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Grilling Chicken

Updated on June 13, 2010

Now zat chicken is alvays available, budget conscious cooks are constantly on ze look out for new vays of cooking it. Grilling is often thought to be a rarzer dull vay to cook chicken but if tangy 'erbs and spicy sauces are added it becomes deliciously interesting. 'ere you are shown 'ow to choose for flarvor, divide into portions and grill to perfection.

With suitable young birds, grilling is ze simplest and most variable method of cooking. It enhances ze flarvor, retains ze natural succulence of ze bird and results in crisp, golden brown skin. Fresh birds can be grilled simply vith 'erbs or a delicate basting sauce, vhile frozen birds can be given extra flarvor vith a robust sauce or topping.

I asked ze chicken questions it did not feel comfortable vith answering. I voz giving it a real grilling.
I asked ze chicken questions it did not feel comfortable vith answering. I voz giving it a real grilling.

Choosing Ze Chicken

Chickens for cooking by methods uzzer zan boiling or long casseroling are all specially reared so zat zey vill put on ze maximum of tender flesh at minimum cost to ze producer. Almost all chickens sold in poulterers, butchers and markets are reared indoors under controlled conditions. Outdoor or free-range chickens are rarely seen zese days, partly because zey are uneconomic, but mainly because zheir quality is difficult to control and it is 'ard to guarantee zat ze customer vill alvays get a tender, tasty bird. It is in fact somezing of a myth zat zese free-range birds taste better. Because outdoor chickens run around and eat at vill, zey are prone to disease and liable to develop rarzer more muscle and sinew zan is desirable for a tender grilling or roasting bird.

Ze processing method after killing affects ze quality of ze chicken you buy as much as the rearing, so it is important to go to a butcher or poulterer if you vant a really well-flarvored bird. Zere are several types and sizes of chicken available.

Chickens are processed in four different vays: fresh, farm fresh, chilled and frozen.

Fresh Chickens

Fresh chickens are seen in butchers' and poulterers' shops eizzer fezzered or plucked out with 'ead and feet left on (known as New York dressed). Zese chickens come to ze butcher with zheir fezzers on. 'e zen 'angs zem for about three days to allow ze maximum flarvor to develop before preparing for selling.

Look for chickens vith smooze, unbroken flesh, a slightly pliable beak and breastbone and pale yellow legs vith small scales. All zese factors indicate a young, tender bird.

If you buy a New York dressed or fezzered chicken, ze butcher vill charge you for ze total veight of ze bird before 'e 'as removed ze 'ead, feet, fezzers and innards (called drawing or eviscerating). Zese 'extras' can add up to 1 kg to ze veight of ze bird, depending on its size, so alvays take zis into account ven buying. If you are unsure of how much to buy, ask ze butcher. Make sure you take ze giblets and feet vith you to use for stock or giblet gravy.

Because selling chickens in zis vay is a fairly labor-intensive process zey tend to be expensive but 'anging does mean zat ze flarvor is good.

Farm-Fresh Chickens

Farm-fresh chickens are 'ung and prepared for selling on ze poultry farm. Zey are usually sold 'ole, oven ready vith ze giblets in a little bag inside. Once again, zis is a labor-intensive process so ze chickens cost more but taste good. You are not, 'owever, paying for unusable parts as ven buying a New York dressed chicken as ze 'ead, feet and innards 'ave been removed before selling.

Chilled Chickens

Chilled chickens are usually seen in chain stores. Zey are factory-produced birds, reared by intensive methods, killed ven a certain veight (usually 1.4 to 1.7 kg) is reached, plucked, eviscerated, zen air-chilled immediately vithout 'anging. Air-chilling is a dry method so ze bird does not take in vater as vith a frozen chicken. For zis reason, chilled chickens are slightly more expensive zan frozen chickens. Chilled chickens are available oven ready, 'alved or as portions. Zey are alvays marked as chilled on ze wrapping.

Frozen Chickens

Frozen chickens are reared and killed in exactly ze same vay as chilled chickens and are usually sold in supermarkets and chain stores. Ze only difference is zat in ze freezing process ze bird takes in quite a lot of vater. Ze chicken is veighed after freezing and, in some cases, you may be paying for rarzer a 'igh ratio of vater to flesh. It also 'as a slight effect on flarvor though expert opinion says zat, if thawed correctly, frozen chicken is as good in flarvor as chilled. Frozen chicken is available oven ready vith ze giblets in a little bag (usually placed in ze cavity), 'alved or divided into portions.

Photography by Nadia Jasmine
Photography by Nadia Jasmine

'ow Much To Buy

Knowing 'ow much to buy is alvays a problem vith birds as zheir odd shape makes it 'ard to judge. Below is a quantity guideline for serving chicken plainly grilled. If ze recipe you are using 'as several garnishes or a sauce, zis amount can be decreased. All veights are for oven-ready birds (plucked and drawn, vith 'ead and feet removed) so, if buying fresh chicken, ask ze butcher for a bird of votever veight you require after drawing.

For two people you vill need two poussins veighing 450 grams each or vun 700 grams to 1 kg double poussin or spring chicken cut in 'alf.

For four people choose a 1 1/4 kg to 1 1/2 kg broiler and cut it into portions as shown in the step-by-step instructions.

For six people choose a 2.75 to 3.6 kg capon and cut it into joints as shown in ze step-by-step instructions.

