Chicken Under a Brick

by Joseph Erdos
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chickenunderbrick.jpgEveryone loves grilled chicken, but most people shy away from grilling it at home. But here's a method that has been perfected by the Italians and is uniquely different. Pollo al mattone, or chicken under a brick, is a popular dish in Tuscany, where it is often prepared by families in the countryside. It's easy to make on the grill any time. Make it this weekend before summer is completely over—your family will love you for it.

First, the chicken is specially prepared by spatchcocking, which involves removing the backbone, breastbone, and wing tips. The chicken can then be opened up and laid flat, skin-side down, on the grill. A brick or cast-iron press is placed on top to weigt the chicken down so that it cooks more evenly. This method means the bird will cook in half the time than if left whole. Plus it will produce super moist meat and crispy crackling skin.

For this recipe, I brine the chicken overnight. The brine mixture is simply salted water flavored with lots of fresh herbs and garlic. The next day, remove the chicken from the brine, rub it with oil, and it's ready to grill. It's as simple as that. Just be careful when flipping the bird—you might need to use heat-proof gloves to make it easier to move. And if the skin breaks a little as you turn, don't worry, when serving simply cover it with herbs.

Grilled Chicken Under a Brick

1 whole chicken (about 3-1/2 to 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Canola oil, for the chicken and the grill

Rinse and clean chicken. Pat dry with paper towels. Using poultry shears, remove back bone and wing tips. Break breast bone and remove. Trim any excess fat.

Combine salt, pepper, and herbs in a large bowl. Pour over with 3 cups cold water and stir until salt is dissolved. Add the chicken to the brine and transfer to the refrigerator and let stand overnight.

Heat a gas grill at medium heat.

Remove the chicken from the brine. Discard the brine. Pat the chicken dry and rub with oil. Moisten a paper towel with oil and brush the grill grates. Place the chicken skin-side down on the grates at a diagonal. Place a foil-wrapped brick or cast-iron press on top of the chicken. Grill the chickens until the skin is crisp and golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove the brick and flip the chicken over and continue to grill until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes more.

To test for doneness, insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. The temperature should be about 170 degrees F. Remove the chicken to a platter and let it rest, tented with foil, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.


Joseph Erdos is a New York–based writer and editor, butabove all a gastronomer and oenophile. He shares his passion for foodon his blog, Gastronomer's Guide , which features unique recipes and restaurant reviews among many other musings on the all-encompassing topic of food. 

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