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I am sure many of you have a similar history with grilled chicken.  Too often it is overcooked and so dry that “unpleasant” is a generous description.  We got a new grill this summer and my husband has perfected his grilled chicken technique to the point where I am giddy with anticipation on the evenings when he grills up a bird.

A couple of things seem important to this technique, and these lessons are passed along from my husband Bruce as I have yet to use this grill myself.  First, you need to use a charcoal grill and not a gas grill.  Second, you need to use hardwood charcoal and not briquettes like Matchlight.  We have used a variety of rubs and spice blends all with successful results so as long as you properly season the chicken you should be fine.  There appears to be a lot of variety in the hardwood charcoals, some of which are difficult to light and don’t burn consistently.  The best charcoal we have used came from Patton’s Meat Market in Duluth, and came with the grill.  So, getting charcoal at a specialty store seems like a safe bet.  The second best charcoal was from Publix and is their Greenwise brand of hardwood charcoal.  The 360 brand from Whole Foods was a dud, so we do not recommend that brand. There are several sites out there reviewing hardwood charcoals so you can do your homework before trying brands available in your area.

The grill we now use is a large ceramic grill called the Kamado Joe (similar to a Big Green Egg) and it is excellent at retaining heat and cooking food at a consistent temperature.

While you can buy chicken parts, I prefer to buy a whole chicken and cut it up myself with my beloved Joyce Chen scissors.  I think it keeps the chicken more tender and juicy to cut it up at the last minute.  I also prefer to avoid chicken that is not pumped with saline and definitely did not get a treatment of antibiotics.  It takes about an hour to cook the chicken, and while it is not officially “smoked”, the hardwood charcoal definitely imparts a subtle and delicious smoky flavor.  Because the chicken is grilled with the skin on, it stays moist and delicious, however, use a meat thermometer to ensure that you don’t overcook the chicken.

I served a lovely wine called Troublemaker with this meal of grilled tastiness.  Troublemaker is made by the Austin Hope winery in Paso Robles.  I had really wanted to visit this winery on my last visit out there, but sadly ran out of time.  At dinner our last night in Paso we did try this wine in a restaurant and absolutely loved it.  I came across the wine last week at Costco and was so excited to try it again.

I really love Rhone blends from Central California and this wine is a great example of this style of wine.  A blend of Syrah (55%), Grenache (20%), Mourvedre (20%) and Petite Sirah (5%), this wine was juicy, rich and succulent.  It could easily pair with a big boy meal of steak and potatoes, however, it was a delight with the grilled chicken.  I sensed an aroma of leather and flavors of black cherry and cocoa.  This wine is a great value at $20.  One interesting this is that the wine is non-vintage which means there is no year on the bottle.  I am curious how many different harvests contributed to this wine.  I guess I need to head back out to Paso to find out more about this wine!!