How to Grill Chicken Parts

  • 01 of 11

    Grilling Chicken Parts

    Grilled BBQ chicken
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    The advantage of grilling different types of chicken pieces—breast, leg, thigh, and wing—is that everyone can pick the piece they want. The problem, though, is getting all the pieces grilled perfectly so that none is over- or undercooked. With these simple steps, you will be serving up delicious, juicy grilled chicken parts that will please the crowd.


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  • 02 of 11

    What You Need

    Charcoal briquettes glowing and on fire in a bar-b-que grill at blue hour.
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    Since you already know you need a whole chicken cut up (unless you want to cut it up yourself), you next need to decide on a flavor combination for the chicken. You can start with a good poultry rub, and then add barbecue sauce at the end. Or, you can use just one of these flavoring methods.

    Gather these supplies:

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  • 03 of 11

    Preparing the Pieces

    Raw chicken pieces
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    Start by prepping your chicken pieces for the grill—look for large clumps of fat and loose, unnecessary pieces of skin and trim these off. This will help reduce the risk of flare-ups on the grill and result in a presentable piece of chicken. It is also a good idea to wash the pieces of chicken. Make sure that you pat the chicken dry with paper towels before seasoning.

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  • 04 of 11

    Seasoning the Chicken

    Raw chicken seasoning
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    Applying a poultry rub to the chicken before you start grilling not only adds flavor, but also helps create a crispy skin. The secret is to get the rub on as much of the actual meat as possible—the skin will keep the flavor out, so work your herbs and spices under the skin where you can.

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  • 05 of 11

    Cleaning the Grill

    Cleaning grill
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    It is important that your grill is clean before you start cooking your chicken. Make sure that not only the cooking surface is clean but that there is also no grease in the bottom of the grill. The truth about flare-ups is that they are more often caused by what you grilled last than what you are cooking now. Preheat your grill on high and make sure that any drippings in the bottom of your grill are completely burned off.

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  • 06 of 11

    Heating the Grill

    A gas grill

    Now we get to the most important part of the process. The larger pieces of chicken are going to cook slower than the smaller pieces. You could adjust for this by putting the large pieces on first and adding the remaining parts until everything is cooked properly. However, this isn't necessary if you make one side of your grill hotter than the other.

    On a charcoal grill, you can accomplish this by banking the bulk of the hot coals to one side of the grill. This creates a hot side and a warm...MORE side. On a gas grill, set one burner to high and one to a lower temperature. (If you have three burners, turn the back burner to high, the middle burner to medium, and the front burner to low.) Get your grill up to temperature and then adjust the heat down to around 350 to 375 F (177 to 190 C).

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  • 07 of 11

    Placing Chicken on the Grill

    Chicken on the grill
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    It is time to put the chicken on the grill. Put the larger pieces closer to a higher temperature and the smaller pieces as far from the high temperature as possible. In this layout, put the breasts closest to the high heat. Next come the thighs, then the legs, and finally the wings in the corners of the coolest side of the grill. With this setup, everything will cook evenly and nothing will burn.

    With this arrangement, the total cooking time will be determined by the largest pieces, the chicken...MORE breasts. Expect about 45 minutes to get through the whole grilling time.

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  • 08 of 11

    Dealing With Flare-Ups

    Grilled chicken flare-up
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    One of the problems with cooking chicken pieces on the grill is flare-ups. As the chicken heats up, fat will turn into a fine liquid and begin dripping into your grill. Since you are keeping the chicken away from the hottest part of the grill you shouldn't encounter too much flame, but you may still have flare-ups.

    Your best bet is to take control of the flare-ups. Whenever you move the chicken on the grill, take it to one corner that you are not using (and has the lowest heat) and give the...MORE piece a good shake. This will drop the grease where it can burn off harmlessly. By doing this, you shouldn't have any serious flare-ups.

    If you do have a large flare-up, remove the chicken from the grill entirely. Leave the lid of the grill up and let the fire die down. Once the flare-up is over return the chicken to the grill and continue cooking.

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  • 09 of 11

    Turning the Chicken

    Turning chicken on grill
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    After about 15 minutes, it's time to check the chicken for turning. As the chicken cooks, it becomes firmer. Look for a nice brown color and firmer meat on the bottom side of the chicken. Once you have this, it is time to turn the chicken over. Flip the chicken and rotate the pieces so that the top side closest to you is now the bottom side farthest from you. This way you get even heat on each piece of chicken.

    As you turn the chicken, check to see how the pieces are cooking. Move more cooked...MORE pieces away from the higher heat and less cooked pieces toward the heat. If the chicken appears to be browning on the outside but not firm in the middle, turn down the heat so that the inside can cook without burning the surface of the chicken.

    By about 30 minutes, the chicken should be mostly cooked and ready for sauce. If you are not going to be putting barbecue sauce on your chicken then continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165 F (74 C) and skip the next step.

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  • 10 of 11

    Adding Barbecue Sauce

    Barbecue chicken pieces
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    If you are putting a barbecue sauce on your chicken, start when the chicken is nearly done. Reduce the heat of the grill by turning down the burners on your gas grill or closing down the vents on your charcoal grill until the temperature goes below 265 F (128 C). This is the burning temperature of sugar. After you have reduced the heat, slather on several layers of sauce. This will give the chicken a thick, sticky coating.

    The secret to a good coating is to let the sauce cook onto the chicken....MORE Apply the sauce to one side of the chicken and close the lid of your grill for about 5 minutes. Then open the grill, turn the chicken, and sauce the other side. Continue in this way until you have a good coating of barbecue sauce.

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  • 11 of 11

    Checking the Temperature

    Chicken temperature
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    As the chicken gets close to being done, it is time to start checking the temperature. You need to reach an internal temperature of 165 F (74 C). Check all the pieces of chicken to be certain that they are cooked. Once you have hit the target temperature, remove the chicken from the grill. If some pieces are done before others, move those to the coldest side of the grill until all are done. Cover and allow to rest for about 5 minutes then serve.