop and penetrate each piece.
Finally, it buys you a few minutes to toss together a quick side dish or salad to complement your masterfully grilled chicken. I love serving it with fresh corn on the cob, grilled veggies and potato salad or macaroni and cheese. The options are endless!
Trust me, resting completes the chicken and takes it from great to truly spectacular. Never skip this step!
Leftover Storage and Safety
Like any type of leftovers, proper storage is critical for enjoying grilled chicken safely. Here are my tips:
After dinner, allow any remaining chicken to cool slightly before transferring to an airtight container or resealable freezer bag. Make sure to remove any bones first! Wrap individual portions well in foil as an alternative.
Refrigerate the leftover chicken right away, within 2 hours after cooking. The fridge prevents bacterial growth.
When reheating, always use a food thermometer to ensure the chicken reaches 165°F again. This kills off any potential bacteria. Microwaving, quick sautéing, or gentle warming in the oven all work well.
Follow my storage guidance and you can continue enjoying your grilled chicken masterpieces for lunches, quick weeknight meals, salads and more!
To Sum Up
Well fellow grillers, we’ve covered all my best practices for grilling up insanely delicious chicken every single time.
From proper thawing to brining methods, preheating, flipping, resting and storing leftovers, you’re ready to impress your family and friends with your amazing barbecue skills.
Got any other grilling questions? Fire away and let’s keep this conversation sizzling!
Now grab those tongs and get grilling!