Grilling chicken under bricks is a very old technique that keeps the meat tender and juicy while creating a crispy browned skin. Since the chicken is grilled over a medium-low grill temperature (we used the indirect method of charcoal grilling for this - coals pushed off to the sides) it doesn't burn to a blackened crust. Even so, I chose a marinade that wouldn't be too sugary, to avoid any type of overly burned spots. In addition, this method works best with an olive oil-based marinade, as the oil also works to keep the chicken nice and moist with a delicious crispy skin.
To prepare the chicken for marinating, simply place the rinsed, dried chicken (sans giblets of course) breast side up and cut through the breast bone until you can butterfly the chicken, spreading it completely in half (this might take a little extra wrangling in some areas). The point is to make the chicken flat, therefore cooking it evenly, with the additional help of the bricks weighing it down.
I used a Spanish-style "Barcelona" marinade from a Weber cookbook as the basis of my own marinade. For one chicken, combine:
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 serrano chile peppers, roughly chopped (leave the ribs and seeds in if you like more heat, or simply use more peppers!)
- 2 tablespoons dried basil (when gardening season is in full swing, I will be switching this to fresh basil - lots and lots of it!)
- 2 tablespoons sherry wine
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
I like to take items to be grilled out of the refrigerator and let them almost come to room temperature. Preheat a gas grill to a target temperature of 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or prepare a charcoal grill for indirect grilling.
Wrap two bricks in aluminum foil (for cleanliness, and also to make clean-up much easier). Place the marinated chicken, skin side down to begin with, on the grate and place a brick on each half. Yes, this does look pretty comical as the chicken looks like it is the victim of a horrific accident. Grill for about 20 to 25 minutes on the skin side, then carefully remove bricks with fireproof gloves or something similar, and turn chicken over on its other side to finish cooking, again placing the bricks on each half.
Many recipes claim that the entire cooking time should be around 40 minutes but I found this to be really inaccurate. Allow at least an hour or more of total cooking time, depending on the actual size of your chicken. With this cooking method, a little longer is better and it's fairly foolproof from the standpoint of overcooking (and drying out). Use a meat thermometer to determine that the chicken is cooked thoroughly; you can also see that the juices will run clear and joints move easily.
There! That's all there is to it! This is wonderful with a nice rice pilaf and a big green salad. And a beverage of your choice, of course. Don't forget to have a sip of sherry afterward also!