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How to grill chicken like a pro…

I rarely, if ever, order chicken when we eat out. All too often it comes out dry and, not to put too fine a point on it, I happen to be pretty darned good at it.

How many only barbecue chicken on the grill because the sauce makes the otherwise dry chicken a little juicier?  How many skip chicken altogether because it always comes out tasting gnarly?

Chicken is, without a doubt, one of the toughest meats to get right – on a grill it’s even tougher. This is so for one reason, and one reason only: It is easily overcooked.

The tendency is to overcook chicken because the ramifications for undercooking it are huge. There is nothing worse than bringing in a beautiful plate of chicken, only to cut it open to see the telltale gray-pink center followed by the rush to get the chicken back on the grill to cook it the rest of the way through.

I am, within my family at least, a bit of a Svengali on the grill.  If it used to pump oxygen, I can grill it.  Heck, if it didn’t I can grill it.  My chicken though, is legend, and I’ll lay out my tricks to cooking perfect, juicy chicken on the grill.

Before we get into the steps, grill with the lid down.  Only lift it to flip the chicken or to take care of flare-ups.  Also, I’m assuming that you have a basic knowledge of how to cook food on a grill.  If you’re a straight up grilling noob, there’s too much to pass on for this one post, start with something easy, steak or burgers (both of which simply require “so many minutes per side”).  Finally, NEVER use a fork Using a fork to turn the meat will pierce it and allow the juices to drain out.  This is grillmanship 101…  Use tongs.

#1. Heat the grill up, gas on high (if you’re using charcoal you want the bricks just glowing red – don’t wait too long though).  You’re looking for around 400 degrees F if you have a thermometer in your grill.

#2. Pretty side of the meat goes to the fire first.

#3. Put the chicken right over the hot spots, preferably thick side over the hottest spots. A few minutes so you get the perfect grill marks. Flip and repeat on the other side.  2-3 minutes per side.

#4. For gas, after the initial blast, turn the heat down to medium and cook for a couple of minutes each side over the hot spots, for charcoal, you should have fairly obvious hot spots, move the chicken to the edges of the hot spots with the thick part closest to the heat. 2-3 minutes per side (rotate the chicken 90 degrees – it’ll give you awesome cross-hatched grill marks).

#5.  Finally, turn the heat down to low (or move the chicken away from the hot spots) and give your chicken a few minutes on low heat (ugly side down).  This last part is all timing and unfortunately, visual.  If you cut a piece open to make sure it is indeed done, cut the thickest piece in the thickest part – if that’s done, everything else is.  I did this a few times before I got the timing and the visual cues down right.  Unfortunately, the piece that you hack will have the juices drain a bit – it won’t be ruined, but it won’t be as good as the pieces that aren’t sliced.  What you’re looking for is blackened grill marks and the remainder of the meat to be a golden brown.  Grill time will vary depending on your grill so be very careful that the meat is cooked all the way through – raw meat will have an ugly pink center while perfectly cooked chicken will be white all the way through but drip juices like crazy when you cut into it.

Total cook time should only be 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the filets…  To practice, butterflying the breast filets at the thickest part doesn’t hurt and you can cut the cook time down to about 10 minutes.  Cutting the filets prior to cooking will not hurt the overall juiciness of the chicken.  We start off with the high heat first to sear the outside of the meat, trapping the juice inside.

Minimalist Eating: Salmon

I thought I didn’t like salmon. I’ve tried it a few times when friends or relatives prepared it… Let’s just say I wasn’t too impressed. I figured it was just the fish because the folks who prepared it were very good cooks.

Imagine my surprise when my wife came home the other day and said she’d picked some up at the store. Skip to last night and we were all in the mood for a decent dinner but I wanted to cook outside rather than needlessly heating up the house (it’s HOT outside as it is) so we were grillin’ baby.

Quick Google search to learn how to grill salmon and we’re rolling… If you’re a minimalist eater, try this:

Brush on olive oil, both sides. Lightly season (we used a Tuscany blend), salt and pepper. That’s it. Now, I want to pause here. I am a huge fan of squeezing a fresh lemon on fish… Not in this case. We were 4 for 4, the salmon was better without the lemon.

Oil the grill surface: drizzle olive oil on a folded (2″x2″ square) paper towel and, with a pair of tongs, rub the oil on the grate.

Place the slab skin down on the grill (medium high) for 10-15 minutes (do not flip or move – watch your hot spots, try to avoid the hottest spot or put the thickest part of the filet over it).

10-15 minutes on medium-high heat and the fish will flake easily – it’s done, serve immediately. Drizzle lemon over the top if you wish

We also had a salad and my famous grilled asparagus (again, minimalist:  Olive oil, garlic, grill then douse with lemon juice (be liberal with the lemon juice, it’s better with a lot – the recipe is here.).

