Cooking on a grill isn't exactly like cooking indoors on your stove. Over gas or charcoal the temperatures can be widely variable, which can make it difficult to judge your cooking times. Chops and burgers are relatively easy to judge by sight, but barbecued chicken pieces can often be charred on the outside and undercooked on the inside. Blanching the chicken pieces before grilling can help you get a more consistent result.
1. About Blanching
Blanching is the process of immersing foods briefly in boiling water, or sometimes in steam, to cook them very slightly. It's how the skins are removed from blanched almonds, which is why the name literally means "whitening." Blanching vegetables before freezing them destroys enzymes that would otherwise make them deteriorate in storage. Chefs also blanch soup bones briefly to cook off the proteins that rise to the surface of the pot and form an unappetizing gray foam.
2. Blanching your Chicken
Blanching chicken pieces for the grill takes a little longer than the two to three minutes used for vegetables. Arrange the chicken pieces loosely in a Dutch oven and cover them to a depth of at least 1 inch with cold water, then heat the pot until it comes to a simmer. Remove the chicken pot from your stove and let the chicken pieces rest in the hot water for five to eight minutes. Alternatively place the pieces in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them, letting them rest for at least 15 minutes. The chicken pieces should never actually boil in the pot, or they'll toughen.
3. What it Does
Blanching your chicken pieces this way provides several benefits. First, the gentle heat of the water par-cooks the chicken pieces and warms them, shortening the cooking time. It also cooks out a part of the fat in the chicken pieces and especially in the skin. Aside from the dietary benefit of removing fat, there are also practical advantages. With less fat in the chicken pieces, there's a lower risk of flare-ups from fat dripping onto the coals or gas flame. That reduces the likelihood of charring your chicken. The blanched skin, with its fat largely cooked out, crisps beautifully on the grill.
4. After Blanching
Once your chicken pieces have blanched, lift them out of the water with a pair of tongs and pat them dry with clean paper towels. Trim off any remaining pieces of fat, and any excess skin. Removing this fat and skin further reduces the risk of charring and flare-ups. Season the chicken pieces with your favorite barbecue rub, and grill them as you normally would. Brush them with sauce toward the end of the cooking time, when there's enough time for the sauce to caramelize, but not to scorch and burn.