Gas-Grilled Whole Chicken

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Our ideal grill-roasted chicken has a deeply smoky flavor, crisp mahogany skin, and tender, juicy meat. And to that end, we brined the chicken and coated it with a flavorful spice rub. We then cooked the chicken in the middle of the grill, where it wouldn’t burn but would receive ample heat.

If you choose not to brine, skip that part of step 1 and season the bird generously with salt inside and out before rubbing with spices. Or, better yet, use a kosher chicken (which is salted during processing). For added accuracy, place a grill thermometer in the lid vents as the chicken cooks. Wood chunks are not suitable for gas grills, and wood chips, which don’t add much smoky flavor, are more trouble than they’re worth. Instead, rely on the spice rub alone; it will supply ample aroma and flavor. While grill-roasting, adjust the lit burner as necessary to maintain a temperature of 325 to 350 degrees inside the grill.

The recipe called for a smaller chicken than the 5-pounder that we bought (we wanted leftovers), so we had to adjust the grilling time (it only added about 10 more minutes.) Taken from Cooks Illustrated, there were two rub recipes to choose from, one dry, one wet—our choice this time. When cooked, this baby was unbelievably juicy, tender and immensely flavorful!

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And a favorite grilled side dish is a marinated vegetable medley. Chop any combination of vegetables to a uniform size and place in a large ziploc bag. Sweet bell peppers, onions, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant are all good choices. Toss in a dozen or so garlic cloves, halved; add your favorite minced fresh herbs; anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup of a good olive oil (we used Herbs de Provence), and season generously with salt and pepper. If marinating for an hour or less, you can leave at room temperature, otherwise refrigerate until ready to use.

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One noticeable faux pas in our thinking this time was the fact that the grill lid would have to be open so that Russ could toss the veggies often in the grill basket to prevent burning, resulting in an uneven temperature to finish cooking the chicken. Dilemma solved by spreading the vegetables on a large baking sheet and popping in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Finally, place the cooked vegetables into the basket and grill over a flame for another 10 minutes to get a nice char.

CHICKEN INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 whole broiler/fryer chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons spice rub

Citrus-Cilantro Wet Spice Rub (makes about 3 Tbsp)

For extra spiciness, add up to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. This rub was developed by grilling experts John Willoughby and Chris Schlesinger. It is especially suitable for chicken. We substituted smoky paprika for the regular.

WET RUB INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice from 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice from 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced very fine
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves

Combine all ingredients in small bowl. Use immediately.

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BRINING/GRILLING INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Dissolve salt in 2 quarts cold water in large container. Immerse chicken in salted water and refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 1 hour. Remove chicken from brine and rinse inside and out with cool running water; pat dry with paper towels. Massage spice rub all over chicken, inside and out. Lift up skin over breast and rub spice rub directly onto meat.

    Light grill and turn all burners to high; cover and heat grill 15 minutes. Turn off all but one burner. Place chicken, breast-side down, over cool part of grill; close lid and grill-roast for 35 minutes. Turn chicken breast-side up, so that the leg and wing that were facing away from lit burner are now facing toward it. Close lid and continue grill-roasting until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes longer.

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    Ah, isn’t this bird a picture of perfection?

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