Ah, chicken, the Ryan Gosling of the meat world (so beloved and perfect that it’s almost blasé). If we were put the amount of chicken we eat in a year in one of those “shock value” piles, I don’t think anyone will be surprised by its size.
Fried, poached, baked, grilled or barbequed, chicken it is the comfort meat that brings people of race, religion, color and creed together. So it should be treated with the utmost respect, or at least cooked properly (to the point where it’s tender and moist like a good… chicken, I guess).
As we consume it on such a regular basis and it’s loved so much around the world, why not kick things up a notch by scouring the globe to find different ways to cook it? This case study will focus on grilling.
Chicken kissed by fire is arguably the healthiest, most delicious way to consume poultry, and it’s very easy to pull off at home. From 900-degree ovens to killer kebabs, here are six grilling methods from around the world to step up your poulet game.
1. Argentinan chicken
Grilling chicken in Argentina is ritualistic. There’s even a name for the head griller (the asador). You get a wood fire going and add some coals to keep the heat steady, and then add your meat to the grill.
When the meat is placed on the grill, it’s cook slow and with minimal flipping finished with a bright acidic sauce like chimichurri. Doing this style at home is a two-fold process; you’ll want to butterfly and marinate the chicken in a salmuera salt bath before touching the grill.
The marinated chicken sits for an hour in the fridge, and then you must wait for it to reach room temperature before cooking. Try and modify your grill into a V-shape so the fat drips down, instead of onto the charcoal.
2. South African
Braai is the word you’re looking for. Afrikaans for “barbecue” or “roast,” the word has moved more into a social tradition than just a cooking method. Chicken thighs are the best cut for this style.
Whip up some strong spices like ginger, cloves, coriander, cumin or cinnamon, and dry rub into your meat an hour before cooking. To cook braai, you have to build your own braai. This means cooking campfire style, with metal grates for grilling meats or Dutch cauldrons. Build out your braai by keeping it hot with your fuel of choice. Wood is the usual tradition.Wait until the embers are completely gray before adding your chicken.
Tandoor ovens rise completely above the charcoal vs. gas debate (sorry, George Foreman). Made of clay, they can reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees, which is apparently the temperature that makes meat unbearably tender.
Rubs consist of garam masala, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, coriander, and ginger in a thick yogurt (sometimes with citrus). Skewer whole pieces or cube of chicken and plop onto your charcoal grill. Of course, I don’t expect you to have or make a tandoor oven.
On your grill, ensure one side of it is hotter than the other. Char your meat on the very hot side, and cook your chicken through on the cooler side.
4. Middle Eastern
Home of the universally-adored kebab, but how do you make it without bossman’s help? The meat starts off in a vinegar bath to clean it and is then marinated overnight in a combination of olive oil, lemon and additional spices like cumin, paprika, or cinnamon with a metric buttload of garlic, before touching the grill.
Normally cooked on a manqal – a low-sitting, rectangular grill – the portable grill can have the fat from the meat continually drip down onto coals. This fat vaporizes and creates that delicious smoky flavor that’s already making your mouth water right now. A square BBQ grill is the best way to recreate this flavor, but you can also have your coals close to the meat and get something pretty similar.
Grilling in Turkey is done by placing meat on lumps of charred hardwood, which infuses the meat with an intoxicating smell as they cook. From there, they are typically flavored with a lot of the same elements as their Middle Eastern cousins. Dill, caraway and thyme can be argued to be ingredients unique to Turkish cooking, though.
To make this style at home, mix some spices with yogurt for marinade; cover and chill for at least one hour. While you wait, get an even layer of hardwood charcoal nice and hot until your coals are covered in light gray ash. Keep in mind that hardwood burns hotter than charcoal, so you’ll want to make a smaller or more spread out fire than you would with briquettes. On a gas grill, set to medium and preheat for 10 minutes before cooking your meat. Cooking, either way, should take 10-12 minutes.
Powerful aromas of lemongrass, chili and kaffir lime should always be wafting through the air when you cook Thai chicken. There are many different grilled Thai chicken delectables, but the one you’ll probably want to shoot for is this classic gai yang combination, from the northeast area of the country.
Butterfly and skewer your chicken with bamboo and grill slowly over a bed of charcoal. The chicken is marinated by crushing the aforementioned herbs and spices in a mortar and pestle, or with a food processor. Rub in the spice mix with some fish sauce and sugar.
Recipes vary throughout the region, but the dish is traditionally served with a chili dipping sauce and som tam (green papaya salad), with sticky rice to cleanse the palate. To grill Thai at home, prep your grill so that one side has all of the coals piled on high, with none on the other. This ensures the legs cook through faster than the breasts without drying out the meat.
If this list doesn’t leave you drooling at the mouth, you are dead inside, or perhaps vegan. If so, good news: these seasoning methods and grilling techniques can be easily adapted and applied to cooking veggies, so you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out. Happy grilling!