Butterflied Chicken

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!

Time: 60-90 minutes total

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.

Quick tip: Spring onions on the grill

Spring onions or scallions are one of my favorite sides. They go well with almost anything. However, I had a lot of problems with them rolling of the grate and into the coals, or rolling off the grill completely sometimes when grilling in parks or at the beach. I picked up this nifty little trick from author and chef Steven Raichlen ( www.barbecuebible.com ). It made me feel like an idiot not to have though of this myself, but sometimes the simplest solution is the hardest to find.

Use bamboo skewers or any other skewer and do them like you see in the below pic. Also makes turning them much quicker and easier. This also works great with asparagus and other long, skinny things you put on the grill. For spring onions, while we’re at it, I do this, brush them with olive oil, and  sprinkle with Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

Grilled Peppers

A pretty essential classic. Italian inspired, goes great with all meats as a side, but can also be used in salads and such. Can be made ahead and kept in the fridge, which I think is key for a BBQ side dish, as that means I can focus 100% on the BBQ when that’s what I’m doing. This is how I normally do it:

Grilling peppers over direct heat

Time: 45-60 minutes total
Skill level: Easy
Grilling method: Direct
Grill temperature: About 200-250 degrees centigrade  (390-480F)You’ll need to get hold of:
Peppers (I like to mix up the colors for visual appeal)
A lemon
Some good olive oil of the expensive kind
Salt/pepper

How you do it:

  • Have a hot grill waiting (don’t you always?)
  • This step is optional: Cut the top and bottom parts off the peppers. Slice the peppers lengthwise. I usually slice them in three or four slices, depends on the shape of the peppers, but the goal is to make it easy to get even grilling. Sometimes I also grill them whole, but that requires more tong-work
  • Put them on the grill, skin side down, and let them roast until the skin is black and starts peeling. Burning the (pepper’s) flesh a little is not a bad thing
  • When they’re done roasting, put them all in a bowl that you cover with some clingfilm. Let them rest for 30 minutes. This will make the skin loosen much easier due to the moisture being trapped in, and as an added bonus they will be cooler so you don’t burn your fingers in the next step
  • One rested, use your fingers to peel off all (or most of) the skin
  • Cut the pepper pieces into thin strips lengthwise, chuck them in a bowl, drizzle with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste