Grilling Good Eats
by Mike Thayer
Poultry is perhaps the most versatile meat of any group for the grill. You can eat it with the skin on, skin off, brine it, bbq it, roast it, smoke it, put it on a beer can or just grill it with salt and pepper and enjoy the delicious simplicity. And here’s a bonus, grilled chicken and turkey make the best leftovers, the possibilities are just about endless.
Before we get into the recipes, remember that there’s no “medium rare” when it comes to chicken and turkey, you’ve GOT to make sure it’s properly cooked all the way through to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. Nobody wants a food borne illness.
The key to grilling poultry on the grill is to slow cook them. Chicken or turkey cooked only over high heat means undercooked on the inside. Start your poultry near the hot spot on the grill, but NOT directly over it. We‘re talking more of a medium-high heat to start things off. Don’t worry about grill marks so much as this meat group is an exception to the flip only once rule. Sure, grill marks are great and if you’re new to grilling mastering the presentation grill marks will come with experience but when it comes to poultry it’s more important to get even charring on all sides of the meat, giving you that golden brown look. Poultry that’s done but still juicy inside is the important thing. Try at least 3 minutes per side (depending on the cut) and we’re talking four sides here. With drumsticks for example, give them quarter turns over medium heat before moving them to the cooler spot (indirect heat) on the grill. With chicken breasts and thighs, you may have to stand them on end to cook them through to proper temperature. Poultry should be firm to the pointing finger touch.
And now for those mouthwatering recipes…..
Chicken Breast Simplicity
Boneless/skinless chicken breast is perhaps the most popular cut of chicken to grill and when it’s properly prepared, it’s tough to beat.
- 8 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Four tablespoons of Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite poultry rub
While your charcoal fire is getting established, coat the chicken with the olive oil and rub and set aside. When your fire is hot, place your chicken breasts near the hot spot on the grill, but not quite over it, presentation side down. Don’t walk away, the olive oil is going to drip so you’ll need to be around in case there are any flare ups. Grill for about three minutes with the lid off to get those nice grill marks and a little caramelization, then flip over to the lower heat side of the grill with the lid on to let them finish cooking to that 165 degree internal temperature and ultimate juiciness, about 15 - 20 minutes. Let the breasts rest for about five minutes before serving. A brushing of warm garlic butter is optional. This dish is excellent paired with just about anything, making it a go-to, ’old reliable’ recipe.
MMM (Mustard, Milk, Marinade) Chicken
This recipe features boneless/skinless chicken thighs, which in my humble opinion are the tastiest cut of the chicken and is a bargain buy at the grocery store to boot.
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup plain yogurt (Can substitute with mayonnaise, which actually used to be a featured ingredient putting another ‘M‘ in the name, but the yogurt is better)
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 4 Tbsp yellow mustard
- 1 Tbsp Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite poultry rub
- 1 Tbsp oregano
- 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
- 1 Tbsp black pepper
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mustard and milk. After that is combined, whisk in the remaining dry ingredients to complete the marinade. Add the chicken thighs, using your hands to thoroughly coat them. Cover and refrigerate for up to eight hours. When ready to grill, place the thighs near the hot spot on the grill. Let those babies sizzle for about three minutes to get those great grill marks. Since this marinade is on the thicker side, it could take up to five minutes. Flip over to the lower heat side of the grill and cover for about 15 minutes. Rest the chicken for about five minutes and serve. Excellent paired with rosemary/dill potatoes and grilled asparagus.
This is a great recipe if you don’t have a smoker or a pit, because doing a whole chicken on a grill can be a tough thing to do. Many folks who have tried to do a whole chicken on the grill have found their chicken to be crispy good looking on the outside, but ‘medium rare’ on the inside. OOPS!….. That’s no good. It’s GOT to be cooked all the way through. Butterfly Chicken alleviates those, “Is it done inside?” worries because you‘ll be able to lay that whole chicken down flat on the grill, you get even cooking.
