Ring of Fire Grilled Chicken
My bi-level grill method, aka "ring of fire," exposes chicken to both high direct heat and low indirect heat to ensure a perfectly grilled bird every time. If you own and operate a grill, sooner or later you're gonna attempt to grill a chicken. However, as many cooks can attest, chicken, intact or in parts, is simply not grill-friendly. If we're to overcome the numerous grill challenges chicken pose (irregular shapes, connective tissue, flammable fat), we must embrace bi-level cookery — that is, a method by which we cook over high direct heat and then either low direct or indirect heat. Since this type of fire is a real pain to work with on a small grill, I developed the "ring of fire," which employs a ring of aluminum foil and a couple of pie pans to create two very different zones of heat that are especially easy to manage on a circular grill such as my Weber Kettle. This recipe first appeared in Season 14 of Good Eats.
ACTIVE TIME: 50 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 2 hours 50 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 (4- to 5-pound) broiler/fryer chicken, cut into 6 pieces
- 1 quart water
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon adobo powder, without pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
2 aluminum pie pans
Put the chicken pieces in a 1-gallon zip-top bag with the water, honey, and salt. Seal the bag and move around vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to distribute the honey and dissolve the salt. Set the bag in a leakproof container and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, combine the curry powder, chili powder, cocoa powder, adobo powder, cumin, and hot smoked paprika in another 1-gallon zip-top bag.
Thoroughly drain the chicken, and pat very dry with paper towels. Do not rinse.
Put the chicken in the bag with the spice mixture and shake to thoroughly coat the chicken. Lay the pieces on a wire rack set inside a half sheet pan. Rest for 30 minutes.
Spritz 2 pieces of newspaper lightly with vegetable oil and put in the bottom of a charcoal chimney starter. Fill the chimney starter with natural chunk charcoal, 2 to 3 pounds, and set on the bottom grate of a kettle grill. Light the paper and heat until the coals are hot and ashy, 15 to 20 minutes. Prepare a ring of heavy-duty aluminum foil with the center 9 inches in diameter. Put this ring over the chimney starter and lay on the charcoal grate.
Carefully and evenly distribute the hot charcoal outside the ring. Set an aluminum pie pan in the center of the ring to catch any drippings. Set the cooking grate in place and heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
Lightly oil the cooking grate. Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side down, on the grate over the hot coals. Turn the legs a quarter turn every 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the thighs, wings, and breasts after 4 to 5 minutes. Skin should blister and darken in color. Adjust intensity of heat by turning the grill grate to expose chicken pieces to cooler or hotter coals as needed and to avoid flare-ups.
After 9 to 10 minutes total cook time, move the breast to the center of the grill and cover with a second aluminum pie pan. After 1 more minute, put the wings on top of the pie pan. Lean the thighs and legs against the side of the aluminum pie pan away from the direct heat of the coals. Turn every 2 minutes. Put any pieces that finish cooking on top of the pan. After 18 to 20 minutes total cook time, check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer inserted in the deepest part of each piece. The pieces should reach 155ºF.
Remove the chicken to a clean bowl. Cover with a tea towel and rest 5 minutes.
To serve, place the breast on a cutting board with the narrow end facing you and slice, leaving a small piece of meat connected at the wing end so that the meat can be fanned on the plate. Or, simply pick it up with your fingers and dig in.