It’s been a very rainy spring in Tulsa this year, but as soon as the skies clear, we know many of us will be waiting with our tongs and propane standing by-it’s almost grilling season! Here’s a few tips to help you get the most out of your Tulsa outdoor kitchen as you grill up some amazing barbecue!
Barbecue chicken is one of the most common go-to grilling items, but it might just be the hardest to get right. In particular, lean breast meat can be even more challenging that darker leg and thigh cuts, so we’ll focus on them here. Use these tips from prep through presentation to impress your family and friends with delicious tender and juicy chicken breasts every time!
Tenderize Your Meat
A brief pounding helps break down tough chicken fibers and flatten it out for quicker (and therefore more juicy) cooking. Flattening the chicken will also seriously aid in even cooking by ensuring that you don’t have disproportionately meaty parts that cook slower than the thinner edges. Serious eats.com recommends putting your chicken breasts in a thicker ziplock bag on the counter and giving it a few whacks until it’s an even thickness, but don’t go thinner than 3/4 inches or your meat will dry out!
Brine Your Chicken
There are hundreds of delicious recipes for rubs and glazes to choose from, but at the very least, “brine” your chicken breasts in a salt water solution for 30 minutes before cooking to help tenderize the meat and retain moisture on the grill. Bbq.about.com has an easy recipe for chicken brine that simply calls for a 1/4 cup of kosher salt with a 1/4 cup of sugar dissolved in 8 cups of cold water, which makes enough for four chicken breasts. Above that, you can feel free to experiment with adding garlic and other spices or even different wine and spirits! Prep your meat ahead of time indoors, or if you have one, this is the perfect opportunity to store your supplies in the mini fridge of your Tulsa outdoor kitchen so they’re ready to toss on the flames.
Oil Your Grate
Keep in mind that chicken breasts aren’t greasy enough to provide their own lubrication like most beef or sausages. Thoroughly clean your grate and grease it up with a paper towel soaked in olive oil. This not only prevents sticking but will help achieve those perfectly seared grill marks (fancy!)
Keep Your Grill Hot Enough
High heat is important to cooking your chicken thoroughly and locking in the juicy flavor before it gets a chance to dry out. A medium-high heat of 375-450°F is just about the perfect range. If you don’t have a built-in or stand-alone thermometer, Finecooking.com recommends the “Three Mississippi” rule of thumb: “hold your hand about four inches above the grate. Start counting “one Mississippi, two Mississippi…” and by “three Mississippi,” the intense heat should force you to snatch your hand away.”
DON’T OVER-COOK YOUR CHICKEN!
If you’ve followed all the steps to properly preparing your meat, it doesn’t take long at all to achieve a thorough internal cooking temperature and a perfect golden crisp. That being said, it’s also very important not to undercook chicken or any other kind of fowl. With a few minutes per side over direct heat, you should be able to reach the appropriate internal temperature. Seriouseats.com recommends pulling your chicken off the flames at 160°F which lets the temperature continue to rise to the FDA-approved 165°F even after it’s removed.
Do Your Handiwork Justice With Good Presentation
Whether your slapping on the barbecue sauce or delicately arranging greens and garnishes for an elegant dinner party, presentation is the final touch and shouldn’t be overlooked! Try one of a whole host of recipes in grilling books and online or come up with your own creations. Experiment with complementary flavors like sweet barbecue sauce and spicy peppers, savory pesto and light cheese, or a rich spice rub and refreshing ranch dressing. Pair sides like grilled vegetables or simply warm up some dinner rolls on the grill and you’re ready to go!
(grilled chicken photo courtesy of seriouseats.com)