Roast Chicken Project #10 - Grilled Roast Chicken
Wait, what is happening? How can you have roasted chicken from a grill? Isn’t that an oxymoron or something?
Probably not. I don’t know, grammar police help me out! But you can certainly have roasted chicken that is cooked on a grill, because what is a grill but a huge outdoor oven? That is exactly what it is, with the capability of adding good, dark sear marks and a little smoky somethin’ somethin’ to your food. It’s magic, is what it is, and when I have the chance to stay in a place with a grill, I make sure to take full advantage of it. That’s why I could be found last week in my Dad’s backyard in Tucson, grilling up the contents of the butcher case at the grocery store.
I exaggerate, of course, but I did make sure he knew I wanted to try roasting an entire chicken on the grill, NOT SPATCHCOCKED, but whole and intact, the way every cooking show/personality/food blog/Jenji Kohan acolyte would tell you NOT to do it. I wanted the challenge, and to see if it could be done and still have juicy white and dark meat and crispy skin, and I didn’t prefer to have to cut apart the raw bird first. And anyway, this is exactly how my Dad cooks his Thanksgiving turkey every year, so this would be a fun, father-daughter experiment on a smaller scale, and a good test run of the grill before the turkey.
Of course, I didn’t go in without researching first, and in the few recipes I found for grilling whole, non-flattened birds, I found good advice about oven temperature and heat source placement, and so I took that info and got to work. I took a deep breath, plopped a chili and scallion butter-rubbed bird right into the middle of the grill, closed the lid, then headed inside to distract myself for 45 minutes while my chicken hopefully turned bronze and crispy, instead of igniting and flaming up into a charred husk with a raw inside.
And there was no fire! At the halfway point, I opened the grill top to discover a halfway roasted chicken not unlike the previous 7 or 8 I’ve roasted this year. I flipped it over, covered it again, and danced back into the house to wait out the remaining cooking time. Slightly more than a half hour later, by the time the smoky fragrance of grilled, crispy meat began to waft inside, I knew this was going to be a good bird. And the grill lid lifted again to reveal one of the most beautiful roast chickens I’ve ever seen, burnished to the color of a 90-year old Palm Springs native after decades in the sun, with a slight, charred tinge to the edges I couldn’t wait to tear off with my bare hands. I distracted myself from drooling during the rest period by clipping roses from the garden to fancy my chicken up for photos, then dismantled that baby and tore in.
It was goooood, ok? It was perfectly cooked, with the legs and breast all finished and juicy, all covered in a crackling, buttery skin holding a slight heat from the chiles. I mean. I’m converted, and I would definitely do it again! Except, oh wait, I don’t have a grill. But if you do, you should try it! The lack of cleanup is a huge bonus too. Also a bonus? My dad learned a few tips from this experiment and a couple days later produced THE BEST Thanksgiving turkey any of us at dinner had ever had. Not too shabby.
Grilled Roast Chicken with Ancho Scallion Rub
- 2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
- boiling water
- 4 tbs unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic
- 4-5 scallions, chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 whole, 3-4 lb chicken
- Heat the grill: if using a gas grill, light 1 burner if a 2-burner grill, or if a 3-burner grill, light only the 2 outside burners, leaving the middle burner off. The grill should be between 350-400 degrees. If using a charcoal grill, only heat one side of the grill.
- Make the rub: In a skillet, toast the dried chiles for a minute or two, then transfer to a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 15 minutes, then drain and let cool.
- Add cooled chiles to the bowl of a food processor with the butter, garlic, and sallions and pulse to combine into a paste.
- Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper, sprinkling some inside the cavity. Rub the chicken all over with the ancho scallion mixture. Be sure to rub as much of the mixture as you can under the skin as well as in the cavity and all over the surface of the skin.
- Place the chicken on the unlit part of the grill, breast side down. Grill for 45 minutes, covered, then flip the chicken breast side up. Grill, covered, for another 35 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees.
- Remove chicken from grill and let rest for 10-15 minutes, then carve and serve.