Basic technique, Grilling
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Grill Roasted Chicken Pieces: Basic Technique

This is the basic technique for grill roasted chicken. It’s my favorite way to cook chicken breast on the grill – bone in, skin on, indirect heat for 40 to 45 minutes. It comes out much juicier than boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Personally, I prefer dark meat, and this technique also gives you great chicken legs, or thighs and drumsticks.

The basic technique gives you a delicious, basic “grilled chicken” with nice crisp skin. But this technique is the base for cooking any bone-in chicken pieces on the grill. In the technique, I show you where you should add a rub, like a barbecue rub or spice paste (before the chicken goes on the grill), or where you should add a glaze, like barbecue sauce or teriyaki sauce (at the end of the grilling time, because glazes tend to have a lot of sugar, and they will burn if you put them on too soon.)

Basic Technique: Grill Roasted Chicken Pieces


  • Chicken: 4 lbs assorted chicken pieces, bone in and skin on

Brine (optional, but helps a lot, especially with breasts)

  • Brine: ¼ cup table salt (1/2 cup Kosher salt), dissolved in 1 quart water
  • Brine for 1 hour

1. If you have the time, brine the chicken pieces: Submerge them in the brine solution, and refrigerate for 1 hour (no more than 4 hours).

2. Preheat grill, and set to indirect/high.
On a charcoal grill, light a chimney full of charcoal, wait for it to be covered with ash, then spead the charcoal in two piles on opposite sides of the grill, leaving a space in the middle for a drip pan.
On a gas grill, preheat with all burners on for 15 minutes. Leave the ones on the outside on, and turn off the burners in the middle. On a 3 burner grill, you’d have On-off-On. On a 4 burner – On-off-off-On. And so on…

3. Season chicken with ground pepper. Salt it as well, if you didn’t brine the chicken. I use about 1/4 tsp of kosher salt per piece. *Also – if you’re using a rub, season the chicken with the rub now as well.

4. Put chicken on indirect part of grill grate, skin side down, and cook with the lid closed. Turn skin side up after 20 minutes, or when the skin is browned. The chicken is fully cooked when the chicken breasts until they reach 160*F at their thickest part, and the legs/thighs until they reach 170*F. This will probably take 40 minutes for the breasts/wings, and 50 minutes for the legs/thighs.

5. If using a glaze (like barbecue sauce), when the chicken is almost cooked, brush the skin side with glaze, then flip the chicken, skin (and glazed) side down, over the direct heat part of the grill grate. Cook for about three minutes, or until the glaze is nicely browned; while it’s cooking, brush glaze on the other side. Flip again (skin side up), and cook over direct heat until the glaze browns, roughly another 3 minutes; while it’s cooking, brush the skin side with some more glaze. Remove to a platter, and serve.

In summary:
Cook indirect/high, skin side down, covered, for 20 minutes, or until skin is lightly browned. Turn skin side up, and cook indirect/high until fully cooked, an internal temp of 160*F for breasts/wings, 170*F for thighs/drumsticks; this should be 40 to 50 minutes of cooking time.

Then, if glazing: brush skin side with glaze, then cook skin side down on direct/medium for 3 minutes. Brush non-skin side with glaze, then cook skin side up on direct/medium for another 3 minutes. Brush skin side with glaze, and remove to a platter for serving.

Questions?  Comments?  Better ideas?  Leave them in the Comments section, below.

Related posts:
Click here for my Thai Grill Roasted Chicken Breasts
Click here for my Backyard Barbecue Chicken


  1. One minor point to consider: Start everything BONE SIDE DOWN | FAT SIDE DOWN

    I always start my chicken (or any grilled meats) Bone side down (or Fat side down, in the case of a roast).

    Most people slap their chicken over the fire, immediately burn it black and then peel off the burned skin and throw it away because it’s gross. If you always start it bone side down, there is much less potential for this rookie mistake. You get a chance to become one with the fire — see how hot the fire is, and generally get most of the “cooking” of the meat done before you tackle the most important part to most of us — the crispy skin. Does that make sense?

    I also have a pretty hard and fast rule: No sugar on the grill. This includes sauces that are mostly sugar, which most of them are. Use rubs. Serve the sauce on the side. The only exception is grilled fruit, where you dust it with sugar and carmelize on the grill.

    We use charcoal exclusively. Gas is for frying eggs, not grilling. We also make a very cool grill. Check it out at German Grill. Thanks.

    Nice recipes. Very thorough work. Nice site.

    To your comment above: Julia Child was once asked if there is any food that she just doesn’t like at all. Her answer: Barbecue Sauce.

  2. My go to recipe for chicken on the grill. I always use the brine from your cornish game hens recipe (this recipie is how I found you!) and about 50 minutes on the grill for thighs. Perfect everytime. Thanks for posting this recipe!

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