I’ve been trying to get the wife to eat more meat on the bone. I’m convinced that bone-in fare is simple more flavorful than its boneless counterparts. She’s okay with barbecued ribs, because the bone is so big, but she gets squeamish when the bones are small. I’ve been making lots of bone-in pork chops lately and she’s gotten more accustomed to eating that way. I figured it was finally time to go for the gold and cook a whole chicken. It resulted in the best roasted/grilled chicken I’ve ever eaten.
Getting the wife to adopt a new food is like managing a shuttle launch. If the conditions aren’t perfect, you abort. I usually find whole chickens to be greasy and I think she does too. So I decided to grill the chicken quickly rather than slow-roast it to minimize the squeamishness.
To make this chicken, you spatchcock or butterfly it by cutting out the backbone and flattening the breast. Next, brine the chicken overnight in a solution of water, salt, sugar and peppercorns (I don’t really measure – maybe 1/2 cup salt, 1/3 cup sugar and a tablespoon of peppercorns, mixed very well).
After the brine, you rinse off the bird thoroughly and marinate it in an oil and rosemary bath. This is a marinade that I originally used for pork and have systematically improved over the last year. For a bird this size, you mix a big handful of rosemary (maybe 3/4 cup, unpacked?) with 1½ cups peanut oil, 1½ tablespoons coarsely ground pepper, 1½ tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and the juice of 1 lemon. I always snip the rosemary with shears a few times before I add it to the rest of the marinade so the oils are released.
After the bird has marinated for at least four hours (and up to overnight), drain it over the sink and then place it on a plate to continue draining. Don’t go out of your way to wipe the marinade off the bird. You want the seasonings to be seared into the skin and meat. Meanwhile, heat up the grill and oil the grates thoroughly. Also, wrap a brick in foil.
The ideal cooking temperature for the grill is around 350°, but you want to get it hotter than that at first so you get a good sear. If you’re using charcoal, rake the coals to either side just before cooking so there’s an indirect, flare-free zone in the middle. When it’s really hot, place the chicken in the center of the grill, breast-side-down, and weigh it down with the brick. Let it go for ten minutes with the cover on and don’t touch the chicken. At the ten minute mark, flip the bird over and cover with the brick again. It’ll take around 10-15 more minutes to finish the cooking the bird, for a total cooking time of 20-25 minutes, depending on the size.
When it’s done, remove to a platter and cover with foil for at least ten minutes. I accidentally left the heat on high a little too long in the center of my gas grill and charred my bird a bit (and lost some of the crispy skin). But the beast still came out beautifully. Like I said before without exaggeration, this was the best chicken I’ve ever eaten.
You can’t go wrong with this marinade. We have a huge rosemary bush in our garden that has to be cut back from time to time, so it’s a standard recipe in our house. We’re all the luckier for it. If you serve pork chops or grilled chicken in this style to guests, they’re guaranteed to swoon.