Whole chickens are one of my favorite things to grill. They’re tasty, juicy, and here in Norway, cheap. A lot of people grill chicken breasts only, which I think is REAL boring. They don’t taste much unless you do a lot to them, and they dry out easily unless you brine them and do other secret tricks. A whole chicken is much more forgiving in terms of temperature, and much tastier too. Also, I am a leg man (I prefer the thighs with their juicy, darker meat). This recipe makes use of the butterflying technique which essentially lets you flatten the whole bird, making it easier to cook it evenly and shortening cooking time for those weeknight BBQs. I get my chicken thighs and legs, and there’s two nice chicken breasts for my wife and the kids. Everybody wins with whole chicken!
Skill level: Easy
Grilling method: Direct/indirect
Grill temperature: About 200-250 degrees centigrade (390-480F)
Equipment: Fish basket (optional), mesquite wood chips or chunks for smoke
You’ll need to get hold of:
A whole, raw chicken
Your favorite home-made BBQ rub (or a store-bought one)
Some hot chili sauce
How you do it:
- Have a hot grill waiting (don’t you always?)
- Prep the chicken; trim off unneccesary fat, cut out the backbone and remove wishbone (Great TVWB instruction video here). Finally rinse under cold water and dry with paper towels. I tend to use disposable vinyl gloves for this whole process. Always take extra care with hygiene and cleanliness when working with raw poultry!
- Make yourself a simple wet rub/sauce mixture. I mix up my home-made rub-a-dub with some rapeseed oil and some hot asian chili sauce I buy from the local Turkish convenience store. Use what you have access to, but the goal is to end up with a nice sticky sauce that can be brushed on the chicken, and has the heat level you prefer
- Once the sauce is ready, brush the chicken with it, make sure to get good coverage everywhere
- (Optional) If you have time, cover the chicken in clingfilm and let it marinate in the fridge for some hours or even overnight
- (Optional) When the grill is nice and hot and ready, you can put the chicken in a fish basket like on the above pic. It’s not necessary by any means, but it’s kind of a neat look, and i makes it a lot easier to flip the chicken during grilling. It also makes it stay nice and flat throughout the process, easing even cooking.
- Grill it! I like to have a lot of mesquite smoke flavor on my chicken, so before I put it on the grill, I like to throw in some soaked mesquite chips on the coals. Once the smoke gets started, I grill the chicken over direct heat, 3-4 minutes on each side, to get a nice brown, crispy texture on it. If you get flame-ups (you will), then keep the lid on and it should be fine
- Once the chicken is nicely browned, move it over to the indirect side of the grill and leave it there until it’s done, flipping and basting it with your wet rub every ten minutes.
- How do you know when it’s done? There are tons of methods for this. Wiggling the thigh joint is one, you’ll find many others. I use a Thermapen (www.thermapen.com) and I recommend you also use that or some other thermometer. The good thing about a Thermapen style thermometer is that it’s fast and has a thinner probe. This means I can check the temperature in several places. It’s the only real way for an amateur chef to know when the temperature is just right.
- I usually cook my chicken to 75 degrees centigrade (167F). Salmonella is not a big problem here in Norway, but I know it is in many countries, so follow your local recommendations here for safety
- Always let the chicken rest, at least 10-15 minutes before cutting into it. It will be worth the wait.