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Grilling great Chicken and Ribs..It's in the Foil.

Updated on March 3, 2011

Praise to the inventor of aluminum foil! Of all the tools that should be held high on the list of grill masters, this is the one that should be praised.

Are you tired of trying to cook on the grill and serving chicken that is over cooked, burned on the outside, yet red at the bone? Not good! How about the ribs...the challenge of serving fall off the bone, mouth watering meat is often lost to the taste killing theory of par boiling. You don't need to do that before you put’ em on the grill or under the broiler. What a challenge!

O.K., relax. You don't need to be the "grill king" to make it work or own a smoker to get that slow cooked result. What you do need is a package of heavy duty aluminum foil and some direction for how to prepare and cook on a grill or in the oven.

Let’s start with chicken. Nothing worst than serving chicken that is not fully cooked, or maybe there is…chicken that is over-cooked and dry. What you want is fully cooked, moist chicken that falls off the bone.

Use enough foil to fold and crimp
Use enough foil to fold and crimp
Like wrapping a package
Like wrapping a package
Fold and seal both ends
Fold and seal both ends

Here’s how; I like to cook a half a chicken, but you can use cut pieces like the thighs, legs or breast with the same method. Tear a piece of aluminum foil and lay it down on the counter. Place your seasoned chicken in the center of the foil. You want to have a large enough tear of foil so you are able to fold and crimp it at least three times to close it. What you are making is a foil package, similar to how you would wrap a Christmas package. Next, fold and crimp each end of the foil pack you have created. Same idea, fold the sides to middle (like using wrapping paper) and at least two folds to the center. What you end up with is a chicken half, completely sealed in aluminum foil. The key is to make sure it is sealed tight but not too tightly wrapped. You will see why, when you start cooking.

For outdoor use, place the chicken wrapped foil pack on medium high heat (gas grills) or indirect heat (charcoal grills) for about sixty minutes. Turn the pack every ten minutes to insure that both sides are exposed to the heat and does not burn. You will know you are on track when the foil package begins to expand and stress the seams you have created. That’s a good sign.

What you are doing is cooking the chicken in its own juices. I like to leave the skin on the meat for this reason and if I do season, it's best to rub your seasoning under the skin on the bird. A word of caution; when you are ready to take the foil pack off the grill, all those juices will be there, so be careful with the next step.

If your folded and crimped seals were tight, the chicken pack will have swelled and doubled in size. It’s been about sixty minutes, remove from the grill. Here is a key idea…if you need to cook more chicken, just leave the chicken in the package and set aside. I use a cardboard box and just stack 'em up. They will stay warm until you are ready.

My son P.J. ("grill master" in training) wants to stress the importance of having a paper grocery bag or a cardboard box, at the ready, so you have something to put the hot foil in before taking the next step. He's right, nothing worse than to get to this point and not being ready.

Ready. Cut a seam in one side of the foil pack. Lift the chicken out of the pack with some tongs. What is left inside the pack is all the fat and stuff you don’t want to eat. Gently fold and close the foil and discard the pack in the bag or box. Next step, add the sauce. Most BBQ sauces have a significant sugar base so applying the sauce over heat will do what is intended; give you that caramelized BBQ taste and flavor. The chicken is cooked; all you are doing in the last ten to fifteen minutes is adding the layer of sauce and flavor. It’s “finger licken good” and falls off the bone.

Stuck in the cold and not able to grill outside? Use the same technique of preparing the foil pack, place them in a 350 degree oven for about an hour and once you remove the chicken from the foil, put it under the broiler to finish.

In both cases, you will want to apply your BBQ sauce to both sides of the meat. If it takes fifteen to twenty minutes to complete this saucing, I will likely have turned the chicken two or three times. Hit it with the sauce, don't be shy!

Now, how about Ribs? No doubt the very best way to cook ribs is slow, with an indirect heat. Problem with that method is, it takes about all day to do it right. By using the very same method of cooking your ribs in a foil package, you will be able to serve BBQ ribs that fall off the bone, in less than two hours.

Follow these steps:

  1. Using a slab of Baby Back Ribs, cut it in half. I like to also cut a small slit between each bone on the slab. You’ll see why, when they are cooked.
  2. Create a foil pack for each half a slab. No need to season the ribs, the flavor is in the sauce.
  3. Place each foil pack on the grill for sixty to ninety minutes, medium heat (about 325 – 350 degrees). The cooking time, depends on the temp of your grill. Turn the package over every fifteen minutes and look for the expansion in the size of the foil pack.
  4. Remove ribs from foil pack with tongs. Careful, the grease and fat that remains in the foil is hot. Close it up and discard.
  5. Turn up the heat and start applying the BBQ sauce. You want to get the sauce to "burn into the meat", which is another way of describing how it will caramelize and add a rich crusty flavor to your fall off the bone ribs. Oh Yea?...remember the small slit between each bone on the slab? Now you have something to hang on to…Enjoy!


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