The Best Way to Grill a Chicken? On a Skillet, Actually
Some people are skeptical about slapping a skillet on the grill, but allow me to make my case: Skillet-grilling has become my go-to method for capturing the best of both worlds: the seductive aromas of cooking over fire, and the delicious pan drippings created during oven roasting.
My love affair with grilling in a cast-iron skillet started with my aversion to skewers. One day, I was all set up to grill shrimp, but I didn't want to go to the trouble of skewering them. Instead, I got out my cast-iron skillet, and threw it on the grill. That's when I made a delicious discovery—when the shrimp hit the preheated skillet, they immediately released a pool of their sweet, flavorful juices, as well as the marinade they'd been tossed with. Without the pan, all of that deliciousness would be sacrificed to the embers below. And who wants to throw away flavor? Not me!
My discovery led me to rethink many of my go-to grilling favorites—especially chicken. I'm a big fan of spatchcocking, or butterflying, a whole chicken before grilling, because it flattens out the bird and helps it cook quicker and more evenly. I've grilled spatchcocked birds directly on the grates numerous times, and it's a fast and effective way to get tasty char marks and crispy skin. But the results of grill-roasting a chicken in a preheated skillet (particularly over a bed of fresh rosemary sprigs) takes chicken to the next level. The tender, juicy meat absorbs the smoky perfume of a charcoal fire; the direct heat of the skillet creates browned, crispy skin while protecting the bird from the lick of the flames, and the sizzling sprigs of rosemary infuse the captive pan juices with rich flavor.
For this recipe, I've slathered the chicken with a marinade of achiote paste, vinegar, Mexican oregano, and red spices that create an aromatic, brick-red exterior and subtly spicy meat. Serve the chicken with grilled bread—or charred corn tortillas, steamed rice, or roasted potatoes, along with spoonfuls of the herbaceous drippings. Be sure to smoke the backbone that you (or your butcher) has removed alongside the chicken, then use it and the post-feast carcass to make stock—just one more way to ensure none of that flavor goes to waste.