In a recent column on secrets for grilling cheap cuts of meat, I asked readers to share their worst barbecue/grilling experiences that could have been spared if they'd had a decent instant-read thermometer.
I loved reading your comments, some of which were so funny you had me laughing out loud. But more than that, I learned that most of our grilling disasters involve chicken.
Grilled chicken should be delicious, moist, tender and full of flavor. But all too often it turns out charred on the outside, raw in the middle or bone-dry and tough as shoe leather.
Worst ways to grill chicken
Here are the things you've been doing all wrong when grilling chicken:
--Starting out with cold, wet chicken: Chicken should be brought to room temperature and blotted with paper towels until it feels dry to the touch before it comes in contact with the hot grill.
--Slathering with barbecue sauce right from the start: Because barbecue sauce is loaded with sugar, it burns quickly and long before the chicken is cooked through. Hold off on the sauce until the last five minutes of cooking,
--Not enough salt: Chicken that is not salted properly tends to be bland or completely flavorless. If you cannot brine or marinate the chicken ahead of grilling, season the outside generously and evenly. And if you are grilling a whole bird, don't forget to season the cavity as well as the skin.
--Not using a good, reliable instant-read thermometer: Precise temperature control is the secret of perfectly grilled chicken.
--Not letting it rest: Cutting into your chicken as soon as it comes off the grill is begging for trouble. Let pieces sit for least five minutes before digging in. A full 20 to 30 minutes of rest time should be given to a whole bird.
Best ways to grill chicken
Want to make sure you never again waste money on grilled chicken disasters? Follow these simple tips, especially the one about using a good instant-read thermometer.
--Bone-in, skin-on: If you want juicy, moist, flavorful chicken, opt for bone-in, skin-on pieces, and then remove the skin after grilling if you prefer not to eat it.
--Even out boneless breasts: If you must grill boneless breasts, you want them to be of even thickness. Place the boneless chicken pieces in a resealable plastic bag, and go at them with a heavy skillet or a meat pounder, bashing the thicker parts of the breast until they match the height of the thinnest part. Don't go too thin; thickness should be around 3/4 inch.
--Marinate or brine: Soak chicken in a simple marinade of 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3 cloves crushed garlic and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt for at least one hour. Or make up this simple brine: 1 gallon warm water, 3/4 cup kosher salt, 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 cup olive oil. Soak the chicken in the brine for up to 24 hours. In either case, drain chicken pieces well, and then pat them dry with paper towels before placing them on the grill.
--Clean, oiled grill: Chicken, especially skinless, doesn't have much fat at all, so making sure the grill is clean and the grate is oiled (soak a paper towel in cooking oil, and then use tongs to coat) just before placing the chicken will help to keep it from sticking.
--Proper temperature: Preheat the grill to 375 degrees F before adding chicken.
--Temperature: Don't guess; you'll get it wrong. You need a reliable instant-read thermometer. The USDA recommends letting all chicken parts and whole chickens reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, keeping in mind that the temperature will continue to rise once the meat has been removed from the grill.
Insert the probe into the coolest part of the chicken, usually the thickest part at the center. Keep in mind that boneless chicken breasts will cook much faster than bone-in dark pieces.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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