Chicken-under-a-brick is one of my favorite ways to cook whole birds. It results in juicy, tender meat, and, best of all, it cuts down on the cooking time considerably (yes, you can cook a whole chicken in under an hour!). I used to have a pair of “chicken bricks,” used expressly for that purpose, but they didn’t make the cut when we moved to the Hudson Valley. When I recently asked James to buy me a pair of bricks at the hardware store, he looked at me like I was nuts, asking, “Why buy a brick when you can use a rock—we’ve got plenty of them?” He had a point. Why not?
Chicken-under-a-brick can be cooked in a heavy skillet on the stovetop, but during the summer, the easiest way to cook it is on the grill—that way your kitchen stays clean and cool. You’ll need 1 or 2 big flat rocks or 2 bricks, wrapped in aluminum foil. The first step is to spatchcock the chicken, which sounds much more risqué than warranted. It just means cutting out the backbone of the chicken (easy enough with kitchen scissors), then pressing down to slightly flatten the bird. The chicken then goes right on the grill (skin-side down) and gets weighed down with the rocks or bricks. The rocks/bricks press the chicken into the grill for faster, more even cooking, and with more direct contact, you’ll get crispier skin. Plus, the rocks/bricks act kind of like a cover, preventing the juices from evaporating as quickly, meaning juicier meat.
For a quick rub, I season the bird generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, olive oil and any fresh herbs I have around (if I don’t have fresh herbs, I use a mess of dried oregano). When the chicken comes off the grill, I throw a few lemon halves on the grill to caramelize, which I serve alongside to squeeze over the chicken. The meat is tender and juicy with a hint of smokiness from the grill. It’s simple food, but utterly satisfying.
I’m glad we’re able to put some of these rocks around here to good use!
- 1 4- pound chicken , giblets and neck removed
- Spice rub or marinade of your choice
- 2 lemons , cut in half and brushed lightly with oil
- Wrap 1-2 large flat rocks or 2 bricks in heavy-duty aluminum foil or in 2 layers of regular foil.
- Turn the chicken over (breast side down) and cut out the backbone using kitchen scissors or poultry shears if you have them.
- Turn the chicken back over (breast side up) and press down on the breasts to flatten the chicken slightly. Tuck in the wing tips if they’re not already. Season your chicken (or marinate it) and let it sit at room temperature while you get the grill going.
- Preheat a grill to medium. If you’re using a charcoal grill, bank the coals to one side. Clean and oil the grate. Place the chicken on the grill, skin-side down (if you’re using a charcoal grill, put the chicken on the side with the coals). Arrange the foil-wrapped rocks or bricks on top of the chicken. Cover the grill and cook 8-10 minutes, or until the skin had browned nicely (check it once or twice to be sure it’s not browning too quickly—if it is, turn down the heat slightly, or, if using a charcoal grill, nudge the chicken towards the side without coals).
- Flip the chicken over and reduce the heat to medium-low (if using a charcoal grill, move the chicken to the side without coals). Place the rocks or bricks back on top of the bird, and cook an additional 15-25 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer reads 165˚F and the juices run clear. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 10-15 minutes. If you’d like, throw some lemons on the grill, cut side down, and cook until caramelized. Cut the chicken into quarters and serve with the grilled lemons for squeezing, if desired.