The secret to perfectly cooked pieces is using direct and indirect heat.
Using wood chips makes the chicken even better tasting. 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 the chips directly onto each pile of hot briquettes or follow 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 in advance and served as is, or kept warm in a low oven.
- 5 to 5 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, such as drumsticks, bone-in, skin-on thighs, bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, 12 to 16 pieces
- 1 1/2 cups Leftover Coffee Barbecue Sauce or your favorite sauce, plus more for serving (see related recipe)
Combine the chicken pieces and 1 cup of the barbecue sauce in a jumbo (2 1/2-gallon) resealable plastic food storage bag. Seal and massage to coat evenly; marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.
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). Open the grill's bottom vents. Dump the lighted coals into 2 mounds (or, preferably, into 2 half-moon-shaped briquette baskets) on opposite sides of the grill. (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.)
If using a charcoal grill, lightly spray the grill rack with nonstick cooking oil spray before placing it over the briquettes. If using a gas grill, lightly oil the rack.
Remove the chicken from the bags, discarding any leftover sauce. Place each piece skin side up on an area of the grill that is not directly above the briquettes or a lit burner.
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 and maintain the temperature inside the grill between 300 and 350 degrees.
Transfer the chicken to the indirect-heat side of the grill. Cover and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken's internal temperature reaches 155 degrees for white meat and 165 degrees for dark meat (chicken will not be cooked through). Use 1/4 cup of the remaining barbecue sauce for basting; cover and cook for 10 minutes over indirect heat.
Move the chicken pieces over direct heat, baste with the remaining 1/4 cup of sauce and cook uncovered for 1 to 2 minutes, until the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees for white meat and 175 degrees for dark meat, turning the pieces often to avoid flame-ups.
Transfer the pieces to a platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil; let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
VARIATIONS: See related recipes for Herb Mix for Chicken and Red Rub online: The following variations are also grilled over indirect heat. Rinse the poultry with cold water and blot dry with paper towels. For rubbed chicken, transfer the pieces to a large bowl and coat evenly with 6 tablespoons of the rub.
For herbed chicken, use your fingers to carefully loosen the skin. Spread about a tablespoon of the Herb Mix for Chicken evenly under the skin of each piece, allowing some of it to get on the outside. Lightly spray the rubbed or herbed pieces with nonstick cooking oil spray; season with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste (use the latter if they haven't been brined). Transfer to the grill; cover and cook for 40 to 50 minutes, until the chicken's internal temperature reaches 155 degrees for white meat and 165 degrees for dark meat (chicken will not be cooked).
Move the chicken over direct heat; cook uncovered for about 10 minutes until the chicken's internal temperature reaches 165 degrees for white meat and 175 degrees for dark meat, turning the pieces often to avoid flame-ups. The skin should be nicely browned and crisped.
If you wish to brine the chicken before grilling, the chipotle brine is preferable (see related box).
From Real Entertaining columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
Email questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.