Grilling bone-in chicken on a gas grill is a challenge. You want the meat to cook through, without burning the outside of the meat. A slower cooking method is your key.
Start bone-in chicken over direct grill heat, brown the outside, and crisp the skin. Then move the chicken to a cooler portion of the grill, so the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bone-in Chicken Parts
Cooking up boneless chicken on the gas grill is a quick process. Boneless thighs and breasts sear up and cook through relatively quickly, over direct heat on the grill.
Grilling bone-in chicken thighs on a gas grill is different — so is grilling bone-in breasts. These cuts tend to be thicker, and the presence of the bone makes them cook at a slower rate. If you leave them on the high-heat portion of a gas grill to cook, you'll end up with burned skin and a raw inside.
The technique you'll use to cook bone-in chicken on a gas grill applies a combination of heat methods. Start the bone-in chicken over the hottest grills to brown and crisp the skin. Then move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill to cook it through.
While the bone-in chicken is on indirect or lower heat keep the grill lid closed. This helps you maintain a constant temperature. If your grill has a built-in thermometer, it should read about 325 F.
Grilled Chicken Thighs Time
While boneless cuts of chicken may take five to six minutes per side to cook up on the gas grill, as in our Easy Grilled Chicken and Mole Poblano recipe, bone-in chicken on the gas grill takes longer to come up to a safe temperature. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends that chicken reach an internal temperature of 165 F — whether roasted or grilled — to protect you from foodborne illness.
To reach this safe cooking temperature, you should leave large, bone-in chicken breasts on the indirect heat of the grill for 40 to 45 minutes. Legs or bone-in thighs will be done sooner, so start checking their temperature after 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size. It's better to cook longer at low heat than to place the chicken on high heat, which may encourage the development of cancer-causing heterocyclic amines, explains Harvard Health Publishing.
If you plan on adding a barbecue sauce, wait until the last minute. When you've checked the chicken with an instant-read thermometer and it reads 165 F, brush the chicken with the sauce and allow it to heat through and caramelize. Putting the sauce on earlier only encourages burning and flare-ups.
Rest the chicken for about five minutes before serving. This ensures that every bite you take is moist and delicious.
Brine Before Grilling
For the most flavorful bone-in chicken on a gas grill, brine the pieces first. Soak chicken in a solution of salt with a bit of sugar or buttermilk for a few hours to flavor every bit of meat to the bone. The chicken parts also absorb some water, turning out juicy even after spending a good amount of time on the grill.
If you use buttermilk (or plain yogurt) as part of a brine, you get a tender meat. The calcium in the milk activates enzymes that tenderize the meat.
Whatever brine you use, it's optimal to leave the chicken in overnight, but even shorter times in the brine offer flavor and texture benefits. Make sure you pat off any excess brine before grilling, however. Excess brine can slow the cooking process and, if there are sugary ingredients in it, encourage burning. A marinade is another way to add flavor without a lot of extra salt, explains the American Heart Association.
Grilling bone-in chicken pieces can take more time than boneless versions, but the rewards are considerable. With the right strategy, you get an unparalleled taste sensation that combines smokiness and juiciness.