When you’re cooking up one of our 30+ grilled chicken recipes, get the most out of your meat with these key kitchen how-tos.Grilled chicken tacos with mango. Perhaps not exactly what you were expecting for a random weeknight dinner. It wasn’t what we were expecting, either.
1. Store chicken correctly.
Place the package of raw chicken in a plastic bag to separate it from other groceries. Take it straight home from the store and refrigerate immediately (35 to 40° F). Set wrapped raw chicken on a plate on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so juices don’t drip onto other foods. Always thoroughly wash cutting boards, knives, utensils, and countertops after they come in contact with it, and never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw chicken.
2. Don’t thaw chicken on the counter.
Always thaw chicken in the refrigerator or in the microwave versus leaving it out at room temperature. When you thaw it in the microwave, you cook the meat immediately. Never partially grill and finish cooking later; doing it all at once will destroy harmful bacteria.
3. Practice good hygiene.
Proper hand-washing — 20 seconds with hot, soapy water — is absolutely essential before and after handling raw chicken. Try this tactic: Wash as long as it takes to sing two choruses of “Happy Birthday.”
4. Marinate the right way.
Always marinate the meat in the refrigerator. If using a marinade as a basting or dipping sauce, set aside a portion for later before adding it to the raw food. Wash basting brushes with hot, soapy water after using them and discard leftover marinade that came in contact with raw chicken.
5. Grease your grill.
Chances are you won’t have a sticking problem if your chicken has skin, or if it’s marinated or rubbed with some oil — but play it safe. Before you light the grill, spray the rack with nonstick cooking spray or brush it with oil.
6. Keep it hot.
Sear the chicken on a hot grill — this helps seal in the juices and makes it easier to turn over the chicken.
7. Watch seasonings carefully.
Marinades and basting sauces, many of which have a high sugar content, will burn if the grill temperature is too hot or if exposed to heat for too long. A hot grill is normally not a problem with quick-cooking cuts (such as skinless, boneless breasts); longer-cooking cuts (such as bone-in chicken parts) should be cooked over lower heat. And don’t start basting until the chicken is almost fully cooked.
8. Close the top.
If your grill has a cover, always cook your chicken with the cover down. It will make your grill more oven-like, and your food will cook more evenly. Also, because the cover cuts off some of the oxygen, you’ll have fewer flare-ups.
9. Use the right tools.
Use long-handled tongs or a wide metal spatula to move the chicken. Poking it with a fork will cause the juices to escape.
10. Be patient.
Resist the urge to continuously move the chicken around while it cooks. The chicken will cook more evenly (and more quickly!) if you follow the recipe cooking instructions or turn it over only once midway through the grilling.
11. Test for doneness.
Don’t risk serving under-cooked chicken. When in doubt, make a small cut into the thickest part so you can be positive that it’s no longer pink inside. You can also use a meat thermometer to check if your meat has reached a safe internal temperature: 180° F for a whole chicken, and 170° F for breasts.
12. Clean up.
Scrape your grill rack after each use; otherwise, the chicken will pick up charred bits from your last barbecue. Chicken has a tendency to stick to a dirty grill.