French Style Roasted Chicken – On the Grill
Oh no you din’t! Oh yes I dit! That’s right, French style roasted chicken can be deliciously delivered right on your backyard grill. So. if vous avez le désir to add a little “Hon, Hon, Hon!” to your poulet rôti, then this is the technique for you.
Let me begin by telling you that I have an intense love for roasted chicken. To me, “tastes like chicken” is actually a good thing. If you’re dubious, then you’ve probably never had a properly cooked roasted chicken. There is a nostalgic comfort elicited by the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven – crispy skin, herbs, maybe some roasted veg…and then there’s the schmaltz. That’s right, schmaltz – that delicious, silky, broth of rendered chicken fat that pools in the bottom of your roasting pan just begging for a little roux and mustard to elevate it into lip smacking, heavenly gravy.
Now that I have your taste buds all ready for velveteen gravy, I have to make a confession. You won’t be getting any gravy on this technique. What you will get is a plump, grill roasted bird, bursting with herb laden juiciness and paper-thin, crispy skin.
French Style Grill Roasted Chicken with Tarragon Butter
Gather your ingredients:
- One 3-5 lb (preferably organic) chicken
- 1 bunch of fresh tarragon (dried won’t work here)
- dijon mustard
- salt and black pepper
- olive oil
- brine for the chicken (salt, sugar, spices, water)
The first step is to mix the compound butter. Start with 1/4 lb (or so) of softened butter (~1stick), 1/4 cup of chopped tarragon, 2TBSP dijon mustard, salt and pepper (to taste) and mix that with a little olive oil in a glass bowl with a fork to make a compound butter. Set this aside at room temp.
Next make a brine for the chicken. I like to use a good amount of salt and sugar at a 2:1 ratio along with some peppercorns, a half onion, and half of a lemon. For this chicken, I used 1.5 qts water, 2 cups salt and 1 cup of sugar. For more on brining check out this awesome article. Brine your chicken for at least 2 hours, but not more than 6.
About an hour before you start the grill, and about 3 hours before you plan to eat, pull the chicken from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. For best results (ultra crispy skin) let the chicken air-dry in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes on a rack (bottom shelf!).
Next, we need to add the herb butter. A good tip is to first use your fingers to gently separate the skin from the breast starting at the neck and then working your way down to the legs while keeping the skin intact. Don’t worry if you rip it – we can work with that. Carefully push the herb butter under the skin of the chicken starting at the top of the bird (breasts at the neck) and working down into the legs. Pack as much of the herb butter as you can under the skin, then massage the skin to evenly distribute the butter mixture. If you have any butter left over, spread that over the breasts and thighs.
If you ripped the skin take a toothpick and reconnect the skin without piercing the meat of the chicken. It’ll look like Frankenchicken, but it will keep the butter under the skin while its cooking.
Next, liberally salt the inner cavity and the entire outside of the bird. Salt actually helps with crisping up the skin, so don’t be shy. You can either truss the chicken with kitchen string like this, or you can tuck the wings under then use a wooden skewer to pin the legs back as I have done here.
Now go light that grill! I used charcoal (on my trusty Weber Silver) and the indirect method as you can see below. By putting coals on the outer edges of the grill and the chicken in the middle, an oven-like convection is created. I did not use smoke (soaked wood chips) for this preparation, because I wanted the herbs and the chicken flavor to be the highlight.
Cover the grill with the lid and leave the vent holes half open on the top and the bottom (gas grill: medium heat). You’re looking for a grill cooking temperature of 300 -325 F. Check periodically to make sure you’re not getting hot spots or flareups and temp the bird often after the first 45 minutes to make sure you don’t over cook. Use a temperature probe inserted into the deepest part of the breast (and not touching the bone) to check doneness. This should take about 90 minutes – give or take. Pull the chicken from the heat when the breast is 160F and the thigh is 170F. Tent with foil and allow to rest for a full 20 minutes before carving.
Serve with roasted potatoes (from the grill!) or grilled asparagus and enjoy with a nice oakey White Burgundy or Sonoma Chardonnay. Bon apetite!