I grew up with my Pa' cooking on a gas grill, with Kraft sauces and calling that BBQ. It was good, but I didn't know better. Then I lived in downtown Toronto with no grilling access. When I arrived in O-Town, I finally could cook with charcoal on my own. I learned from the Food Network and trial and error. Oh man there were trials and tribulations. But things got better.
This year, I've been following 'real people'. DivaQ, Chris @ Nibble Me This, and most recently JB to name a few. I learned that its not just about heat and cooking. And I've noticed a big change in my food lately. Last week I made what I call 'Husker' Chicken. Husker, for those not in the know, was the call sign for William Adama in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. I didn't name it in honour of him, but the flavour of the chicken was kind of, husky, smokey and had authority which reminded me of him.
Anyways, this chicken breast came out so good, it really made me reflect on the things that I have learned that made it taste so much better. And here's why, in bullet form:
- When I was away for 3 weeks, LJ bought some Kingsford Charwood charcoal. I normally bought the cheapest briquettes because, well I was cheap. I can't go back. The Charwood is so much better and I prefer the smokey taste it creates compared to the old briquettes.
- I stopped using lighter fluid and finally figured out how to successfully use my DIY Charcoal Chimney Starter. I have hot coals in a fraction of the time. Goodbye chemical heat.
- I used a brine on the chicken breast. Last year I did not believe this really did anything. Now I know better. My brine was really weak on adding any flavour, but the breast meat was so moist I know it made a difference.
- The Rub: nothing new here, but it was flavourful.
- Understanding the heat: I can't control the heat on the BBQ pit (there's no vents, no lid, there's not even 4 walls) but I have learned how to use what I do have. The charcoal burns hot, so I put them on direct heat just to give a crisp to the skin and outside, then moved them to the outside of the grill to get away from the charcoal. This allowed the poultry to cook on indirect heat.
- Sauce: It wasn't homemade exactly, but I combined a few condiment sauces with a spice mixture that made for a great taste.
- Applying the Sauce: Done in the last staging of the grilling to prevent the sugars of the sauce from burning.
- Resting: I can't help but do this, because we weren't eating on the patio, so the 5 minute trip after cleaning the grill, going through 2 sets of doors, an elevator ride, then getting the table ready means whatever I cook is going to rest and the juices redistribute.
This may seem simple and straightforward to some, but for me its all new. It is really simple when you think it all through and work the science into the art.
But enough philosophy, lets get to what you all came to see: Hard Core Chicken. I'm not really doing a recipe here, just showing some food porn.
Chicken breast bought on sale, bone in and skin on. They were put in a simple brine for about an hour or so. Then, hand rubbed in a wet rub for at least another hour. Then onto the grill.
Here the chicken is cooking with the 'in-direct' heat. Ok not really indirect, but you have to understand that I'm using a building public grill and I have to carry all my food and equipment every time I cook. The only tools provided is a grill scraper for cleaning. There is an abandoned small saw blade which is used to move the charcoal around. That's right, I have to use an abandoned saw blade to move the charcoal.
Fast forward in time to near the end of grilling and the applying of the BBQ Sauce. You can kind of see how the coals were scrapped to the far left to create the indirect heating.
Oh ya, I made some sweet potato coins. Just cut, tossed with salt and pepper and oil. They charred a little (others more so). See, very quickly, the charcoal burned hot. REALLY hot. It was so hot that my stomach started to burn. It was then I realized I had a slinky in the front pocket of my apron (long story) and it conducted the heat like an oven element. Wowzers. Anyway, I had problems flipping the coins and couldn't save them all.
The finished product. I started out with a fork and knife, but honestly, I abandoned that within a minute of sitting down and went for the hands. The only REAL way to eat chicken from the grill.
- The sauce itself
- The spices (see the little flecks?)
- The crispy skin
LJ really liked this too. She was really impressed how moist the white meat was, but that the skin was still crispy. Welcome to flavour country.
I'm not trying to say I'm an amazing cook or how awesome I am (you already know that :p) but I feel like I just got my first A of the season. This summer you will probably see most posts on grilling and BBQ as I learn more and want to share what I've learned.