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I actually put together my very first grill myself. It took all day and a good deal of patience and persistence. It was a pretty scary moment when I twisted the control on the tank and clicked the ignition. It all worked out and I didn’t blow myself to kingdom come. I love to grill throughout the year, but in the summer it’s just practical to keep the heat out of the kitchen. Burgers and brats are brilliant, and steaks and seafood are stupendous, but my absolute favorite is cheap and cheerful chicken.
Chicken can be absolutely sublime on the grill. It’s smoky and charred, yet tender and juicy. But it can also be drier than chalk and just about as tasty, too. The deal is, if you pierce the meat with the tip of a knife and the juices run clear, it’s done. If the juices run pink? It’s underdone. If there are no juices? You’ve gone too far, my friend.
One technique that can help prevent dry, tasteless chicken is brining. Brining poultry produces moist and tender results. Muscle fibers absorb liquid during the brining period. Some of this liquid is lost during cooking, but since the meat is juicier at the start of cooking, it ends up juicier in the end. I like to think of this as a cup that is filled “over the rim.”
Moisture loss is inevitable when you cook any type of muscle fiber. The heat causes the coiled proteins in the fibers to unwind and then join together with one another, resulting in shrinkage and moisture loss. Meat loses about 30 percent of its weight during cooking, but with brining the cup is “filled over the rim” and it reduces the moisture loss during cooking to as little as 15 percent.
This recipe combines brining with a pungently flavorful marinade that is brushed on the chicken as it cooks. The result is down-home comfort, summer style.
Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Get the Recipe: Grilled Apple Cider Chicken
Georgia-born, French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has cooked lapin Normandie with Julia Child in France, prepared lunch for President Clinton and harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. A Southern food authority, she is the author of Bon Appétit, Y’all and Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, among others. Follow her continuing exploits at VirginiaWillis.com.