- Whole chicken, about 3-½ to 4 pounds
- ½ cup Olive Oil
- ½ cup of Cookies Flavor Enhancer or other dry rub
- ½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce for glazing
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to rinse your chicken off, it comes pre-washed from the producer, just make sure there are no pin feathers sticking out. Remove the neck and giblets, set aside to make chicken stock or discard. Butterfly the chicken by cutting the backbone out. Use a big knife, perhaps some kitchen shears, cut down along either side of the backbone, remove. TIP: Save that backbone, neck and giblets to make the chicken stock. Flip your chicken over, placing it breast side up in a big baking pan and press down firmly on the breast bone to break it. You should be good to go, you have now butterflied a chicken! Rub it down inside and out, over and under with Cookies Flavor Enhancer or other dry rub. You’ll want to do this at least one hour (four hours is better) before grill time. Cover and refrigerate your chicken. If space is a concern, it’s OK to fold the chicken up. About 30 minutes before grilling, take your chicken out of the refrigerator. Coat it with the olive oil. When your coals are ready, place the chicken on the grill, skin side up - indirect heat is key here, so the grill set-up is the Snake Method referenced in Chapter 3. Place your grill cover on and walk away for 45 minutes. When that time is up, it’s time to baste/mop the chicken with that BBQ sauce and then flip your chicken over to the breast side. Gauge your heat, now is the time to perhaps add a few coals if needed. Baste/mop the ‘inside’ of the chicken and put the grill lid back on. Cook about another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the breast temperature of the chicken is at least 165 degrees. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, check the chicken legs, if you can start to easily pull them away from the chicken, like, falling apart, it’s done. Pull that beautiful butterflied chicken off the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes. This makes for a great center piece served family style on the picnic table.
TIP: After you’re done grilling dinner is an excellent time for making chicken stock, beef stock, lamb, fish or even a veggie stock for later use or to store in your freezer. Take advantage of that leftover charcoal heat. Don’t be afraid to adjust your remaining coals if necessary then just put a stock pot over the heat and dump in those chicken bones, skin or that trimmed off beef fat from prepping steaks. Shrimp shells and tails make a nice fish stock. Cover with water, add your favorite aromatics and/or seasonings and let that residual heat go to work for you.
Beer can chicken
This is another simple but delicious way to do chicken, unfortunately, not everyone has a grill with enough lid space to do one. This requires a Weber kettle grill or something similar with a good bit of space to allow the chicken to ‘stand up’.
- Whole chicken (about 3-4 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 tablespoons of Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 can of your favorite beer (don't use a light beer)
This recipe utilizes the charcoal 'Snake Method'. After you light your chimney, remove neck and giblets from the chicken and set aside to make stock with or discard. Check the chicken for pin feathers. Rub outer chicken skin lightly with olive oil then rub entire chicken inside and out with the rub, paprika and pepper. Set aside. Open the beer can and empty it either in a glass or your mouth until a half-can of beer remains, this goes to the chicken. Now the balancing act begins, you're going to create a tripod of sorts. Place the beer can on a solid surface. Then take a hold of the chicken by grabbing a chicken leg in each hand and plunk the bird cavity over the beer can. You now have a beer can chicken. When your grill is ready to receive, place the chicken in the center of the grate, balancing the bird on its two legs and the can. Cook the chicken with lid-on, approximately 1-1/2 hours or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees in the breast area. Remove from the grill and rest for 10 minutes before serving.
This is a GREAT appetizer and/or tailgate food!
- 4 chicken breasts – cut into bite size pieces
- 1 lb. turkey bacon – half slices
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)
Before you start putting together the recipe, get out some bamboo skewers and soak them in water for about 30 minutes (do this and the skewers won’t burn on the grill). Combine olive oil, salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder and optional red pepper flake, stir, set aside. Wrap the bite size chicken breast pieces with a half slice of turkey bacon. Put your ‘bird bites’ on the bamboo skewers – don’t pack them too tightly – you want the flames to crisp up that turkey bacon on all sides. Place your skewered bites in a container to marinade in and pour on the olive oil mixture. Since these are bite size pieces, they really don’t need to marinate all that long, go ahead and fire up that grill! Sear the bird bites on medium-high heat (not quite on the hot spot of the grill) and then let them cook through at a lower temp. Pull them off the skewer and serve as appetizers (great for tailgating), or make a kid happy with meat on a stick! And here's a change-of-pace..... Fix them Buffalo style! Instead of the olive oil marinade, use the following:
- 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter (melted)
- 10 tablespoons of Louisiana Hot Sauce
- 1-1/2 tablespoons of white vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon of Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite pepper seasoning mix
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Pinch of salt
There you have it, Buffalo Bird Bites! You just might like this variation better than the original. Both the original Bird Bites and the Buffalo Bird Bites are real crowd pleasers, go-to recipes for parties. The Buffalo sauce is also great for wings.
