The aroma of barbecuing chicken is the perfume of
summer. There are dozens of ways
to enjoy it, including our Texas, Tar-Heel, and Jamaican styles.
But first, learn how to
prepare chicken for grilling, test chicken for doneness, spit
roast a whole chicken, make
your own barbecue sauce, and brush on a finishing touch before
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator just before cooking. Pull
off any fat and clean the cavity. Don't
remove the skin; it keeps the meat moist as it cooks. If you wish,
remove the skin after cooking to lower the
Rub the chicken with a lemon and brush it with a thin film of olive
oil. Or try some sesame or walnut oil, both
of which impart special flavor. Season with salt and pepper and with
parsley, rosemary, sage, or tarragon.
Is It Done Yet?
Outside temperature affects the interior heat of a grill. Chicken
parts, quarters, and halves require 45 to 60
minutes on the grill on a balmy day and as much as 1 hour 15 minutes
on a cold or windy day.
"Too much charcoal ruins a barbecue, causing
flames and burned food. Small chicken legs need a
minimum of 30 minutes to cook, large legs 45. So, for
a relatively slow fire, put two loose layers of charcoal
pieces or briquettes on a tiny fire. If more charcoal is
needed later, push it in at the edges, otherwise it will
shoot soot onto the food." -- Jeanne Voltz, Cookbook
Author and Grill Expert
Test halves and quarters with an instant-read thermometer for
doneness -- 180°F for breast meat; 185°F for
dark meat. Or slit a joint or meaty spot with a thin knife. If the
juices run clear and the flesh shows no signs
of pink, the bird is done. If still pinkish, cook a few minutes
Spit roasting over a fire gives chicken crisp skin and great flavor.
To prep the chicken, season it inside and
out with salt, pepper, and sauce, if desired. Tie the legs to the
tail and wrap cooking twine around the breast
to hold the wings in place. Push the spit from the neck through the
body and out the tail. Fasten spit forks at
the front and back. Engage the spit and turn once to balance.
Push the coals to the back of the grill and set a drip pan below the
cooking spot. Lock the spit in place, start
the motor, and cook the chicken until the skin blisters and browns
lightly. (Raise the spit for a roaster
weighing more than six pounds so the drip pan is seven inches from
Cook, basting with sauce or equal parts of olive oil and lemon juice
every 15 minutes, until a meat
thermometer reaches 185°F.
If you like to slather sauce onto chicken while it cooks, the
following is a good sauce to choose. It adds
punchy flavor but will not cause flare-ups.
In a small saucepan, stir together 1/2 cup chicken stock, 1/4 cup
lemon juice, 1 tablespoon each olive oil,
minced parsley, tarragon, or rosemary, and 1 minced garlic clove.
Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper, and, if desired, 1/2 teaspoon hot red
pepper sauce. Place the pan of sauce at
the edge of the grill so it stays warm and is handy for basting the
A Finishing Touch
For traditional barbecue flavor, brush this sauce on chicken when it
is done. In a small saucepan over
moderate heat, sauté 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion in 1
tablespoon oil 2 to 3 minutes, add 1/2 cup
bottled barbecue sauce, and 1/4 cup each of lemon juice and chicken
stock. Keep hot at the edge of the
grill. This is enough for 4 chicken quarters.