The summer of 2010 will always be remembered as how many types of meat can I screw up on my gas grill. Baby back ribs turned out to be baby BLACK ribs. There was grilled whole chicken prepared burnt and extra crispy. Don’t think I could forget about grilled whole fish served unintentional sashimi style. I’m also pretty sure I ate a few raw chicken wings. Victories were few but success came from cooking steaks, clams, hamburgers, and hot dogs. I would feel pretty bad if I screwed up hot dogs.
So this summer it’s all about redemption. No more burnt food. No more raw food. No more cooking food on top of a sheet of foil. No more stabbing at the meat to see if it’s done. Most importantly, no more inedible food. Those sexy killer grill marks I see on the cover of glossy food magazines would no longer be an unreachable goal. I will have my grill marks and my chicken breast will come out moist.
It was time to start fresh and replace my slowly dying (one side of the burner only lit up halfway) cheap small gas grill. I knew exactly what I want; a Weber. After settling with a black One-Touch Gold 22.5” model and watching countless hours of Steven Raichlen’s BBQ U and Primal Grill, I was ready to redeem myself.
The first thing I cooked on the new grill was this recipe. Flavored with lemongrass, Thai basil, and garlic, this recipe combines some of my favorite herbs and is cooked with a grilling technique I think every beginner griller should know. This was also a recipe I had failed two times in cooking properly last year. That burnt and extra crispy chicken I mention before? I was trying to make this.
One of the mistakes I repeatedly made last year was cooking everything directly on top of the flames (direct cooking). Small pieces of meat and quick to cook items like kebabs, hamburgers, and steaks are perfect for direct cooking. Trying to cook a whole bird? Not so much. Not only will you end up with something that resembles a big lump of coal, but it will be rare and oozing with E. coli juices on the inside. That’s where indirect cooking, cooking away from the flames, comes in. Large cuts of meat (whole birds, thick steaks and pork chops, and ribs) requires more time to cook. By cooking indirectly, you are cooking at a lower temperature than directly on the flame. This will allows thick cuts of meat to cook all the way through without burning or over cooking the outside. Steven Raichlen has a page on BBQ U explaining the difference and how to set up your grill (charcoal and gas) for both methods of cooking.
Another tip that would have prevented both of my sad looking chicken dinners and hungry stomachs last year, is knowing how to position different parts of the chicken on different temperature zones on your grill. As explained on an episode of America’s Test Kitchen (Yes, I learn everything from PBS) breast and thighs finish cooking at different times. Breasts like most white meat cooks faster, while dark meat like thighs takes a little longer. So when positioning the butterflied chicken on a grill set up for indirect cooking, face the legs towards the hot side of the grill first. As the chicken continues to cook, you will rotate and flip the bird around for even cooking.
Check out the slideshow below for a step by step guide on setting up your grill for indirect grilling and how to position your chicken for this recipe.
As delicious as this recipe is, I know I’ll need to spend a lot more time with my Weber in order to redeem myself from the grilling horrors of 2010. Charcoal in stock? Check! Cooking grates kept clean? All the time! I’m ready, and if how this chicken turned out is any indication of future grilling meals, it looks like the road towards redemption is going to be tasty.
Grilled Brick Chicken with Lemongrass and Thai Basil
By Shao Z. | Fried Wontons For You
Serving: 2 to 4
- chicken, butterflied or spatchcocked
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ cup lemongrass, finely chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ to 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
- 2 sprigs Thai basil, finely cut
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 3 tablespoon reserved and strained oil from the rub mixture
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tabelspoon rice vinegar
- 1 or 2 garden bricks or a cast iron pan
1. In a small saucepan, add olive oil, lemongrass, garlic, and chili flakes. Turn the flame high. When the oil starts to sizzle turn the flame down to medium low. Cook the mixture for about 10 minutes until the lemongrass is soft. Stir occasionally.
2. After 10 minutes turn off the flame and add in the Thai basil. Mix the mixture and pour it in a fine mesh strainer with a bowl on the bottom to catch the oil. Press down on the mixture with a spoon to make sure all the oil is being strained out. Reserve the flavored oil. Place the lemongrass and Thai basil mixture in a bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
3. As the mixture cools, butterfly the chicken and clean it by running it through cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Begin loosening the skin of the chicken on the breast side. Lift the skin up and slide 2 fingers between the skin and the meat. Slowly move your fingers side to side and be careful not to tear the skin. Do this to the skin on the thighs as well.
4. When the mixture is cool, add in the coarse sea salt and mix. Spread the mixture under the loosen skin of the chicken. Flip the bird over and spread it on the other side. Marinate the chicken for at least 3 hours or overnight.
5. Set grill up for indirect grilling.
For charcoal grills: See slideshow above or follow the following instructions. Start by lighting charcoal in a chimney starter. When the charcoal turns grey, about 20 to 30 minutes, they are ready for the grill. Dump the charcoal on only one side of the grill and leave the other half empty. Place the cooking grates on the grill.
For gas grills: For 2 burner grills, turn on only 1 burner. For 3 burner grills, turn on the first and last burner on high and cook on the middle burner. For 4 burner grills, turn on the 2 outside burners.
6. When your grill is set up, wrap 1 or 2 bricks (depending on the size of the bricks and the chicken) in foil. Place the brick on the grill and heat for 10 to 15 minutes with the lid on. Oil the grates with vegetable. If you do not have bricks on hand, you can use a cast iron pan to press the chicken down.
7. Place the chicken skin side down on the cool part of the grill. For charcoal grills, this will be the side that that has no charcoal underneath. For gas grills, this will be the side that is not lit up. Make sure to place the legs facing the hot side of the grill. Place the brick on top of the chicken. Close the grill lid and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.
8. After 25 minutes the chicken should be a little browned with faint grill marks. Remove the brick. Before flipping the chicken, oil the other side (the hot side) of the grill. Flip the chicken by gripping the legs with tongs or a towel. Move the flipped chicken to the hot side of the grill with the breast facing the cool side of the grill. Place the brick over the chicken, cover the grill, and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.
9. After 15 minutes remove the brick and insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. The chicken is done when the thermometer reads about 165 degrees. Flip the chicken over. Cook the chicken skin side down on the hot side of the grill until the skin is crispy and golden brown for 5 to 10 minutes. When the skin is crisped, transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes.
10. As the chicken is resting, make the sauce. Combine the reserved and strained lemongrass and Thai basil oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar together. Mix well. Chop the chicken and pour the sauce on top of it.
If the chicken came with gizzards, heart, and liver, skewer them and cook them on the grill right after the chicken is done.
Instead of using a brush to oil the grates on the grill, use paper towels instead. Roll up 3 sheets of paper towels. Hold the paper towel roll with tongs, dip it in a bowl of oil, and brush the oil soaked paper towel roll on the grates.