How To Grill Chicken

Summer is that magical time of year when men who don’t even know how to turn on the stove suddenly become master chefs. Only thing is, the cooking has to happen outside over an open flame. It’s probably some deep-seated caveman thing. “Ugghhh … fire … me cook … ungh.”

It’s probably best to start off easy with just a couple of ingredients and the simplest possible preparation.


boneless skinless chicken breasts
barbecue sauce
olive oil (optional: bacon fat)
salt and pepper


Since when do I use skinless chicken? Since forever, because that’s how the stores sell chicken breasts.1 I could get boneless breasts from the butcher with the skin still on, but that’s a special order. The alternatives are boneless skinless, or de-bone them myself. I didn’t feel like working that hard the day I made this, so skinless it is.

While your grill is warming up, rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels, then spread out in a single layer. Give it a generous coating of coarse kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Turn it over and season the other side.

You might have noticed I was using tongs to arrange and turn the chicken. Otherwise you have to wash your hands about seven or eight times before you even start cooking. (Seriously, you have to wash everything the chicken touches. Secondary contamination is a bad thing. Don’t make your guests sick, it’s bad form.)

By now the grill should be ready. If you don’t have a jar of bacon fat handy — and if you don’t, why not? — then coat the chicken with olive oil. If you do have the bacon fat, put a generous dab of it on a paper towel and lube up the grill.

You can see in that second picture (click on it for a larger view) that I turned off the right side of the grill and turned the left side down. I started in the middle and worked my way out, so you can see that the bars just to the left of center are pretty dry.

Turn the fire back up to medium — a couple of inches below the grill — and put the chicken on.

Put the barbecue sauce on the side burner, then take your plate and tongs in and wash them.

Let the sauce warm up until there is no pink left on the first side of the chicken. You don’t really have to warm up the sauce, but if you don’t, you’ll bring the temperature of the chicken down and it will be more likely to dry out before it’s done.

Turn the chicken over and coat the cooked side with sauce.

Most sauces are pretty high in sugar, which will burn easily. It’s better to do multiple thin coatings of sauce on each side than to try to get it all at once.

Since the girls aren’t big fans of spicy food (yet) I left most of the chicken with just the salt and pepper. I only did the two pieces with the sauce for me and the wife.

I discovered the sauce I’d made didn’t have enough sugar to caramelize well. The reason it worked on the ribs is that I added the liquid from the brazing. Next time I do chicken with this sauce, I’ll add a little orange juice. That should be enough sugar, and will add a little tanginess.

Add some grilled asparagus alongside, and that’s it.

Coming up next week is a completely unexpected use for the apple cider sweet onion sauce. Unexpected because I was already cooking when I thought how good it would be. And it was. Subscribe to my feed with the link in the right column to see it when I finish writing it up.

1 This is part of the reason for writing the book and this blog. If enough people start asking for the kind of food I like to cook, the stores might start carrying it again.