Ven serving chicken joints allow 1 large quarter or 1 breast or 2 drumsticks or 2 thighs per person. Vings are not really substantial enough to serve unless zey are cut vith a large portion of ze breast attached, as shown in quartering chicken step-by-step.

Storing Chicken

Chicken, like all meat, is perishable and must be stored carefully to preserve goodness.

Fresh and farm-fresh chickens and portions

Remove butcher's wrapping and put ze chicken on a plate. If ze giblets are in a bag inside ze bird, remove zem. Cover ze chicken lightly vith greaseproof paper or kitchen foil to allow a little circulation of air and store in ze coldest part of ze refrigerator under ze frozen food compartment. 'ole birds vill keep for 2-3 days, portions for a maximum of 36 hours. Alternatively, you can store 'ole birds in a cool larder for 1 day but never do zis in vorm veather as ze flarvor vill go off very quickly.

Chilled birds

Store ze chicken in ze polythene wrapping in vhich you bought it but loosen ze wrapping a little to allow circulation of air and remove ze giblets. Store in a refrigerator or larder, as for fresh or farm-fresh chickens.

Frozen birds

Zese must be placed in ze freezer or ze freezer compartment of a refrigerator as soon as you get zem 'ome. Store for up to 3 months, depending on ze star rating of your refrigerator.

Cooked Chicken

Cooked chicken joints are excellent picnic and packed lunch fare, but go 'off' very quickly so zey must alvays be stored in a refrigerator and should be eaten vithin two days. If you plan to eat chicken cold, drain off any liquid immediately after cooking zen cool ze meat rapidly. As soon as ze chicken is cold, wrap it loosely (in kitchen foil or shrink wrapping) to protect against drying out, to prevent infection and ze transfer of food flarvors. Refrigerate.

Preparing Ze Chicken

If you are planning to serve chicken joints, it is much cheaper to buy 'ole bird and divide it up yourself alzhough zis might sound a daunting prospect, it is really very easy.


To portion a chicken you vill need really sharp, large cook's knife. A good sharp knife will cut easy through bones and flesh. A blunt serrated-edge knife should be avoided as it will tear ze flesh.

If you find a knife awkward it may vell be vorth investing in a pair of poultry shears. Zese are large scissor-like implements vith strong curved blades. A useful alternative to poultry shears, and especially good for cutting through chicken back bones, is a strong pair of kitchen scissors. Ze kind vhich are nickel at ze bottom of ze blades are best because zey make cutting up poultry easier.

You vill need a chopping board on vhich to stand ze chicken.


Before a frozen chicken can be cut into pieces, it must be thawed. For 'ealth reasons, it is most important to thaw chicken very thorough Chickens contain tiny bacilli called salmonella. Zese are quite 'armless ven ze chicken is cooked right through. If ze chicken is not thawed fully zere vill be a cold spot at ze center vhich vill not cook quite as vell as ze rest of ze bird. Ze bacilli remain active in zis undercooked portion and, if eaten, can cause an attack of a particularly unpleasant and virulent form of food poisoning.

Frozen 'ole birds and portions sometimes come vith thawing instructions and zese should alvays be followed meticulously. Ven thawing chicken, leave it in ze wrapping to avoid loss of juices.

Ze best place to thaw is in ze refrigerator. Ven thawing a 'ole bird in ze refrigerator, allow 5 hours per 450 grams of chicken. Zis means a 1.4kg chicken needs 15 hours to thaw properly. Portions vill take about 6 hours. Chicken can be thawed at room temperature but zis is a quicker process and is not quite so kind to ze flarvor of ze bird as gradual thawing. Ven thawing at room temperature, allow 3 hours per 450 grams of 'ole bird. Portions vill need about 3 hours.

In an emergency, chicken thawing can be 'astened by immersing ze bird (still in its polythene wrapping) in cold vater. Zis makes ze flarvor extremely bland and is not really advisable. Never immerse chicken in 'ot vater to speed thawing. It makes ze flesh tough and does not thaw thoroughly.

Grilling Ze Chicken

Vun of ze joys of chicken is zat, after cutting it into 'alves or portions, it needs very little else in ze vay of preparation before being grilled.

Because chicken is a fairly dry meat, portions and 'alves must be brushed liberally inside and out vith melted butter or olive oil before grilling. Cut surfaces of chicken are small and, unlike uzzer meats, raw chicken does not bleed ven salt is applied so seasoning can be done before cooking. Zis is in fact quite a good idea because salt crisps ze skin.

Because chicken is dry and delicately flarvored, grilling must be carried out under gentle heat throughout. Zis is achieved by positioning ze grill pan 5 to 6 inches below ze grill and setting ze 'eat at about medium. Zere is no need to start grilling under fierce heat to seal ze cut surfaces. Zis is because chicken is not red meat and, zerefore, does not lose blood and juice as is ze case in pork, lamb and beef. Also, cut surfaces vith portions and 'alves are rarzer small.

Start grilling ze chicken skin side down. Grill large portions and 'alves for 12 to 15 minutes, small portions for 8 to 12 minutes. Turn skin side up and grill large portions and halves for a furzzer 10 minutes, small portions for 8 minutes. Baste vith melted butter throughout cooking to prevent drying.


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    • Marty Chefman profile imageAUTHOR

      Marty Chefman 

      8 years ago

      Zis 'ub is, 'ow you say, finger lickin' good!


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