Chopped judge Geoffrey Zakarian is a 30-year industry vet with six restaurants, including The Lambs Club in NYC and Georgie in LA, around the country. For the third season of Chopped Grill Masters, he’s filming out on Beringer Vineyards in Napa -- not so bad. Below Zakarian tells us how to masterfully grill all aspects of a chicken, including the whole bird.
Dress a whole chicken with simple flavors
First, season the bird with salt and pepper up to 8 hours before cooking. This allows the seasoning to penetrate more deeply. You can leave the chicken in the fridge uncovered on a tray overnight to dry out the skin. Moisture will prevent the skin from crisping up and achieving a golden color, which is also why you want to stay away from wet marinades. Instead, use flavors such as lemon, salt and pepper, spice, and herbs -- herbes de Provence is always reliable. Before cooking, always bring a whole chicken to room temperature, which takes about 30 minutes. Then, cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 155F in the thickest part of the leg, about 35 to 45 minutes for a 3- to 3 1/2-pound chicken.
Breasts are best marinated
Chicken breasts benefit from a 4-hour marinade with a salty base. I like to use soy, ginger, red chilies, garlic, scallions, and brown sugar. If you want to marinate them longer, in the 8- to 10-hour range, you can use something oil- and herb-based that is milder and doesn't contain salt.
You can also slice the breasts to allow the marinade to cover maximum surface area. Depending on how thick the slices are, I would grill sliced breast for 4-5 minutes on each side. Cook chicken breast on high heat for as little time as possible to fully cook the meat. It’s always safe to wait until you see 155 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Serve grilled chicken with simple seasonal vegetables that best express the time of year.