The aroma of chicken on the grill has the capability to make hungry neighbors drop by for an unexpected visit, but grilling chicken can be tricky. Sometimes it’s difficult to ensure that the chicken is neither underdone nor charred to a jet-black crisp. Blanching the chicken before throwing it on the grill can cut the cooking time and alleviate the dreaded flame dance that can ruin a meal.
What is Blanching?
Traditionally, blanching is used when preparing fresh vegetables or fruit for the freezer, but it also works well when getting meat ready for the grill. It is the process of partially cooking the meat, vegetable or fruit by immersing the item into boiling water for a short time, then transferring it into ice water to quickly stop the cooking process.
When it comes to preparing chicken for the grill, blanching is akin to parboiling. Bring the water to a boil, add the chicken, then turn the heat to medium and simmer the pieces until they are partially cooked. Chicken breasts take about 10 minutes. Simmer legs and thighs about five minutes, and a whole chicken for about 30 minutes, according to MDHealth.com. Remove the chicken from the water and place it on the grill immediately. Alternatively, if you are not grilling it immediately, remove the pieces or whole bird from the water, transfer it to a tray, and place it into the refrigerator to halt the cooking process.
Why Blanch the Bird
Blanching chicken prior to grilling reduces the amount of grease in the skin, lowering the chance of a burned bird. It also saves time as the meat is already partially cooked when it’s placed over the coals. Grill the chicken until the internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Use a food thermometer, placing the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken. Do not rest the thermometer on bone, as that may give you a false reading.
If you’re concerned that blanching the chicken prior to grilling may hinder the taste of the finished product, add flavor during the blanching process with a variety of liquids or dry spices. Beer goes well with barbecue, and blanching chicken in a beer bath is one way to add flavor. Chunk onions, celery or other root vegetables into the water and later use it for chicken stock. Add barbecue sauce or spices such as garlic and onion powder for a flavorful blanched bird. After the blanching process is complete, season the chicken with your choice of rub, if desired. During grilling, generously baste it with your favorite marinade or barbecue sauce.