Q Dry chicken on the grill -- awful. My marinated grilled whole chicken falls down all the time. It's dry and unevenly cooked, and it is a big deal to do and doesn't taste like it is worth the effort. Should I stick to thighs? Like you said once, you can't kill chicken thighs.
A Thighs are one answer, letting the chicken rest 10 to 15 minutes after cooking is another, and switching marinade styles and flattening the bird are two other options. Put the three together and I think the whole chicken will work for you.
Three tricks for moist grilled chicken
• Marinade, the acid rule: If your marinade is high in acid with very little oil and if the chicken is left in it longer than about an hour, it can actually toughen the bird. Figure that the quantity of oil should equal or surpass the combined quantity of other liquids or acidic ingredients. So if chunked tomato or pineapple or citrus fruit or wine is an ingredient, count that as an acid.
• How to butterfly a chicken: Flattening or butterflying the chicken helps it cook evenly. To do this, turn the chicken breast side down on a cutting board and with a sharp knife cut down either side of the backbone to remove it (freeze it for stock). Now flip the chicken over, splaying it out on the board. With the heel of your hand, press down on the breastbone until you hear a crack. You've butterflied the bird. Fold the wingtips back under the part of the wing that joins the body and you're ready to marinate or roast.
• Resting grilled meats and poultry: Cut right into them right off the grill and you cheat yourself out of the best juiciness and flavor they have to give. Always let meat, poultry and fish rest for 10 to 15 minutes before touching them with a knife or fork. They finish cooking and juices settle, so that juiciness and flavor are prime.
The recipe here for grilled chicken offers the three basics as a starting point for your new success with grilled chicken. It's a takeoff on a Martha Stewart recipe that our friend, Susan Erlich, did for us recently. She served the chicken at room temperature with a potato salad of green herbs and green beans that we all sprinkled with Aleppo chile at the table.
We all love chiles -- the more arcane the better. So that's how I toyed with the original formula. One trick is to spread the marinade under the skin of the chicken as well as pouring it over it.