Chicken grilled beneath the salt of the earth
Recipe by Mark Bitterman
Originally published in
Salt Block Grilling: 70 Recipes for Outdoor Cooking with Himalayan Salt Blocks
If you think your favorite grilled chicken recipe does full justice to the bird, think again. In fact, so many approaches to grilling chicken fail to take into consideration the fact that we need three things to happen simultaneously: moist breast meat, thoroughly cooked leg meat, and crispy skin. Grilling chicken under a salt block accomplishes all of these things with gusto: The hot block on the cavity side of the chicken both seasons and breaks down the connective tissue, releasing flavor into the meat that might otherwise be lost; the weight of the block presses the differently shaped parts into uniformity; and the blast of heat from the fire on one side and the white-hot salt block on the other cooks everything perfectly while sealing in moisture. The combination makes for one mighty chicken.
Half an hour before you are ready to start grilling, put the salt blocks on an unheated gas grill. Heat the grill to low, cover the grill, and warm the blocks for 10 minutes. Raise the heat to medium and wait another 10 minutes. Raise it to high and wait another 10 minutes. A laser thermometer aimed at the center of one of the blocks should register around 450°F. If using charcoal, bank a chimney of red-hot charcoal briquettes to one side of the firebox. Put the block on the grill grate away from the fire and cover the grill. In 20 minutes, using grill gloves, move the block so that it is over the coals. In 10 minutes, your block will be 450°F and ready for grilling.
Remove and discard the neck and package of innards from the cavity of the chicken. Place the chicken breast side down on a cutting board. With a large knife or poultry shears, cut down the length of the spine on both sides. Remove the spine. Cut the breast side of the chicken in half lengthwise. You will now have 2 chicken halves.
Wash the halves in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Coat with the olive oil and rub all over with the cut sides of the garlic cloves; afterward tuck the pieces of garlic under the edges of the skin. Season all over with the pepper.
Put the chicken halves skin side down on the grill grate directly over the fire and, using grill gloves or thick oven mitts, put a hot salt block on top of each half. Close the grill and cook until the chicken skin is crisp and deeply grill-marked, about 10 minutes.
Remove the blocks using the grill gloves, flip the chicken halves with tongs, put the bricks back on top of the chicken, close the grill, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the inside of the thicker thigh registers 170°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the salt bricks, transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board, and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting into parts. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.