8 Best Hacks For Awesome Grilled Poultry

And Two Chicken Recipes Perfect For Summer

8 Best Hacks For Awesome Grilled Poultry

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Janice Cole, Minnesota

While burgers and dogs are considered All-American, at any given cookout about 86% of people are actually grilling some kind of bird, 77% of which are grilled chicken breasts. One of the reasons for chicken’s popularity is that the delicate meat works well as a blank canvas for a wide range of creative sauces and seasonings. It’s also a standard complaint about chicken that without help, its flavor is bland and tasteless. So here are some tips and recipes to upgrade your grilled bird, and cheers to making this year’s grill fest your best yet.

Marinate In Fermented Foods

Beer, yogurt, and buttermilk not only tenderize meat, they also add flavor and moisture to chicken. The acid in these ingredients helps unwind the long proteins to aid in tenderness. Chicken breasts need only a quick soak, 30 minutes should be just fine, as too long a marinating time can make the breasts mushy. Whole chickens will benefit from a longer marinating time from four to six hours, or even overnight. For easy clean up, mix and marinate in resealable plastic bags.

Massage With Rub Before Meat

Hit the heat for fast, intense flavor, rub poultry with a dry seasoning rub. Use your favorite purchased rub and mix it with oil to make a paste or make your own from spices in the cupboard. Let chicken breasts sit 15 to 30 minutes while chicken pieces or whole chicken will benefit from one to two hours.

[optin-monster-shortcode id=”e9huclfjt4oy1ak6ifrp”]

Flavored Salt: Make It Your Own

Restaurant chefs use finishing sea salt right before serving to add that special touch to their meats. The coarse texture and mineral aroma of good sea salt adds maximum flavor to grilled meats. Take this one step further by creating your own signature finishing salt from ingredients in your own kitchen. Start with the formula  of 1 tablespoon course sea salt to 1/4 teaspoon flavoring. Here are a few flavor combinations to get you started: Aleppo pepper or crushed red chilies; dried herbs such as thyme, sage, or rosemary; minced citrus peel such as lemon, tangerine, or lime; sweet spices such as cinnamon, lavender, allspice, or ginger. Mix and match to suit your taste. Sprinkle lightly over cooked meats.

Mop With Sauce Just Before Serving

Sauces, glazes, and bastes all add moisture, flavor, and shine to grilled poultry. Often, these sauces (such as barbecue sauce) are loaded with sugar and easily burn when hit with the intense heat of the grill. For the best results, wait until the end and add sauce five minutes or so before removing from the heat; give it just enough time to set the sauce and give it a nice warm finish without allowing it to burn and stick to the grill.

Add Smoke To The Fire

To combine the convenience of a gas grill with the smell and flavor of a wood fire, create a miniature smoke box within your grill. Soak 1/2 to 1 cup wood chips in water for one hour and drain. Wrap in a double thickness of aluminum foil, leaving the top open. Place the foil packet directly on the heat or coals, below the cooking grate. Place the meat on the grill once the chips start smoking. Use flavorful wood chips such as hickory, apple, or cherry wood.

Fresh Herbs Meet The Heat

For a subtle herbal aroma, throw fresh herb sprigs directly on the heat source. The herbal scent will envelope your bird adding light delicate flavor. For the best results, use long, large, coarse herb stems. My favorite is woody rosemary, but sage, lavender, and thyme all work well. If you have access to grapevines they also add nuanced flavor. Soak the herbs for at least 30 minutes before draining and placing directly on the heat.

Sticking? Don’t Turn!

The general rule in cooking meat is if it sticks, it’s not ready to turn. Keep cooking until it releases. This holds true for the grill too. However, make sure you start with a clean grill and oil the grill grates before adding the chicken. To easily oil hot grill grates, dip paper towel in oil and rub over hot grill grates using grill tongs.

Press it Flat — Bricklayer’s Special

If you’re looking for moist grilled chicken with super crisp skin, try the Italian method of cooking chicken under a brick. This flattened whole chicken cooks quickly and evenly and looks kind of cool sitting under those bricks.

A Tuscan specialty, you’ll love the ease of cooking and carving this crisp-skinned whole chicken.


1 (2 1/2 to 3 lb.) whole chicken, backbone removed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 large garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

2 bricks, each wrapped in heavy-duty foil


1. Lay chicken breast side up, pressing on breast to flatten. (Remove breastbone for easier carving.)

2. Combine oil and garlic and slather over both sides of chicken and under the skin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. When ready to grill, heat grill to high and arrange grill for indirect heat. (Leave one side heated and one side without heat.)

4. Place chicken, breast side down, over indirect heat. Place foil-wrapped bricks directly over chicken. Grill for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove bricks using hot mitts, turn chicken, replace bricks and continue cooking over indirect heat 20 to 30 minutes or until chicken registers 165ºF. in thickest part.

If necessary for additional browning, place chicken over direct heat and cook to desired color. Remove from grill; let stand 10 minutes before carving.

4 servings


Take a cue from Southern fried chicken and marinate your chicken breasts in buttermilk.


1/2 cup buttermilk

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon dried thyme

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves


1. Combine all of the ingredients, except chicken, in a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken and massage to coat. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature.

2. Heat grill. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Grill chicken over medium heat 7 to 10 minutes or until no longer pink in center, turning once.

4 servings

Janice Cole is a food editor, writer and recipe developer who raises backyard chickens in Minnesota. She is the author of Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes (Chronicle Books; 2011). For more recipes and to read her blog, go to janicecole.net. Order her book at www.backyardpoultrymag.com/bookstore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *