The way chickens are butterflied and flattened for grilling in Latin America may seem a little funny: The result resembles a frog. But this method ensures quicker and more even cooking. Also, to achieve crispy, golden-brown skin and juicy meat, the chicken is cooked over indirect heat. This prevents flareups that can occur when fat drips directly onto the coals—flareups that would burn the outside of the chicken before the meat was cooked through.
What to buy: For true Argentine grilling, lump charcoal is essential, as it provides the smoky flavor that only comes from real wood. It can be found at most grocery and hardware stores.
Special equipment: A chimney starter makes lighting charcoal a snap. Place a wad of newspaper in the bottom, fill the top with charcoal, and light the newspaper. Using a chimney starter means there is no need for lighter fluid, which adds unpleasant chemical flavors to your wood. Charcoal chimney starters can be found at hardware stores or online.
You’ll need an instant-read thermometer to know when the chicken is done.
Game plan: You’ll need to make the Argentine Chimichurri Sauce before you begin.
This recipe was featured as part of our Argentine Grilling menu.
- 1Place the measured oil, garlic, rosemary, and lemon juice in a small, nonreactive bowl and stir to combine; set aside.
- 2Remove the neck and any innards from the chicken and discard. Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
- 3Place the chicken on a cutting board breast side up with the legs toward you. Gently pull one leg away from the body and, using a knife, slice through the skin between the leg and body to expose the thigh. Place your hand under the leg and push the thigh up toward you until you see the thigh joint pop out. Repeat with the other leg.
- 4Using kitchen shears, cut along the side of the breast through the ribs from the bottom cavity up toward the wing. Repeat on the other side. Open the chicken up by pulling the breasts up and away from you, then flip the chicken over. Press down firmly on the breastbone to flatten.
- 5Generously season the chicken all over with salt and pepper, then rub the reserved marinade all over. Transfer to a baking sheet and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the grill.
- 6Fill a medium-sized chimney starter with lump charcoal (about 5 to 6 quarts). Crumple 2 to 3 pages of newspaper and place them under the chimney starter. Set the starter on the charcoal grate of the grill. Light the newspaper. After about 10 minutes the coals should be red, with flames coming out of the top of the chimney starter. (If the charcoal doesn’t light, you may have put too much newspaper under the starter—the flames need air to spread—so repeat lighting the newspaper.) Place the lit charcoal on one side of the grill, forming a mound. Place the cooking grate over the charcoal and let the grill preheat, about 15 minutes (the charcoal should have turned white and ashy by this point).
- 7Rub the grill grate with a towel dipped in olive oil. Place the chicken skin side down on the half of the grill not over the coals, cover the grill, open both the bottom and top vents, and cook the chicken without moving it for 15 minutes. Rotate the chicken 180 degrees (making sure it is still not directly over the coals), cover, and grill until the skin of the chicken is crisp and browned all over, about 10 minutes more.
- 8Flip the chicken (two pairs of tongs are useful here), cover, and cook without moving for 15 minutes. Rotate the chicken 180 degrees, cover, and cook until the juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (make sure it’s not touching bone), about 10 to 15 minutes more.
- 9Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces and serve with chimichurri.
Beverage pairing: Weinert Carrascal Blanco, Argentina. Aged in concrete, this blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc has assertive buttery and caramel-y flavors that stand up well to the smokiness of the chicken and the bold flavors in the chimichurri.
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