Great minds think alike, don’t you agree? My food-writing cohort and friend Nancy Leson spelled out a few days ago–in delicious detail–the steps she (and her husband Mac) uses to turn out perfect whole chicken roasted on the backyard grill. I’d served at home last Saturday night very much the same thing. Minus the Lawry’s Salt (though I do have a bottle on my shelf) and using a brine instead.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, a classic (oven) roasted chicken is a staple in this house, some nights absolutely nothing could taste better. But with heat like we had last week, no turning on the oven in this house. Grill-roasted chicken it was.
I brined the bird in a very simple mixture of water, salt (about 1/3 cup per quart of water), grated lime zest, crushed garlic cloves and a few dashes of Tabasco (could have used more!). I started the brine with just half the water, warm, stirring with everything else until the salt was dissolved. Then, because I was in a hurry, I added ice, stirring until melted and the brine was cold. In goes the rinsed chicken, then into the fridge for 24 hours. Wonderful mysterious transmogrifications happen in that time. (By the way, possible flavor combos in the brine are endless: herbs, spices, citrus zest, chiles, wine, onion, ginger, you name it.)
Like Nancy, we’re Weber kettle grill folks in this household and also swear by the chimney contraption to perfectly get the coals a braisin’ without using that awful lighter fluid. When the coals were good and ready, I spread them to opposite sides of the grill, in slender piles right up against the side of the grill. I also made a foil pan (triple layer, fold up the edges; or buy a foil pan at the store) to put between the coals. The chicken’s going to drip fat during cooking, this just helps tremendously with clean-up.
After taking the chicken from the brine, pat dry and set it in the center of the grill grate, right above that foil pan. Set the vents each about half-open, cover, and make a gin and tonic. Or open another bottle of Chinook rose. Or both, in succession. I don’t fiddle much with the bird while it roasts. It keeps the leaner breast meat farther away from the heat of the coals and avoids tearing the skin. I did turn onto the breast about halfway through for 15 minutes or so, just to amplify the crispy-brown character of the skin.
Also on the menu, some grill-roasted potatoes. I cut some Yukon Golds into big wedges, tossed them with a little melted butter, sliced garlic and salt and wrapped in a couple layers of foil. They went on the fire after about 45 minutes; also in the center, if possible, away from direct heat.