If you’re not sure, it’s worth taking time to learn how to cook chicken safely – probably more people are made ill cooking chicken incorrectly with grilling than any other BBQ method.
It’s easy and once you know, and with a little practice you don’t even think about it.
- If it’s frozen, before you do anything else, defrost it thoroughly.
- If you want to marinate it or use a BBQ rub do so, they will add flavor to bland meat.
- Light up and when the charcoal (see lighting charcoal section) oil the grid before putting the chicken on.
- Set the height of the grid at 6 to 8 inches above the coals.
- Grilling is a direct BBQ method – i.e. the food is directly above the heat source, rather than offset from it (or in a separate compartment) as with indirect methods e.g. smoking – so the heat is greater.
- There is a limit to the amount of heat the surface of the meat will take before it starts to burn, leaving the interior raw. This is where the problems arise – there’s an element of balance between heat and cooking time.
As the following video demonstrates how to cook chicken safely. Note the BBQ tips on marinating in zip lock bags, and basting, it’s good info.
A chicken breast takes 15 minutes or so to cook properly (20 absolute max) – so make sure each side of the meat gets a roughly equal amount of time facing the heat.
Turn it every few minutes, this allows the heat to dissipate into the meat and the surface doesn’t overcook.
When the chicken is cooked, any juices from inside the meat should be clear, the meat should be white and have a slightly moist and almost flaky appearance.
Keep turning the pieces every few minutes until between 15 to 20 minutes have passed and it looks cooked. Then cut into one piece and check the color if the meat and juices – they should leak out and they will be clear if it’s done.
If you have chicken legs, if you pull on one of the leg joints should pop apart with little effort.
The procedure is the same for breast, thighs or chicken quarters or halves. Just allow a few more minutes each side for bigger pieces like chicken quarters.
If you really don’t trust yourself look at Amazon.com and consider buying a digital meat thermometer – the internal temperature should hit 180F or 85C.
You could try pre-cooking the meat in oven first – medium heat 350F for 15 minutes, and then put it on the grill for the last 5 minutes.
As a side note, some recipes for chicken pieces like tikka are cooked on metal skewers – the heat is conducted via the skewers inside the meat, cooking it more evenly and safely allowing reduced cooking times.
How to Cook Chicken Safely – Whole Chicken
Whole chicken or even a half chicken cannot really be grilled in the usual way.
The best way to barbecue whole chicken is by the indirect BBQ method.
Basically it will be cooked for longer and at a lower temperature than a grill – in a manner similar to an oven. All you need is a BBQ grill with a lid.
When using this method you can tell if the chicken is done by wiggling one of the legs about – if it moves freely, or easily pops out, it is cooked.
Beer can chicken gives one example of how to cook a whole chicken on a BBQ.