Just so we’re clear, the proper order to cook this out is asparagus first.  When it’s done, transfer to a cookie sheet and place in the oven at 210 degrees (F) to keep warm, then cook the Salmon.  We all agreed (a rarity) that the minimalist salmon was the best we’d had.  Sometimes your just better off letting the food taste good all on its own.

I Am Stronger Than I Thought I Am

Now, if you’re an English teacher reading that title, you’re more than likely shaking your head, lamenting the intelligence of the fit class.

If you’re in the fit class, you know darn good and well what that means.

I fought this reality just yesterday when my buddies English Pete and Aaron ran 10 miles but I cut my run to 8. Turning back early made perfect sense at the time… I wasn’t fully prepared or fueled to run yesterday but I figured I could gut out nine. When I got to Pete’s they were talking about doing eleven. If you know my friends, that means twelve or a half – I simply didn’t think had it in me to gut that out without the proper preparation.  Throw in the ridiculously cold temperature and wind that we ran in and it made even more sense.

Imagine my surprise after I turned around early, to find that not only could I finish but I could do so with plenty left in the tank.  The reality, of course, is that with wind chills at just four degrees (F), making certain that I could finish running far outweighed a desire to push it.  The ramifications involved in bonking yesterday were huge.  Heading out with the wind I knew I would be sweating a bit.  19 degrees is cold, but it’s not that cold.  However, heading back into the wind the temp drops from 19 to 4 degrees.  Walking for too far would have been dangerous.

Imagine my surprise when the Pete and Aaron came running around the corner just 17 minutes after I finished – they only went 10.  I could have done that.

Without getting too deep into the self-criticism weeds, I’m a lot stronger than I sometimes give myself credit for and yesterday proved that point.  I’m not into self-flagellation so I won’t be dwelling too deeply on this, in fact all things considered I’m quite certain that I did the right thing.  The occasion does need to be filed for future reference though.

The point is that I think many of us fitties are prone to believing we can’t run or ride as fast, or that we can’t make it as far, as we really can.  This isn’t a good or a bad thing, just food for thought.  I would have written this post yesterday after I finished but I was just too cold to type.

New Recipe – Hot Ham & Pineapple Sammich

My brother-in-law used to work at a certain sub shop – so he knew how they make one of their most famous subs…and he passed the secret on to us – now I’m going to share it with you.

Here’s the list of ingredients, but don’t go by their description of how to cook it (it’s all wrong).

Put your cut up ham and some butter in a large frying pan.  Fry up the ham, allowing it to brown up a bit.  Then add your pineapple and a goodly bit of the juice (we use fresh pineapple rather than the canned stuff).  Allow that to simmer and the pineapple juice to cook down (this step is the key to an awesome sub).  Then top it with your favorite cheese (we use colby-jack) and allow that to melt…  Then scoop onto a sub bun.

I like to dash the bun with a little bit of mayo and some Big John’s Steak-n-Onion red sauce.  There’s nothing better after a day on the bike than a couple of these bad boys.

If you don’t have a local Big John’s and can’t find the sauce, I found this recipe (though I can’t vouch for its veracity).

Venison Tacos

Mrs. BgddyJim came up with with a real keeper of a recipe for dinner last night…and simple as it gets.

Venison Tacos

For this particular evening we used back straps. Yum.


Venison steaks or back strap filets
Olive oil
Taco seasoning

Mix a few caps full of olive oil and the taco seasoning in a container. Drop in the steaks, cover and shake to coat (see photo).

Cook steaks a few minutes per side to no more than medium on a cast iron skillet.

Slice and serve in soft tortilla shells with shredded cheese, salsa and lettuce.

They take about 10 minutes to prep and 10 more to cook, and they’re unbelievable.



Now I’m Really Confused (not really, it’s just a catch line)…

On May 9th in a normal “keep your hands off of my meat” rant I wrote the following, “Of course, I’ve gotta wonder, why put faith in the study in the first place?  Whatever they come up with, they’ll reverse it in two years anyway”.

Allow me to explain myself.  Once you understand how and why studies are performed, and the real reason behind them, they become a little less shock-worthy.  Scientists, and in particular University professors, have to get published in order to maintain their status and in many cases their tenure, in the scientific community.  Quite often the only way to get noticed is to wander off the reservation with a wild claim that “x” is really, really bad for you.  They bend the scientific process to get a desired result and thereby get published.  Politicians then attach themselves to this research and craft new laws to limit the freedom of the people who they are sworn to represent, based on these studies, all the while patting themselves on the back for looking out for the people they’re harassing.

Michael Bloomberg of New York (perhaps we should begin referring to him as Mikael) recently launched such wars on trans fats, soda pop and salt.  In fact, he even went so far as to compare SALT to asbestos when he said, ”

“If we know there’s asbestos in a school room what do you expect us to do?”  Bloomberg shot back at reporters questioning his new initiative. “Say it’s not  our business? I don’t think so. The same thing is true with food and smoking and  a lot of things.

