Barbecue Questions and Answers

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Barbecue Questions and Answers

Barbecue Question: Hi Joe.When I barbecue chicken, the outside looks done but the inside is still raw. I try to cook it longer, but by the time the middle has finished cooking, the outside is a charred mess. How do you cook chicken that's done on the inside but not burnt on the outside?

Answer: Yeah...

We've all been there before. I feel for you.

Sounds like you're direct grilling bone in chicken pieces, or god forbid, a whole chicken.

As a rule of thumb when grilling;

Use the direct grilling method for foods that take less than 30 minutes to cook.

Use the indirect grilling method for foods that take more than 30 minutes to cook.

What is Direct and Indirect Grilling?

Direct grilling is grilling directly over the heat source. Whether that's charcoal, wood or a gas grill burner.

Indirect grilling is a method where you position the food so that it does not sit directly above the heat source, but to the side or in the middle of the heat source.

Sometimes, you'll use both indirect and direct grilling.

For direct grilling on a charcoal grill, light your charcoal. When the coals are ready, spread them across the bottom of the grate. For gas grills, light all the burners to your desired temperature.

Here's a good tip; even when you direct grill, you should leave an area without charcoal or a lit burner. If you get flare-ups, you have a safe zone where you can move food so it doesn't burn.

For indirect grilling on a charcoal grill; light your charcoal and pile the coals one side of the charcoal grate. Place a drip pan opposite of the coals on the charcoal grate. Put your grill rack on, then place the food, on the grill, over the drip pan.

If you have a kettle grill, like a Weber, you can get charcoal dividers that go inside your grill. They keep the charcoal towards the outer edges of the charcoal grate. You then put the food in the middle of the grill grate. I think this give you much more even cooking, because the heat comes from both sides instead of one.

For a gas grill: light the burners on your grill, except the one, or ones that the food will be over. Remember, you're cooking indirect so you don't want a flame under your chicken.

Most of the time, you will turn the burners on medium to achieve the correct heat. Your grill manufacturer will have instructions in the manual or on their website.

If you're cooking chicken pieces, cook them, indirectly for about 40-45 minutes. During the last ten minutes or so, grill them directly over the coals or flame to crisp the skin. Apply barbecue sauce during the last ten minutes when grilling or your chicken may burn if you put it on sooner.

If you're cooking a whole chicken, it takes about an hour to an hour and a half to indirect grill a 3 to 3-1/2lb chicken.

To know when your chicken has finished cooking, use a thermometer! I cannot stress this enough; always use a good, reliable thermometer, that's what the pros do. And that's what you should do.

Cook until the internal temperature is 160°F-165°F.

For whole chickens, take this reading at the thigh and the breast. Be careful not to touch the bone, as this will give you a false reading.

That's it! Hopefully, this will help you enjoy delicious grilled chicken in your near future.

Barbecue Question: Should I soak my wood chips before I use them?

Answer: No...

Soaking wood chips or chunks is unnecessary and a waste of time. In fact, it actually hinders what you're trying to do.

When you soak wood, little water actually penetrates the wood.

If you google how long does it take wood to sink, you'll find results for aquarium enthusiasts trying to waterlog wood for their aquariums. Wood does not like to absorb water so the process can take 3 weeks to a year!

When you soak wood chips for and hour, or even overnight, you're not doing much to it...

In Meathead Goldwyns book, Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, he has pictures of an experiment he did; He took wood chips, a wood chunk and a wood block and soaked them for 24 hours. He then cut them in half to see how far the water penetrated the wood. The result? The inside of the wood was bone dry.

Also, throwing wet wood chips on a fire reduces the heat. Since the wood is wet, you won't get any smoke until the wood dries. What you see when you add soaked wood chips to your fire is steam, not smoke.

You're steaming the surface water off of the wood. Smoke does not occur until the wood starts to burn.

This is not what you want. You want the wood to burn at once, not smolder.

Smoldering wood gives you a smoke and a flavor that you don't want. Wood that is burning (you can see a flame) produces smoke that is cleaner and gives better flavor.

Don't soak your wood chips or chunks. Throw them on the fire dry.

You'll get much better results.

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