The Czar had a break in the weather to get some grilling in this weekend, and elected to do chicken. Grilled chicken, it may surprise some readers, gives a lot of folks fits and starts; indeed, the Czar is often told by some fairly experienced outdoor cooks that they just don’t do chicken.
It’s not that hard to do, really; and the biggest problem people usually have with chicken—like fish—is overdoing it. Even though people are rightly terrified of under-cooked chicken, there’s no reason to turn it into dry, flavorless cardboard, either. In fact, chicken can be done pretty easily to perfection.
Today, the Czar will explain what he did this weekend in the hopes that it helps you overcome whatever fear you have. Actually, the real recipe here isn’t the sauce but the technique, although the marinade is pretty darn easy and flavorful as well.
1/2 cup of extra virgin
blood olive oil
4 tbs Apple cider vinegar
2 tbs Honey
2 tbs Dijon mustard
2 tsp Sea salt
Mix all that together in a glass bowl and whisk it until the honey dissolves into the oil. You’ll know when it’s ready because it looks like a single liquid instead of an oily mess in the bowl.
Place some boneless chicken breasts into a locking seal bag, and pour all of this goo into the bag. Seal lock it, and then roll the bag around in your hands a few times until everything gets coated. Place the bag in the refrigerator and then go wash your hands. The Czar washes his hands a lot when handling chicken.
After at least a few hours (or even as much as overnight—you really can’t over-marinade anything), and a couple of bag flips later to re-coat everything, you’re ready to grill.
First, if you haven’t, clean and lubricate your grill. Stop stop stop grilling on filthy grates. It’s not good for the food, and makes it harder for you to get consistent results. Don’t just take it from me on this.
When your grill grates are clean and shiny with oil, light it up. For this recipe, I’m recommending a gas grill. The Czar likes to add wood flavor to most recipes and likes his charcoal grill for this. But we’re looking for simplicity here so we’re going with gas. Frankly, it seems like most of you have gas grills anyway. So open the valve, lift the lid all the way, and light up all but one of your burners (always leave one burner off for safety; you’ll see there’s another reason shortly).
When the temperature gets to be 350°, place the chicken breasts on the grill, leaving about a half-inch in between them. The Czar recommends you orient the breasts all the same way so you can keep track of which ones have been turned later. Close the lid. Throw out the marinade in its little plastic bag. You won’t need it anymore. And wash your hands again.
Wait about five or six minutes; then, lift the lid and quickly spin each breast 90°. Quick! Close the lid.
Wait another five minutes and lift the lid. Flip the breasts over. Notice the cool criss-crossy grill marks? Don’t those look great? Now close the lid.
Wait another five minutes. Quickly lift the lid and give them another 90° spin to complete the crisscross searing pattern on both sides. Close the lid and take note of the temperature.
If it’s gone above 400° at this point, lower the burners a little bit. The reason people undercook chicken is because they use too much heat. Keep the temperature at this point between 300° and 350°. There’s no reason to go hotter.
About fifteen minutes later, your chicken is probably done. But here’s how you know for sure: use an instant-read meat thermometer. There’s a lot of these on the market, but most are pretty crappy. The Czar recommends using one that’s as skinny and needle-like as possible, like the one shown here. The Czar’s is analog for accuracy, and is about the size of a quarter.
Select the largest pieces on the grill and lift it up with long tongs. Quickly insert the needle into the meat and hold it steady. It the needle goes past 155°, this piece is done (its actual temperature will finish around 165°). Place it over the burner that’s off. Repeat this for the other pieces of meat: never trust one piece to tell you how the others are (all grills have hot spots that can finish off some pieces while others are still raw). Move all finished pieces to the side and close the lid.
While they continue to finish up, go get a platter or plate. Return, and turn off the burners and the gas. The Czar knows that many of you like to keep your gas valve open when the burners are off, but this is a bad idea: all burners leak slightly, and you’re just wasting LP gas slowly; if you use an NG grill, you’re wasting money and allowing a possible gas build up inside your lid. Always turn off the gas.
Lift the lid, and place the pieces on the platter. Wait five minutes before cutting, because this is where the temperature stabilizes around 165°. They’re done, baby, and they’ll be perfectly white inside (no pink or fleshy patches).
Okay, but what if they aren’t? What if, when you check them, they’re only at 135°? No problem: put them back on the grill and wait another five or ten minutes. The ones that are done are safely resting over the burner that’s off. The rest are still cooking and getting nice and done.
Isn’t there something else we could be doing at the same time?
Absolutely. So the Czar told you there was more than one reason you want to grill with one burner off, and here it is: you can turn your grill into an oven.
Gather the following ingredients:
Bunch of asparagus, hard ends cut off
That’s it. Take a sheet of aluminum foil and place it on your counter. Place the asparagus on top of it, and drizzle sesame oil over them until all spears are lightly covered in it.
When you light the grill a few steps above, place the aluminum foil sheet over the dead burner (with the asparagus on it). As the grill pre-heats, the oil will start to cook the asparagus.
When the chicken is done, so’s the asparagus. Bring it in while the chicken breasts are still finishing up over the cold burner. Place the asparagus on a serving plate, and sprinkle sesame seeds over them. It looks great and reinforces the sesame flavor in the oil.
You haven’t wasted any gas pre-heating, The air over the cold burner is actually about 350° – 400 degrees, and perfectly capable of cooking the asparagus. Just remember that when you start moving finished chicken breasts over to the cold side, you move the asparagus over to make room. If there isn’t enough room on your grill, just take the asparagus in the house since it’s done, and throw out the oily scrap of aluminum foil.
There you are: honey mustard chicken breasts grilled to perfection, and sesame-sprinkled grilled asparagus as a great side.
Again, before the Czar goes away for the day, take note of the grilling process described here. It can be used with so many different types of marinades and sauces, and it results in perfectly grilled chicken: sear for 5 minutes, spin it 90°, sear for 5 minutes, flip it, sear for 5 minutes, spin it 90°, reduce the heat to 300° or so and let it grill for another fifteen minutes. Check the temperature, and move finished breasts to your cold side; leave any unfinished ones on the heat. When they all reach at least 155°, take them off and wait five minutes more for internal temperatures to hit perfection.
They’ll be evenly cooked, extremely moist, and beautifully marked on the top and bottom.