Good Old American Grilled Chicken
Most people grill chicken halves or pieces slathered in sugary barbecue sauce, but sugar burns with prolonged exposure to heat, almost guaranteeing that the skin will char before the meat is cooked through. So what are the secrets to direct grilling chicken without burning it? First, season the bird with a rub rather than marinating it in a sugar-based barbecue sauce. This gives you plenty of flavor without the risk of burning. Next, if you must baste the bird (and basting is part of grilling chicken), use a vinegar-based mop, not a sweet barbecue sauce. Finally, apply the barbecue sauce at the end of cooking so that it sizzles without burning.
Remove the packets of giblets in the body cavities of the chickens and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the chickens, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, using paper towels. Cut the chickens in half lengthwise. Arrange the chicken halves in a baking dish and sprinkle on both sides with the rub. Pat the rub onto the chickens with your fingertips. Let the chickens sit in the refrigerator, covered for as little as 15 minutes or as long as 4 hours; the longer they stand, the richer the flavor will be.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the chicken halves on the hot grate, all facing in the same direction, skin-side down. Baste the birds with mop sauce every five minutes or so. It is likely the melting fat from the skin will cause flare-ups. Move the chicken halves away from the flames to keep them from burning.
After 10 to 12 minutes, the skin side of the chickens should be crisp and golden brown. Turn the chicken halves, apply more mop sauce and grill the bone side of the chickens the same way. Again, keep the chickens moving to prevent flare-ups. If the birds start to burn, move them to a cooler section of the grill.
Set aside 1 cup of barbecue sauce for serving. After the chickens have grilled about 8 minutes on the second side, brush the skin side with barbecue sauce and turn the halves. Grill for 2 minutes to sizzle the sauce, then brush the bone side with sauce and turn the chickens again. Grill another couple of minutes before removing the chickens. The chickens are done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh (but not touching the bone) registers about 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Transfer the chicken halves to plates or a platter and let rest for 3 minutes before serving with the reserved sauce.
Note: Using the Indirect Method: You can also grill chicken halves using the indirect method. In this case, arrange the chicken pieces on the grate skin-side up. Indirect grill for 40 to 50 minutes, mopping the chickens often. Brush the barbecue sauce on the birds at the end. It is not necessary to turn the chicken halves. Indirect grilling is safer and more predictable (it is virtually impossible to burn an indirect-grilled chicken if you follow the proper cooking time.) But it lacks the theatrics of direct grilling and so should be avoided at a cookout where you want to show off. No guts, no glory.
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