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CHICKEN is a creature that was almost purpose built for the barbecue. It is cleverly assembled, and has just the right texture and finish – a magnificent skin, for one thing, and conveniently proportioned joints, for another – to emerge triumphantly from the charcoal grill.

Chicken cooks quite quickly, and does not benefit from a longer, slower barbecue process which would only dry out the meat. As beer-butt chicken, perhaps the most popular barbecue dish of the decade, it works brilliantly. But if you have a barbecue that is not suitable for that dish, or if you simply prefer beautifully seasoned grilled meat, there are other ways…

Perhaps the best marriage between chicken and barbecue is achieved by butterflying the chicken – splitting it down the back by running shears through the bird, either side of the backbone (as against the breastbone) and throwing away the strip of bone you have removed. Then, open the bird out and press firmly down on the breast, flattening the bird.

Use my standard rub on the bird and refrigerate it, covered, for about four hours, or overnight. Cook over indirect heat, with hickory smoke, but quite quickly, using a digital thermometer (remote or instant read) to keep track of the doneness. Insert an instant read probe into the thickest part of the thigh and, when it reads 80C, take the bird off the heat, rest it loosely tented with foil for about 15 minutes, and then joint it and pass it around. It is best eaten in your fingers, perhaps with a splash of my barbecue sauce. Grilled asparagus goes well with it, also.

Note: Great butterflied and pre-marinated birds are available from Jonathan’s butchers in Smith Street, Collingwood. I especially like the Portugese chicken, but the lemon chicken is also excellent.

Also, for individual portions, cooking poussins or spatchcocks in the same way as the larger chickens works brilliantly, but be careful not to overcook them. One each is just fine.


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