You're probably defrosting your food wrong without knowing it. So here's how to take your chicken from freezer to grill safely. Whether you are using thighs, breasts or a whole bird, your prep begins the night before your dinner. Don't forget to defrost the bird slowly and safely, in the fridge (in a suitable vessel). If you do happen to forget, don't worry - there is a solution! Similar to thawing a frozen turkey at the last minute, you should fill your sink with cold water, submerge your frozen chicken and change out the water every 30 minutes.
Forgetting to brine the bird
If you aren't brining your chicken, then you, my friend, are missing out. It does take a little bit of planning, but the rewards are well worth it. There are two kinds of brine you can use (dry and wet) and which type you use really depends on your preference and how much time you have. Generally a dry brine needs less time on the bird, compared to a wet brine that is best to leave overnight for the most tender and juicy results.
Forgetting to dry before grilling
Drying your protein is an important step when cooking skin-on chicken or chicken that is seasoned simply without any kind of delicious marinade. If your chicken has been in brine or is simply a little damp, make sure you pat it dry with paper towels before you put it on the grill. Not only will seasonings like salt and spices adhere and penetrate the flesh more effectively, but you will also get much nicer crust and color on your chicken. Wet skin causes steam, and that's definitely not something you want when grilling.
Using salt sparingly
If you don't have the time to brine your bird, never fear - it is a delicious but nonessential step, as long as you make sure to season your chicken adequately. Season the outside of your chicken generously and evenly and, if you are grilling a whole bird, don't forget to season the inside (the cavity) as well as the skin - after all, nobody likes a bland dinner.
Slathering the bird in sauce right from the get-go
Cease the slathering! Put down the mop! By covering your chicken with barbecue sauce from the first moment it hits the grill, you are setting yourself up for burnt disappointment. Even the best barbecue sauce recipe is filled with sugar, which burns quickly. Saucing your chicken right away will not only ruin the flavor of the sauce and the chicken, but it will also give you a false sense of when the chicken is cooked through. Hold off on the sauce until the last few minutes of cooking.
Cooking all cuts of chicken the same way
Boneless and bone-in, skinless and skin-on, breast and thigh - each kind of chicken is different and should be treated as such. A bone-in, skin-on chicken breast will take significantly more time to cook than one that is boneless. Cooking over a high heat with bone-in chicken significantly increases the risk of serving undercooked chicken that is still raw at the bone. To make things easier, cook either all bone-in or all boneless chicken; that way you can get deliciously even results.
Grilling meat and vegetables together
We love a great kebab recipe, but skewering your chicken and your vegetables together on one stick is a great way to get food poisoning. Cross contamination is real, and putting raw chicken right next to raw vegetables will spread germs in no time. Not only can skewering your meat and veggies together make you sick, it will also lead to an unevenly cooked meal. Chicken, mushrooms, bell peppers and onions all cook at different times and temperatures - your chicken can still be raw in the center while your onions are burnt to a crisp. For the best results, grill your chicken on one kebab and your vegetables on another.
Cooking over high heat
Some people seem to think that the point of a barbecue is to put on a show - stoke the coals, feed the flame and throw your poultry into the raging fire. High heat is certainly important for crispy skin, but it should be used wisely. Medium-low is the best temperature to use on a charcoal grill (and medium on a gas grill) to end up with both crispy skin and perfectly cooked meat.
Not using a meat thermometer
Grilling your chicken to the correct temperature is a tricky task. A piece of meat can look great from the outside - all grill marks and crispy skin - but then you take a bite and discover a horrifying truth: It's raw. It's also easy to just let your chicken cook and cook and cook to avoid this scenario and end up with a rubbery, dry piece of meat at the end of the day. You can easily be rid of that uncertain moment by purchasing a good meat thermometer. The FDA-approved internal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees F.
Not letting the chicken rest after cooking
Cutting into your chicken as soon as it comes off the grill is one of the bad cooking habits you need to stop now. Not allowing your chicken to rest will cause all of the juices to run out, resulting in a final product that's disappointly dry. For any small cut of chicken, let it sit for about five minutes before digging in. If you've cooked a whole bird on the grill, you need a full 20 to 30 minutes of rest time. And now that you know the technical aspects of grilling chicken, it's about time you learn how to cook grilled chicken that isn't boring!