Introduction: Herbed Chicken Under Bricks

It's funny how once summertime comes knocking on our door, we instantly take up our tongs and our post in front of the BBQ for the season, speed-grilling kebabs, vegetable slices and juicy steaks in mere minutes. What about those bigger pieces of meat that require a little more effort that a quick flip-flip-turn to cook? Who wants to man the grill for longer than 10 minutes? Here's one way - use you BBQ to roast the meat, covered, and untouched, while you entertain your dinner guests and sip your margaritas! Cooking an entire chicken is a fast and easy way to feed a hungry family, and flattening it under bricks cuts the cooking time in half, with juicy, flavorful results every time. Try it out, I know that this chicken will easily become one of your summer favorites.

Step 1: What You'll Need

For the chicken, you'll need:

 - 2 to 3 lb. chicken
 - 1/4 c. softened butter
 - 1/4 c. chopped fresh herbs (include what you like, or what you have on hand - I used parsley, thyme and chives)
 - salt and pepper
 - oil for the grill

Tools you will need:

 - a pair of chicken shears, or very sharp kitchen shears (able to cut through chicken ribs)
 - chef's knife
 - cutting board
 - tongs
 - silicon brush for grill
 - digital or meat thermometer
 - barbecue

Step 2: Flattening the Chicken

Roasting a chicken in the oven takes time because the heat needs to penetrate the entire bird, centre cavity and all. By removing the spine and flattening the bird, we create a larger surface, but also a thinner meat, so the cooking time is drastically reduced.

To flatten the chicken, first turn it over so it is resting on the breast, with the spine facing upwards. Pinpoint the location of the spine by following both sides of the tailbone straight up the back of the chicken to its neck.

Using the chicken shears, cut up one side of the spine, making sure to cut completely through the ribs. This will result in a lovely bone-crunching sound - try not to pay too much attention to that. Once you cut completely through the first side, repeat the procedure on the other side of the spine. 

Having done this properly you should be able to completely remove the spine and open up the chicken like a book.

Next, find the breastbone - it is the large white point in the top center section of the bird. Using the chef's knife, cut the breastbone down the middle. Doing this will allow the bird to lay completely flat on the barbecue.

Flip the flattened bird over and tuck the wing tips under the breast, as though the chicken were folding its arms under its head while tanning itself on the beach. This will prevent the wings from cooking too fast and the tips burning. 

Finally, insert your hand carefully under the skin to loosen it from both sides of the breast, as well as from both legs. This will create pockets which will be stuffed with the delicious herb butter seasoning.

Step 3: Buttering Up the Bird

Now for the flavor!

Finely chop the herbs and mix them into the softened butter. After all, what better to season a grilled chicken that lots of butter? MMmmmm...

(You can add any other flavors to the butter at this point if you would like to personalize your chicken. Minced garlic works well with the herbs, but you could also add roasted peppers, olives and feta for a Greek-inspired dish, or chipotle peppers and chilli pepper for a Southwestern flavor. The possibilities are endless!)

Using your fingers, take a portion of the herbed butter and push it under the skin of the chicken breast. Make sure to work it into all the corners - the more care you put into this step, the more widespread the flavors will be. Repeat with the second breast and both legs, making sure to use ALL of the butter.

Spread whatever butter is left on your fingers over the entire chicken. Now your bird is ready for the barbecue.

Step 4: To the BBQ!

Heat your barbecue to high and clean off the grill. You don't want any leftovers from last time affecting the flavors of your current meal, especially the charred bits.

Place the flattened chicken, skin side DOWN, over indirect high heat. (That means, if your barbecue has two burners, you heat the entire barbecue to high, then turn off one burner and place the meat over the closed burner. Once you close the lid, the one working burner will create enough heat to bake the chicken, like in an oven, but since the heat is not right under the bird, the meat will not char.) Lightly coat the bottom of the baking sheet with oil and place on top of the chicken, then top with the aluminum foil-covered bricks. Doing this will properly distribute the weight of the bricks over the entire chicken.

Grill the chicken until golden brown around the edges, about 30-35 minutes. You can also grill the meat until the temperature in the thigh reads 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

Using oven mitts, remove the bricks and baking sheet from the chicken. Using tongs or a large spatula, remove the chicken, taking care not to tear the skin. Move the chicken over direct medium heat and grill until the skin is golden all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Step 5: Carving and Eating

Letting the chicken rest for 5 minutes before carving into it will allow the juices redistribute within the meat, making for a more tender and tasty result. Trust me. Sit down and have a glass of wine, or beer, or juice, before cutting into your dinner. You won't regret it.

Once the meat has rested, cut off the two legs at the junction between the thigh and the breast. Next, cut the breast in two through the cartilage. If you want less generous portions, you can separate each leg into thigh and drumstick pieces, and cut each half breast into 2 pieces. Along with sides and salads, you could easily feed 8 people with one chicken.


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