I love teaching newbies how to grill. Not only do I get to introduce them to a whole method of cooking that is flavorful and fun, but I get to set the record straight. There are a lot of attitudes surrounding grilling and barbecue out there that I think makes people fearful of trying. But the truth is, grilling is pretty basic. With a few simple tools and techniques, you can grill most things better than your bragging brother-in-law.
I also remember my first time at the grill. I was cooking for General Ariel Sharon, who later became the Prime Minister of Israel. My very first time grilling. True story. I was maybe 22, and had agreed to do a catering gig for a friend with very little information other than an address. The house was in a nice part of town, with way too many Chihulys (intricate glass sculptures) in the living room for someone as klutzy as I am to be comfortable. The hostess pointed me to the grill and gave me trays of mini-burgers and sliced veggies.
It took me 15 minutes just to figure out how to ignite the grill, and the pressure was on. The guests were arriving soon. Once I got it lit, the grill burned with full frontal fire. I couldn’t turn the darn thing down. Let me tell you, those mini-burgers were charred. Thankfully, everyone was so focused on the guest of honor when he arrived in a whirl of lights and sirens from the police motorcade, that no one minded my crunchy beef patties.
Hopefully, your first few times at the grill will be in the comfort of your own home, without any heads of state coming to dinner. Here is a nearly foolproof grilled chicken recipe that teaches a combination of direct and indirect grilling — one of the techniques that will help you become a master griller. Maybe even one good enough to grill for a head of state.
A foolproof beginner's recipe for grilled chicken
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 tablespoon allspice
- 4 chicken thighs, bone-in,skin on (you may use boneless, but it will shorten the cooking time)
- 1/2 cup any barbecue sauce
- 1 pair of good kitchen tongs
- Basting brush, preferably for high heat
- Meat thermometer
- Mix the paprika, cumin, salt, chili powder and allspice together and liberally coat the chicken on both sides. Let it sit in refrigerator for 1 hour or more.
- Preheat your gas grill on high, with the lid down, for 10-15 minutes. This is an important step that many people miss. Preheating gets the grates hot enough to sear the meat and allow it to release from the grill grates when it's ready. I tested this recipe on a two-burner Quantum TRU-Infrared grill, one of the best grills for beginners because it really doesn't flare up.
- Once preheated, turn down the burners to medium high. Place the thighs on the grates and grill on one side for about seven minutes or until the meat naturally releases from the grill. This is another key part of the grilling process. Enough collagen will seep out of the meat that it will let go from the grill on its own. You can check if the chicken is ready by lifting up a corner of the thigh. If it resists and sticks, then let it grill for another few minutes before you try again.
- Once you can easily lift the chicken off the grill, flip and repeat the process on the second side, but with the lid closed.
- After seven minutes or so, once the chicken releases easily from the grill, move all the thighs onto one half of your grill.
- Turn off the burner directly under the chicken, but leave the other burner or burners on.
- Close the lid. This is called indirect grilling because the flame is not directly under what you are cooking.
- Cook the chicken for another 10 minutes, then lift the lid and brush the tops lightly with barbecue sauce.
- Cook for another 10 minutes until your chicken is done. And how will you know it's done? You will check that it reads at least 140 degrees on your thermometer.
- Cooking on a TRU-Infrared grill will help you avoid flare ups when the grease hits the flame. If you do get a flare up, turn off the burners and close the lid to smother the fire.
- Use the rack above the grill to put your chicken on if it's cooking too fast or too hot.