They say there are a million ways to skin a cat; I’ve never tried even one and given my love of my feline friends, I never will. But one thing I know from experience is that there are a million ways to grill a chicken. White meat or dark, dry-rubbed or marinated, skin on of off, if you poll 10 cooks they’ll probably each give you a different recipe for their favorite grilled chicken.
I settled on my top preparation long ago. First of all, dark meat chicken is the way to go. I almost never eat chicken breast, which I find to be dry and bland, but choosing dark meat is especially critical when you’re grilling, when fat content becomes incredibly important. Dark meat chicken has much more intramuscular far than white meat which, in addition to providing a lot more flavor, ensures that the meat stays incredibly moist even when exposed to the high heat of a grill.
I always go the route of marinating when it comes to chicken, which is a bird I find doesn’t always have a ton of flavor to it, and the more time the chicken can marinate, the better. For years, I’ve whipped up a dead-simple, flavor-packed, infinitely adjustable chicken marinade: I take plain yogurt, a wide variety of the freshest herbs I can find, a ton of fresh garlic, and lots of lemon zest and juice, and blitz them in a blender or food processor along with a bit of olive oil, resulting in a pale green marinade that will bring brightness and earthiness to this cookout staple.
Serves 4Prep time: 25 minutes with grill heatingCook time: 20 minutesTotal time: 45 minutes, plus marinading
- 4 chicken legs, thighs and drumsticks attached, or use 6-8 thighs or drumsticks, skin-on
- 1 ½ cups plain low-fat or full-fat yogurt
- ¾ cup mixed fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, thyme and oregano, torn or lightly chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare marinade: combine yogurt, herbs, garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend until totally smooth, then scrape marinade into a large, shallow bowl. Add chicken and turn until well coated. Cover chicken and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 24 hours.
When ready to grill, light ½ chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, about 20 minutes, pour out and spread the coals evenly over the coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, preheat a gas grill to high, covered, for at least 10 minutes.
Using tongs, remove chicken pieces from marinade, allowing excess to drip off, then place on hot grill. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, flipping once, until chicken is cooked and skin is crispy, 7-9 minutes per side depending on size of pieces. Remove from grill and let rest 5 minutes before serving.