Chickens are prepared in diverse ways and flavors globally, being grilled, baked, roasted, smoked, barbecued, boiled, fried, seared, braised and more, according to different chicken parts. You’re on the way to be a chicken master, by starting to know about the main cuts of chicken.
A WHOLE OR HALF/QUARTER CHICKEN
Grilled chicken turns out appealing in presentation and delicious in taste, meanwhile healthy, as it’s low in fat and calories and high in protein, making it an absolute crowd-pleaser for gatherings.
HOW DO YOU GRILL A WHOLE CHICKEN?
Compared to cuts, cooking a whole chicken properly tends to be more difficult to achieve. If you are already an expert, you may stuff spices and herbs into the chicken to better infuse an aromatic flavor; facing the challenge of balancing the heat between both the inside stuffing and outside chicken meat; while as a beginner, the following tips will help you ensure that the inner chicken stays tender and succulent with the exterior being nicely crispy. The key is to dry-rub the skin with salt and other spices to draw out the moisture about a half hour before grilling. To perform it better, leave the chicken uncovered in the refrigerator to air dry for about 4 to 24 hours, then pat the whole surface with paper towels before the rub.
Grill the chicken skin-side-down over a steady heat between 350°F to 400°F and flip it after the skin becomes naturally released from the cooking grates. Don’t forget to do an extra step, that is, searing the chicken in the beginning or near the end of main cooking, in a higher temperature between 450°F to 500°F, to better crisp up the skin. Let the chicken rest for another 15 to 20 minutes after the cooking’s done to lock in the juice.
Another ideal method of well-presented brown chicken skin will be spatchcocking, which is normally known as cutting the chicken in a half, making it flipped over and flattened like a book on the grill for a through exposure to heat, thus get it cooked more evenly.
Quarters like a cut of thigh and leg can be treated in a similar way of first searing for a crust on the skin, then cooking it through in steady heat, which can be a good practice before moving forward to a whole chicken.
CAN YOU GRILL A FROZEN CHICKEN?
Though we recommend that frozen chickens be always thawed before grilling, as frosted meat, even takes longer time and more attention to handle, is still prone to getting unevenly cooked, causing dangerous flare-ups in the middle, and ending up with a burned outside while the inside’s partially raw, leading to dry-out or rubbery finish, and what’s worse, food poisoning. If you must do it, it’s easier to perform on a cut rather than a whole chicken, unless you’re quite experienced. Moreover, you should increase the grilling time to 50%, and offset it by reducing the heat by 20% at the same time.
CHICKEN BREAST & TENDER
Chicken consists of dark meat and white meat. When dark meat tends to be tender, juicier, and fattier, the breasts and tenders are classified as white meat. They stay closely on a chicken with tender located on the back of the breast. Both are normally seen boneless in the market, and can be used for multi-purpose, versatile cooking, like being skewered. In the meantime, they’re sensitive to the cooking time and temperature. Breasts seem to get easily overcooked and dry out, but can still be richly savored and sear marked, when handled with marinades and grilled over indirect heat within a proper time. Tenders will taste more tender with moist, and they’re more often stir-fried in sweet, sour, or spicy sauce, or deep-fried as popular snack food.
CHICKEN WING/LEG: THIGHS & DRUMSTICKS
Coming with bones and skin, chicken wings and legs are both popular, portable food. They have the features of what we called dark meat above---being tender, juicier, fattier and more forgiving, thus less easy to get overcooked. Both parts can either be sold in whole or in further cuts, leading us to the next section---thighs.
Thighs are cut of upper legs, either bone-in or boneless. They have both the amazing texture of black meat, as well as cooking versatility of white meat, in different shapes like cubes, slices, shreds, meanwhile can be flavored well with marinades. When it comes to grilling chicken cuts, thighs can be good example and easy to make.
HOW TO GRILL CHICKEN THIGHS?
Normally we would use boneless, skinless thighs for skewers, and cut them into bite-sized pieces in advance for skewering. You may also choose bone-in and skin-on thighs and cook them as whole if you prefer. The below process works friendly for both skewers and entire thighs.
Step 1: Make the marinade by stirring the minced spices, including salt, garlic cloves, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper to taste and ground black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric and ginger with olive or peanut oil, in a saucepan over very low heat for around 3 minutes, so that they mix well with each other. You may add in some lemon juice as you like, but after turning off the heat.
Step 2: Coat the cleaned chicken thighs with the above sauce and marinate them thoroughly for at least 20 minutes, up to 12 hours, better in the fridge, to infuse as much flavor as possible.
Step 3: Thread the cut thighs on skewers or leave them in whole. Skewers may go with other materials like colored bell peppers, pineapple slices, cherry tomatoes, etc. Then it comes to another key step with the frequently asked question: HOW LONG AND WHAT TEMP WILL IT TAKE TO GRILL BONE-IN OR BONELESS CHICKEN THIGHS?
Step 4: Fire up your grill and preheat to a medium-high heat level from 400°F to 500°F. Generally, chicken needs less time to be cooked than other types of meat like beef and pork. Thighs without bones or skin will be sufficiently cooked by directly grilling on cooking grates for 3 to 4 minutes each side, while with bones or skin unremoved, they may stay a little bit longer, like 5 to 8 minutes per side. You can further add to smoky, wooden-fired aroma by using certain grill or smoker.
Once there are desired grilled marks, turn off the heat, cover the chicken to cook through for another 5 to 10 minutes, then let rest for about 5 minutes.
Step 5: Add green garnish or sesame as you like. Now it’s the time to enjoy this amazing fusion of moist, tender texture and fragrance from sauced spices, bursting with the pleasant flavor that will make your taste buds dance in every bite.
The charm of thighs lies not only in the dish itself, but also in the variety of ways it’s served up, whether with a “White Sauce” from the Middle East by blending oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt to emulsion, or dip in or hummus or Raita Sauce, eaten with soft, fragrant naan or pita bread, rice or sandwich, or just over fresh and crispy cold salad when the chicken is warm.
Connected to thighs, drumsticks are lower part of chicken legs, while more common to be cooked in whole and are popular as snacks with a grab of the handle. This portion contains extra fat so there’s less risk of overcooking, but still needs care during cooking.
Chicken heads, necks, feet, and organs are not commonly used materials in the North America, compared to the above main parts. Some will be used to make soup, stock, or broth, while most of them will be considered as a delicacy and cooked more in other regions of the world like Asia as local specialties.
We sincerely wish this guide will help on your explorative road to culinary.