Almost every cuisine that cooks over a live fire has developed a method for overcoming the challenge of grilling a whole chicken. Americans spike chickens on tallboys of Schlitz and bathe them in low, smoky heat. Italians take another route, cutting out the backbone and cooking the butterflied bird over a hot fire. The Italian secret: The bird is weighted with bricks.
When the cooks at America's Test Kitchen heard about the Italian grilling technique in which a whole chicken is butterflied then cooked underneath a brick, they were intrigued. The weight of the bricks pushing the chicken toward the coals is supposed to accomplish two goals: compress the bird for even, quick cooking, and produce perfectly crisp skin by maximizing contact with the grill.
Makes sense, right? The only problem was that most of the recipes the folks at ATK tried resulted in either greasy, pink, and charred birds or dry, tough, and blackened ones. Their solution was simple: Start the bird on the cool side of the grill to render some fat and use preheated bricks to apply heat from above as well as below. Avoiding those recipes' pitfalls, ATK ended up with evenly cooked, juicy chicken with crisp, crackly skin and bold Mediterranean flavor.
Watch the video above for step-by-step instructions or get the recipe at AmericasTestKitchen.com (free registration required).