My family loves chicken cooked on a charcoal grill in the summer. No barbecue sauce or fancy rubs for us. I've tried different recipes, but their favorite is the plain grilled chicken, enhanced only with paprika and onion salt. This makes it easy to prepare and cook, which is just fine by my husband, the one who mans the grill. Of course, the charcoal grilling imparts an extra smoky flavor that you don't get on a gas grill, but either way is just fine. We also prefer chicken cooked with the bone and skin, which makes the chicken more flavorful and juicier than when using boneless breasts. (For a good boneless breast recipe, see Grilled Chicken Breasts.) And to make the cooking even simpler, and to fit more on the grill if you're having a crowd, just cut whole chickens in half instead of using eighths. Individual pieces can be cooked and turned to the cook's delight in order to end up with more evenly browned chicken, but the ease of having only a few halves to watch and turn may more than make up for it. In either case, this chicken is delicious hot off the grill or cold the next day for picnics, salads (remove skin and bones and slice), or just snacking from the fridge.
2 whole chickens, 3-4 pounds each
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. With a charcoal grill, use the indirect method of cooking, where the hot coals are on the sides and the chicken is placed in the center.
Rinse the chickens thoroughly and cut in half using kitchen shears or a sharp chef's knife (be very careful with this as the knife can slip on the bones). Remove any excess fat or hanging bones. Just before placing on the grill, season the chicken halves with the paprika and onion salt. Cook bone side down first, covered, for approximately 20 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook skin side down, also covered, for about 15 minutes. Check the skin side and move the chicken so that the pieces are directly over the coals. Cook another 5-10 minutes, uncovered, until the skin is browned and crisp. You can use a meat thermometer to check for doneness (it should read 165-170 degrees when placed in a thick section of meat, not touching a bone) or just cut a piece open to make sure there is no pink left.
Remove the chicken halves to a platter. Let sit for 5-10 minutes and then cut into pieces. Generally, the wings will be more well done when the chicken is cooked in halves, but this is how most wing-lovers like their wings – with the fat all drained away and the skin very crisp. If you cut the chicken into pieces before cooking, you can control the doneness of each piece with frequent turning and checking.
Jamie Stolper is the Food Editor of ShalomBoston.com.