Pollo A La Parrilla – Barbecued Chicken

A good asado should include barbecued chicken. Actually it is not uncommon to have an asado with chicken instead of beef. Some people, for health reasons, can’t eat red meat. Some may just prefer chicken over red meat while others simply need a break.

The chicken is prepared either whole, halved, quartered, or as individual pieces. The preferred and popular method is to cook the chicken as a whole. Now a whole chicken, as in the type you toss in the oven for a slow roast, would be quite a challenge to cook on an open-air parrilla. Therefore the chicken is cut so that cavity can be split wide open in order to cook both sides evenly. A cut is usually made on along the backbone and the cavity is widened in order to flatten the chicken. Performing this task can be quite difficult and dangerous if you are not experienced with knives or cutting up chickens. Many supermarkets have the chicken precut in this fashion or a butcher can be asked to do it for you. However the chicken is cut, you should dislocate all of the joints before placing on the grill. This will help to quicken the cooking time.

Buying:

Knowing how much chicken to buy can be tricky. If you know that your guests would like to enjoy a sample, then one large whole chicken per six people. If going the individual cuts, such as a drumstick, thigh, wing, one piece per person is fine too; one chicken breast can usually accommodate two people. If you know that some will strictly eat just chicken then factor two or three pieces per person for them.

Cooking:

Rinse the chicken with water and make sure that any pieces of entrails or blood left over in the cavity are removed. Shake off excess water and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub in some salt, olive oil, and a bit of black pepper all around the chicken. Slice a few lemons to squeeze juice on the chicken while it cooks.

The grill should be nice and hot, with a substantial amount of coals underneath the section where the chicken will be placed. For whole chickens always place the chicken so that the cavity is facing the hot coals. For smaller cuts or individual pieces place them so that they are skin side up. You want most of the cooking process to occur around the bones first since those parts take the longest to cook. When that side has a nice golden color and with slightly crunchy exterior then you may flip the chicken over. Make sure the fire is not extremely hot or else you’ll burn the skin before the breast meat is done. When the chicken appears done, pierce the wings and legs with a fork. If the juices run clear the meat is cooked. If the skin is not well browned and crunchy, add some extra hot coals and allow the meat to cook for a few more minutes to quickly finish up the process.

It is difficult to place a time on how long it will take for the chicken to be fully cooked. About one to two hours on most average to large birds depending on the heat of your coals. For small chickens or individual pieces you’ll want a medium-hot fire because the meat will cook quickly. For larger birds you’ll want to start out with a low medium fire in order to cook the chicken thoroughly while preventing the outside from burning. Increase the heat with extra coals toward the end to brown the skin.

Notes:

Chicken, for the most part, is easy because you don’t have to worry about cooking it to order like medium rare or medium well. You just have to cook it thoroughly yet not overly so. The difficulty lies in time management and heat. If those two are not in sync you’ll either have overcooked or undercooked chicken when the time to serve arrives. If thick large cuts of other meats are to be served with the asado you should start cooking the chicken around the same time. If you are cooking thin cuts of meat such as steaks, the chicken should be placed on the grill ahead of the rest. If you have the chance, practice cooking chicken by itself a few times to get a feel for how long the different cuts take to cook according to how you manage the grill.

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