Grilling is often associated with charcoal and smoky flavor, but it’s also a method of cooking by direct heat. You can grill in a conventional oven by using the broiler. Two important steps are preparing the chicken for optimal moistness and replicating the grill environment in the oven.
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Prepare Ahead of Time
Chicken is a nutrient-rich lean protein, but cooking lean meat with the high temperature of grilling or broiling can result in a dry, tough piece of poultry. You can solve the problem by using a marinade or brining solution.
Marinate or brine the chicken for at least two hours or up to 24 hours, keeping it in the refrigerator the entire time. Don't use a metal container; instead, go with self-sealing bags or plastic or glass containers.
Removing the skin allows the chicken to get the most benefit from a marinade or brine. It also makes for a healthier meal because the skin contains fat and calories. For example, a 3-ounce chicken breast with the skin has 6 grams more fat and 44 extra calories compared to a piece without skin.
Removing the skin is also safer, because it can burn or catch on fire when cooked close to the heat. If you leave the skin on, pierce it several times with a fork.
Marinade or Brine
Marinades consist of three basic ingredients: oil; an acid such as vinegar, lemon juice, wine or yogurt; and spices or other seasonings. As a general guideline, use about three parts of oil to one part acid. The acid breaks down protein, which tenderizes the chicken and lets more of the oil get into the meat. Then the oil keeps it moist during grilling.
A brining solution accomplishes the same thing, but it's a mixture of 3 tablespoons of salt for every quart of water. You can also add a sweetener or seasonings. As salt from the brine gets into the meat, it breaks down protein, which allows water to get in for moistness.
The finished product will contain extra oil or salt absorbed from the marinade or brine. The exact amount varies, however, depending on how long the chicken is in the liquid and the amount of ingredients used. Soak the chicken for the minimum time of two hours to limit absorption, especially if you're watching salt intake.
You can grill -- or broil -- chicken using a traditional broiler pan, an oven-safe grill pan or a cast-iron skillet. Replicate the heat of the grill by preheating the oven to its highest temperature. Put the pan inside the oven during preheating so it gets hot like the rack of a grill.
After the oven has warmed up, turn on the broiler, carefully remove the hot pan and put the chicken on the pan. Make sure the oven rack is as close to the broiler as possible, and put the chicken on the rack in the oven. Leave the oven door open slightly to prevent the broiler from turning off.
Safe Cooking Tips
If your pieces of chicken are thick, you may need to lower the rack one notch to be sure they cook to the proper internal temperature -- 165 degrees Fahrenheit -- before the outside burns. Thick pieces may take about 10 minutes to cook, while small pieces will be ready in half the time.
When you grill a whole chicken, you’ll get better results if you butterfly the chicken. First cut down both sides of the backbone and remove the bone. Then open the chicken to expose the inside cavity and use a knife to cut out the breast bone. Then you can lay the chicken flat on the pan.