Mike’s Poultry Brine
If you’re looking for something a little different in how to do grilled chicken or turkey, this might just be the ticket for you. Talk about moist and tender poultry! It’s an easy brine and adds a lot of flavor to any cut, chicken breasts or thighs, turkey breasts, turkey drumsticks, in fact, this brine is excellent with pork cuts as well.
- One gallon of warm water
- ¾ cup of Kosher salt
- One heaping tablespoon of Cookies Flavor Enhancer
- 2/3 cup sugar
- ¼ cup olive oil
Put the salt, sugar and olive oil into a big pan, add the warm water. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved, which the warm water helps to do. After the water comes back down to room temperature (VERY important, we’re brining the poultry, not cooking it), give the brine another quick stir and add your chicken or turkey, letting them brine for at least four hours in the fridge. Overnight is even better. This amount of brine is good for a whole chicken, or up to about 8 pounds of breasts, thighs or drumsticks. This brine is so good, you don’t have to add a dry rub to the meat if you don’t want to. Grill naked…… keep your mind out of the gutter, that means no seasoning. I’ve grilled poultry ‘naked’ plenty of times, just brushing the chicken or turkey with garlic infused olive oil after each quarter turn (about every 2-3 minutes), hitting it again with the olive oil when moving it to the cooler spot on the grill (indirect heat) to finish cooking and then hitting it again with the olive oil just before plating.
TIP: Don’t pour brine down the sink after you pull the poultry out of it. Use a cup of it or so to cook up some rice. Prepare the rice per the package instructions, replacing 25% of the water needed, with the brine. Talk about flavor city!
Turkey Leg Kicks
A recipe with a spicy kick…. Get it, turkey legs…. Kick…. Kick off football tailgating season with this recipe, pun intended!
- 6-8 turkey drumsticks
- One cup chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried coriander
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
You can brine the drumsticks (optional) but only do so for a couple hours or so. With salt an ingredient in the rub, you don’t want the meat to get too salty by leaving it in the brine too long. Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix. Apply the rub to the drumsticks (make sure they’re dry) and you’re ready to grill. This recipe requires a ‘reverse sear’ where you start things off on the cooler side of the grill, cooking low and slow and then finishing the drumsticks over the hotter spot to get some color just before plating. After your coals are established, place the drumsticks on the cooler side of the grill and lid, leave them alone for about 30 minutes. Move the drumsticks to a hotter spot on the grill but not directly over THE hot spot, turning them every couple minutes to get that great color for plating. Baste with melted butter and rest those ‘kicks’ for about 10 minutes. For more smoky flavor, add hickory chips or pellets to your charcoal set-up.
You’ll be eating a lot more turkey after trying this recipe! The following marinade is good for up to four turkey breasts cut in half, length-wise.
- Half cup canola oil
- 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
- The juice from a whole lime
- Tablespoon of dried, minced onion
- teaspoon of garlic powder
- One packet of artificial sweetener
- Couple dashes of cardamom
Directions Cut your turkey breasts in half length-wise, set aside. In a container that will hold all those turkey breasts, prepare your marinade, stir, then add the meat. Refrigerate for four hours. Once your charcoal is established and that cooking grate is ‘ready to receive’….. Place your turkey breasts close to the hot spot but not directly over it for that great sear and those tantalizing grill marks. Since these breasts were filleted in half, cooking time is pretty quick. Turn the turkey after about five minutes, moving them to the cooler portion of the grill and lid. Give them about ten more minutes or until your thermometer reads at least 165 degrees. The turkey should be pointy finger touch firm. Brush with garlic butter and let rest for five minutes before serving. Excellent prepared with pecan wood or pellets in your charcoal preparation.
TIP: If the meat you are going to prepare is coming from the freezer, cutting it to the preferred portion sizes is always easier when the meat is still slightly frozen. It’s way faster and much less messy than trying to cut totally thawed meat.