Here are two paths to lovely roasted poultry. The first is for simple indirect cooking, in which the grill is used as an oven. The chicken (Cornish game hens also work well) is placed directly on the grill over indirect heat. The variation is for rotisserie-grill chicken, a delicious option in which the chicken cooks while rotating on a motorized spit. Cornish game hens may be cooked on the rotisserie if the prongs will hold them.
If you'd like to use Cornish game hens, plan on at least half a hen for each serving. If the hens are small, you'll want a whole one for each servings. You'll need to adjust the cooking time, smaller hens will take only 40 minutes, larger or tightly packed birds will take up to 75 minutes.
You can add flavor with an herb mix or spice rub (see related recipes). If using the rub, place the chicken or Cornish hens in a large bowl and rub to coat evenly. If using the herb mix, Carefully loosen the skin with your fingers; spread the herb mix evenly under the skin.
Using wood chips makes the chicken even better-tasting with either method. Soak 2 cups of wood chips (hickory is a good choice) in water for an hour. Just before placing the lid on the grill, place half of the chips directly onto each pile of hot briquettes, or follow the manufacturer's directions for using wood chips with a gas grill.
See Chicken Grilling 101 for related information on equipment, brines, cooking and handling tips.
Make Ahead: The chicken can be finished an hour before you plan to serve it and offered as is, or kept warm in a low oven.
Servings: 4 - 6
- 2 1/2 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth, for the drip pan
- 1 whole 4-pound chicken, preferably brined (see "For chicken on the grill")
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher salt, if the bird is not brined (see "For chicken on the grill")
Prepare the grill for indirect grilling: If using charcoal, light the charcoal in a chimney starter and let the briquettes burn until the flames subside and a light layer of ash covers the briquettes (about 20 to 25 minutes). Dump the lighted coals into 2 mounds (or, preferably, into 2 half-moon-shaped briquette baskets) on opposite sides of the grill. Place a drip pan between the piles of coals and fill it halfway with water or chicken broth if you want to make gravy. (If using gas, with a two-burner grill, set one burner to medium-low and leave the other unlit; with three or more burners, set the outside or front and rear burners to medium-low and leave the center burners unlit.)
Rinse the chicken with cold water and blot it dry on paper towels. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board; fold the wingtips under the bird and truss the chicken. To truss the bird, start with a 30-inch piece of kitchen twine. Place the bird on its back. Cross the legs and loop the middle portion of the string around the end of each drumstick and then tie the legs together. Tie a half-knot. Pull the ends of the twine over the center of the breast. Flip the bird over onto its breast and loop the twine under and around the wings to keep them flat against the chicken. Pull the ends of the twine together and tie a knot. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for no more than 30 minutes.
Lightly spray the grill rack with nonstick cooking oil spray on the area over the drip pan. Season the chicken with pepper and, if the bird is not brined, salt to taste.
If you are smoking the poultry, place half of the soaked wood chips atop each pile of hot briquettes or follow manufacturer's directions for using wood chips with your gas grill. To make the smoke more intense on a charcoal grill, adjust the top vents so they are almost or entirely closed. This may make the cooking time a little longer, because it will slightly lower the temperature inside the grill. It's also fine to leave the vents fully open.
Cover the grill, then open the bottom and top vents if using a charcoal grill. Maintain the temperature in the grill between 300 and 350 degrees. Roast for 60 to 75 minutes, until the chicken's internal temperature reaches 175 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh.
Transfer the chicken to a platter. Cover loosely with aluminum foil; let it rest for 10 minutes. Discard the twine before carving.
If desired, use the pan drippings to make Drip-Pan Gravy (see related recipe online).
VARIATION: For rotisserie indirect cooking, prepare the grill for indirect cooking as previously directed. Set up your rotisserie according to the manufacturer's directions.
Rinse and dry the chicken as above. Remove one of the prongs from the rod and line up the remaining prong so that your chicken will be centered over the drip pan. Thread the bird onto the rotisserie rod and push it onto the prong, tightening the clip so the prong won't shift. Make sure you adjust the counterweight on the rotisserie rod's handle so it is parallel with the countertop, allowing the rod to remain flat while you thread the chicken onto it.
Push the other prong along the rod and into the bird. Now either truss the chicken (see previous directions) or tie the legs together and around the rod and tie kitchen twine around the chicken to secure the wings, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap; let the chicken sit at room temperature for no more than 30 minutes.
Place the rotisserie rod into the motor. Turn the motor on, and lightly spray the chicken on all sides with nonstick cooking oil spray. (If you like the skin extra-crisp, skip this step.) Season with pepper and salt to taste, if the chicken hasn't been brined.
Cook as previously directed. When the chicken is done, pull the rod with the chicken on it out of the rotisserie and transfer to a platter. Carefully loosen the hot screws on the prongs and slide the rod out; remove the prongs.
Cover the chicken loosely with foil; let it rest for 10 minutes. Discard the twine before carving.
If desired, use the pan drippings to make gravy.
From Real Entertaining columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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