While barbecues sound like a fun occasion to spend time with friends and family, chatting away and devouring delicious meat. However, this gaiety can soon fall apart if the meat is not grilled properly. Nonetheless, the allure of tender juicy meat, perfectly seasoned, and with just a hint of smokiness is a temptation far greater than the risks. Even grilling a tricky protein like chicken cannot tip the scales. Therefore, instead of fearing the process, let us learn the perfect technique to BBQ chicken on a charcoal grill.
The completely cooking process is divided into three main parts:
- Marinating and seasoning
- Prepping the grill
- Grilling the chicken
Acing each part is as important as the other is because messing up even a single step can destroy all your handwork in putting forward a delicious meal.
Step 1: Marinating and seasoning
There are numerous spice rubs and marinades available out there. You can opt for store bought options or homemade flavours for your BBQ. At the end of the day, all that matters is cooking mouth-watering charcoal grilled chicken.
We will be discussing three popular BBQ chicken recipes today to bring variety to your palate.
Chicken Tandoori Tikka
A South Asian dish that will tease and tantalise your taste buds; giving you a burst of flavours in each bite.
- Chicken tikka pieces
- Salt to taste
- Red chilli powder
- Chaat masala
- Kashmiri red chilli powder
- Garam masala powder
- Yogurt (whisked)
- Ginger and garlic paste
- Cumin seeds (roasted & crushed)
- Coriander seeds (roasted & crushed) Zarda ka rang (Yellow food color)
- Lemon juice
- Vegetable oil
- Add shallow cuts to the chicken pieces.
- In bowl, add all the ingredients and whisk before adding in the chicken tikka pieces.
- Marinate the chicken for 4 hours or leave overnight in the refrigerator.
- Heat the charcoal grill and cook the chicken until done, while basting with oil after intervals.
Texas Style Grilled Chicken
For those who are not into brisket or red meat, grilled chicken can become your go-to meal when craving authentic Texan cuisine. It is fiery, it is hot, and it is Smokey and flavourful.
- Whole chicken or chicken cut in halves
- BBQ sauce
- Dry rub
Salt, chilli powder, brown sugar, ground black pepper, ground mustard, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, ground cayenne pepper.
- Use a paper towel to pat out excess moisture from the chicken.
- Season both sides of the chicken with the dry rub and put on the grill.
- Grill both sides of the chicken until cooked.
- Towards the end, baste both sides of the chicken with BBQ sauce while on the grill.
Grilled Italian Chicken
A fragrant herb based recipe with clean flavours coming from the heart of Italy.
- Skinless boneless chicken breasts
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Flat leaf parsley chopped
- Fresh rosemary minced
- Fresh thyme chopped
- Dried sage
- Garlic chopped
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
Note: If fresh herbs are unavailable, they can be substituted for dry herbs in the recipe.
- Blend all ingredients to make a marinade for the chicken.
- Leave the chicken in the marinade for 2 to 2 and a half an hours.
- Grill the chicken until perfectly cooked, and let it sit so the chicken stays tender and juicy.
These were just some of our selections; there are many more recipes that you can follow. Even a simple salt and pepper seasoning with a BBQ sauce baste can taste incredibly good. The credit for this mostly falls to the charcoals, as they not only enhance the original seasonings on the meat, but also adds a Smokey delicious touch, whilst allowing the meat to stay succulent, if cooked correctly.
Step 2: Prepping the grill
The first thing to do here is to thoroughly scrub, clean and rinse all part of the grill inside out to remove any dripping. Be sure to remove any traces of cleaning fluid.
Dry out all parts of the grill thoroughly before assembling it, so there are no traces of water in it that might die down the coals.
Soak the coals in lighter fluid for three minutes prior to lighting them. You can use the chimney starter technique that is much appreciated by BBQ enthusiasts today. Moreover, after lighting the coals transfer them to the grill.
You can also use the pyramid method. Stack the coals to form a pyramid shape in the centre of the grill to allow maximum airflow so the coals can burn efficiently, and with less smoke.
Spray a light coating of lighter or starter fluid on the charcoal, to soak them. Keep the lighter fluid aside and let the coals soak in the liquid for at least a minute before lighting them up like a Christmas tree.
Some experts can also light coals without any lighter fluid. They only use an old newspaper, and fan the coals to regulate oxygen. However, if you have not practiced this before then do not keep your guest waiting by wasting time trying to light the grill without any starter fluid.
Use a grill tool or tongs to move the coal around. So the heat evenly distributes and all the charcoal burn. Let the red-hot lumps settle until the aggressive crackle has somewhat steadied.
Next, if you want to add dimension to the Smokey flavour, you can also add in wood chips. However, the wood chips need to be soaked in water overnight so they steadily smoke and do not burn out quickly.
While the grill is heating, it is the best time to clear any residue off the grill using a brush to remove all meat traces from your last BBQ.
After cleaning out the grill, grease it with cooking oil. You can dip paper towels in oil and use a tong to grease it, or you can use an oiling brush to grease the grill. Don’t worry about any flare ups that might occur during the process.
Once the grill is heated, centre all coals so the temperature on the sides is comparatively lesser than the centre. Also, add some lighter fluid if you feel the coals have burned out.
Step 3: Grilling the chicken
One important thing to remember when cooking chicken on a charcoal grill is that different cuts have different cooking times and heat requirements.
- Whole chicken (5 to 7 pounds)
- Indirect Medium heat
- 18 to 25 mins on each side
- Capon (4 to 8 pounds)
- Indirect Medium
- 15 to 20 mins on each side
- Breast (6 to 8 ounces)
- Direct Medium to High heat
- 10 to 15 mins on each side
- Boneless Breast (4 ounces)
- Direct High heat
- 6 to 8 mins on each side
- Legs or Thighs (4 to 8 ounces)
- Direct Medium to High heat
- 10 to 15 mins on each side
The middle of the grill where the most coals are is where your chicken will receive direct high heat. As you move towards the sides, the severity and impact of the heat will lessen.
Therefore, it is necessary to align your cuts in such a way that they receive their required heat. Keeping your meat on the grill for too long can dry it out. However, you cannot even expose all types of chicken cuts to direct high to direct medium heat or their exterior will burn, but the insides will remain raw.
No one wants burnt, dried out or raw chicken so you need to be extra careful. If you are unsure about how long to cook then time how long you are grilling each side.
A thermometer can also be of help if you are used to cooking in a controlled environment and are not that savvy using a charcoal grill. Another thing that amateurs need to keep in mind is that they can use oil to baste their meat. It will help add some colour to their handiwork.
Also, be sure never to directly cut or serve the meat. Let it sit for a couple of minutes so the heat regulates and the juices in the chicken can stay inside. Cutting the chicken right off the grill will make its juices flow out, leaving the meat dry and chewy. If the meat is dried out from certain places and moist from others, it will spoil the whole taste and texture of the grilled chicken.
Using a charcoal grill might seem like an out-dated cooking technique, but the flavor of the meat that is cooked over charcoal and its salivating good smell is what has kept this method in the hot favorites around the world even today.
Although this cooking technique has been in the world for a long time, it is certainly not easy. Cooking chicken over a charcoal grill is not easy. It requires a lot of practice, precision and following of all the steps. One small blunder can spoil your completely hard work. However, do not let this intimidate you.
Practice, practice and practice until you master the art of cooking chicken on a charcoal grill.