“Salt and asbestos, clearly both are bad for you,” Bloomberg continued.  “Modern medicine thinks you shouldn’t be smoking if you want to live longer.  Modern medicine thinks you shouldn’t be eating salt, or sodium.”

In my post that I linked above, I also wrote, “I’m so tired of being told that anything I do, including breathing for God’s sake, will kill me, give me cancer, or both”…  The attack on salt would fall under this category, especially now that it’s coming out that the science behind all of the low-salt BS is faulty.  In fact, Italian researchers ran a series of trials, “all of which reported that, among patients with heart failure, reducing salt consumption increased the risk of death”.  Those trials were followed by studies, “suggesting that reducing sodium to anything like what [US] government policy refers to as a “safe upper limit” is likely to do more harm than good”.

Now here’s where this gets fun for me, I’ve never been a salt loving kind of guy – unless we’re talking about my Large McDonald’s french fries, in that case, hit ’em hard!  I don’t salt my scrambled eggs or my burgers or steaks (I do salt venison before it hits the cast iron skillet though).  I don’t add salt to my salad, my poultry, or pretty much anything else (meaning I don’t physically shake much salt on anything after prep, unless we’re talking about Chicken Noodle Soup).  I bought into the whole low-salt dealio…  Until last summer when I really started increasing my mileage, and thusly the amount that I would sweat in a week.  In the first three weeks of 75+ mile intensity I found that my sweat stopped tasting salty.  It was quite bland as a matter of fact.  It took a couple of days for this to register and had I not been paying attention, I could have really run into some grave trouble.  Since then I’ve taken to Gatorade to replenish that which I’ve lost and I stopped, altogether, worrying about salt consumption.  Now, even though I’m up to 130-150 miles a week I haven’t had that problem since.

The main point I was getting at couldn’t be more important:  Don’t put your health in the hands of Nanny State Politicians – They have an incredible amount of power, should they choose to misuse it (and they usually do), and they don’t know any better than any normal average Joe; their ass from a hole in the ground.

Now, let’s apply this lesson throughout our entire society and what do we know?  Everybody wants to fight something.  Those who can, do it with their fists – those who can’t use their fists use their politician.  From the anti-war movement, to hippies, to militant vegetarians, to class action lawyers…and they do it for one reason only:  To make you do what they want.  There is no difference between “Don’t eat salt or I’ll kick the s#!t out of you” and “Don’t use salt to prepare your food or I’ll take $1,000 per plate from your wallet”.  None.

UPDATE:  In the comments section, Idiotprufs brought up an interesting point – Mayor Bloomberg, in the same week as the soda size restriction had to make it acceptable for certain amounts of pot to be exposed to view, because he’s got his police officers searching anyone they pull over (where is that pesky Constitution when you need it, and why isn’t New York under investigation by the Feds for violating it?)…  It turns out, so many people carry dope in their pants pocket that they couldn’t handle the innundation to the court system.  Nice.  So now you can get caught with an ounce of illegal weed in your pants, but not a 20 oz bottle of Coke.  You know, that just about makes sense.

A question for your Federal Senator or Representative:  Is anyone responsible for New York’s stop and frisk policy under investigation for violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, barring Searches and Seizures?


From Bigdaddy’s Grill: Chicken Alfredo

Mrs. BgddyJim and I have gone through several incarnations of Fettuchini Alfredo with chicken in the last ten or so years, till we’ve finally come close to perfecting it.

My version comes with a caveat – I don’t make the sauce from scratch.  I let Paul Newman do it for me.  For the chicken, my girls don’t exactly appreciate grilled chicken like my wife and I do so I had to come up with a way to grill chicken that would keep it from looking, well, grilled. I simply wrap the chicken in aluminum foil, add in a little olive oil and some Italian seasoning (thanks Emiril) and a couple pinches of salt and drop it on the grill.  This goes on the grill a couple of minutes before the uncovered chicken…

For the regular grilled chicken, I like something with a little kick so I use two seasonings:  McCormick’s Montreal Chicken and Weber’s Kickin’ Chicken.  Be careful with the seasoning – too much and it overpowers the chicken (and the fettuchini alfredo):

For cooking time, I’m I good grill chef but I’m not so good at the “instructions” part – I go by look and feel rather than a set time.  The best I can offer is is 5 minutes a side and then a few more minutes to make sure it’s good ‘n done (oh, and the thick part of the chicken breast goes on the hottest part of the grill).


The Weber’s Kickin’ Chicken really does pack a punch – if you don’t like spicy, stick with just the Montreal Chicken.

This is one of my favorite dinners.