Grilling a bunch of chicken thighs is an easy, inexpensive and delicious way to feed a crowd. It is also a handy way to do a little meal prep for later in the week when you might not have time to fire up your grill.
Let me show you two techniques for grilling chicken thighs on a Weber charcoal grill. These methods are simple, easy to follow and will have you cooking some great yardbird!
These two techniques are identical in how you prepare the chicken and light the charcoal. The biggest difference is how the charcoal is arranged in the grill.
Prepare The Chicken Thighs
Start by placing some chicken thighs into a brine (1 quart water, 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar) and let it soak in the refrigerator for at least four hours.
Take the thighs out of the brine and dry them off with paper towels.
Place the thighs skin side down on a cutting board and trim off the extra skin and fat.
The thighs look much better when they are cleaned up!
Season both sides of the thighs with salt and pepper.
Don’t worry about exotic dry rubs. This is going to turn out just fine by going simple.
Light The Charcoal
Now that the thighs are brined, trimmed and seasoned it is time to get your grill ready. I leave the chicken on the counter and let it warm while I perform this step.
Place two sheets of crumpled newspaper under a charcoal chimney, load the chimney with Kingsford charcoal and light the newspaper. The newspaper will make a lot of smoke.
I light the chimney on top of my Weber 18 inch One Touch Silver; it’s the only use this grill ever sees anymore. If you don’t have an extra grill to use then perform this step with the chimney sitting on the charcoal grate of your grill. Do not light the chimney on the cooking grate of the grill you will be using.
When I have flames coming out the top of the chimney (about 15 minutes) I dump the charcoal into the grill.
Technique Number 1
Dump the charcoal into a pile on the middle of the charcoal grate. I do not spread the coals around.
Make sure that the bottom air vents on the kettle are completely open.
Put the cooking grate on the kettle and arrange the thighs in a circle around the outside of the charcoal.
None of the thighs are directly over any charcoal.
Put the lid on the kettle with the lid vent fully open and let the temperature settle in between 350F and 425F. You are now grilling chicken thighs on your kettle!
After 10 minutes I do something that most people say not to do; I peek. I open the lid and use a pair of tongs to grab the cooking grate and rotate it about 180 degrees. I do this just in case there is a hot spot in the grill and one side of the grill is cooking faster than the other.
This isn’t really necessary; it just gives me an excuse to open the lid!
After another 10 minutes I turn the grilled chicken thighs over and baste the bottom with Italian dressing. I like to use Wishbone because it tastes great and does not burn.
Feel free to use a different brand if you like but check out the ingredients first. Never use a dressing that lists corn syrup as one of the first couple of ingredients; it burns too easy.
Here is what the bottom of the grilled chicken thighs look like after being brushed with the Italian dressing.
Close the lid and let the chicken cook another ten minutes. Baste the meat side of the thighs one more time, flip it over and then brush the skin side.
Let the chicken thighs grill for another 5 minutes and start checking the internal temperature with a digital thermometer. You are done when the thighs hit 170F. Don’t worry if you over cook these guys and your temp hits 190F; the brining step was an insurance policy against turning these into hockey pucks.
Take a close look at the next picture; notice how the surface of the meat is pink? That is a little smoke ring and it is a good thing. A lot of folks will freak when served pink chicken as they think it is undercooked. If your guest is nervous calmly point out that you measured the internal temperature and yes, the chicken is done. Also point out that if the chicken wasn’t cooked that it would be pink on the inside, not the outside.
The total grilling time for these chicken thighs was just under an hour and they turned out great.
Technique Number 2
Next up is a more traditional “Low and Slow” technique. The steps that are the same between the two posts are brining, trimming, seasoning and lighting the charcoal.
Once the charcoal is lit I will pour the briquettes to one side of the grill.
I like to bank them so that they only take up about a third or less of the charcoal grate. Long handled metal tongs are very useful for this job. A charcoal basket also be a good idea.
After the coals are arranged I add an aluminum pan beside them, put the cooking grate onto the grill and place the chicken thighs above the aluminum pan.
Open your vents, close the lid, and let the chicken grill for an hour. After an hour the grilled chicken thighs are not looking very impressive.
Go ahead and baste them with some Wishbone Italian dressing.
The temperature at the dome was significantly higher than what the chicken was seeing. My dome thermometer was reading about 375F. However the thermometer I had at the grate with the chicken was reading 256F. (Ignore the 380 number in the middle of the digital display. That is a “Set Temperature” I enter above which the thermometer will alarm. It is coincidence that the “Set Temperature” and the dome temperature are so close.)
Here is where the grate thermometer was located.
Right before I opened the lid to baste the chicken I noticed that the dome temperature had started to drop a little. When the temperature starts to drop use your tongs to flip the hinged grate open and add some more unlit briquettes. I added about ten briquettes then closed the lid and grilled the chicken for another thirty minutes.
Another shameless plug for Weber charcoal grills; the hinged grates make life easy!After the thighs have cooked for another half hour (1 hour 30 minutes total) they start looking pretty tasty.
Baste them again with Italian dressing. I checked the temperature and got a reading of 163F. Some people call this done. I like my thighs closer to 170-180F as I think they get more tender at those temperatures. I closed the lid on the Weber 22.5 and let the chicken go for another half hour.
After two hours here is what it looked like on the grill and plated up in the kitchen. I think this is just about perfect!
I hope you found these two posts on using your Weber 22.5 kettle for grilling chicken thighs to be useful. Keep practicing with your technique. Practicing is half the fun and is a great way to be living the barbecue life!