How To Grill Whole Chicken Charcoal

How To Grill Whole Chicken Charcoal

There’s something truly satisfying about grilling a whole chicken over charcoal – the smoky flavor, the crispy skin, the juicy meat. If you’ve never tackled this culinary feat before, don’t worry! 

To grill a whole chicken on charcoal, season it well, set up a two-zone fire, and cook over indirect heat, turning occasionally, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through step-by-step on how to grill a whole chicken over charcoal like a pro. 

Get ready to impress your friends and family with your newfound grilling skills!

Benefits of Using Charcoal for Grilling

Grilling is a popular cooking method that has been used for centuries. It adds a unique smoky flavor to food, making it a favorite among many people. 

While there are various types of grills available in the market, charcoal grilling remains one of the most preferred methods. 

Not only does it give food a great taste, but it also offers several benefits that make it an excellent choice for cooking whole chicken.

Here are some of the key benefits of using charcoal for grilling:

1. Intense Heat

One of the main advantages of using charcoal for grilling is its ability to generate intense heat quickly. 

Charcoal burns hotter than gas or electric grills, which means your chicken will cook faster and more evenly. 

This high heat also helps to sear the outside of the chicken, creating those signature grill marks and locking in its juices.

2. Unique Flavor

Charcoal imparts a distinct smoky flavor to food that cannot be achieved with other types of grills. 

The smoke from burning charcoal adds depth and complexity to the taste of your chicken, giving it that authentic grilled flavor that everyone loves.

3. Versatility

Charcoal grills offer versatility when it comes to cooking different types of food. 

You can control the temperature by adjusting the amount of charcoal you use and its placement on the grill. 

This allows you to cook your chicken at various temperatures, achieving different levels of doneness and textures.

4. Cost-Effective

Charcoal is generally cheaper than gas or electric fuel sources, making it a cost-effective option for long-term use. 

A bag of good quality lump charcoal can last through multiple grill sessions, saving you money in the long run.

5. Easy Setup

Another benefit of using charcoal for grilling is its simplicity in setup and maintenance compared to other types of grills. 

All you need is some newspaper or fire starter cubes along with your desired amount of charcoal placed in a chimney starter. 

Within 20 minutes, the charcoal will be hot and ready to use for grilling.

6. Portability

Charcoal grills are usually lighter and more portable compared to gas or electric grills. 

They are perfect for outdoor events like picnics, camping trips, or tailgating parties, allowing you to enjoy delicious grilled chicken on-the-go.

Preparing the Chicken for Grilling

Preparing the chicken for grilling is an important step in ensuring a delicious and perfectly cooked whole chicken on charcoal. 

There are several key steps that should be followed to properly prepare the chicken for grilling.

1. Clean the Chicken

The first step in preparing the chicken is to thoroughly clean it. Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Make sure to remove any giblets or excess fat from inside the cavity of the chicken.

2. Seasoning

Once the chicken is cleaned, it’s time to season it. You can use your favorite spices and herbs to add flavor to the chicken. 

Some popular options include garlic powder, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Rub these seasonings all over the outside of the chicken as well as inside its cavity.

3. Trussing

This step involves tying up the legs and wings of the chicken close to its body using kitchen twine or butcher’s string. 

Trussing helps keep all parts of the bird together during cooking and prevents them from drying out too quickly.

4. Marinating (optional)

To add even more flavor to your grilled whole chicken, consider marinating it before cooking. 

You can use store-bought marinades or make your own by combining oil, vinegar or citrus juice, herbs, spices, and other desired ingredients in a plastic bag or container and letting it marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours) before grilling.

5. Preheat Your Grill

Before placing your prepared whole chicken on charcoal grill, make sure that your grill is preheated to medium-high heat (around 375-400°F). This will ensure proper cooking temperature for juicy and tender meat.

6. Oil Your Grill Grates

Brush some oil onto your grill grates using tongs and a folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil or spray-on cooking spray. This will prevent the chicken from sticking to the grill and make it easier to flip.

7. Place the Chicken on the Grill

Once your grill is preheated and oiled, carefully place your prepared whole chicken on the grates. Close the lid of the grill and let it cook for about 20 minutes before flipping it over to its other side.

8. Use a Meat Thermometer

The best way to know when your chicken is cooked is by using a meat thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the chicken (usually in between thigh and breast) without touching bone, and wait for it to reach an internal temperature of 165°F.

Setting Up the Grill and Charcoal

Setting up the grill and charcoal properly is crucial in achieving a perfectly grilled whole chicken with that smoky flavor we all love. 

The right setup will ensure even heat distribution and prevent flare-ups, making sure your chicken is cooked through without burning.

1. Choose the Right Grill

The first step in setting up your grill for grilling a whole chicken is choosing the right type of grill. While gas grills are convenient, they don’t provide the same level of smoky flavor as charcoal grills do. 

Charcoal grills also allow for more control over temperature, which is essential when cooking a whole chicken.

2. Prepare Your Charcoal

Start by using good quality lump charcoal or briquettes. Avoid using lighter fluid or chemicals to light your charcoal as it can leave an unpleasant taste on your food. Instead, use a chimney starter to light the coals without any added chemicals.

3. Arrange Coals Properly

Once your coals are lit and have turned gray (about 20-30 minutes), carefully pour them onto one side of the grill, creating two zones – direct heat zone and indirect heat zone. 

This set up allows you to sear the chicken over direct heat and finish cooking it over indirect heat.

4. Add Flavor

For that extra smoky flavor, consider adding wood chips or chunks to your coals before placing them in the grill. 

Soak wood chips beforehand in water for about 30 minutes to prevent them from burning too quickly.

5. Adjust Ventilation

To control the temperature inside your grill, adjust the vents accordingly – open them wider for higher temperatures and close them partially for lower temperatures.

6. Preheat Your Grill

It’s crucial to preheat your grill before placing your chicken on it to ensure even cooking throughout. 

Use an instant-read thermometer to check if both direct and indirect zones have reached their desired temperature – around 375-400°F for indirect heat and 450-500°F for direct heat.

7. Oil the Grates

To prevent the chicken from sticking to the grill, use a pair of tongs and a paper towel soaked in oil to lightly grease the grates before placing your chicken on them.

Techniques for Grilling Whole Chicken on Charcoal

Grilling a whole chicken on charcoal is a delicious and satisfying way to cook this classic dish. 

The smoky flavor from the charcoal adds depth to the chicken’s taste, making it one of the most popular methods for cooking a whole bird. 

In this section, we will discuss some essential techniques for achieving perfectly grilled whole chicken on charcoal.

1. Prepare the Chicken:

Before lighting up your charcoal grill, it’s crucial to prepare your chicken properly. Start by trimming any excess fat or skin from the bird and pat it dry with paper towels. 

This step is essential as excess moisture can cause flare-ups on the grill, resulting in unevenly cooked meat and charred skin.

2. Create Indirect Heat:

One of the biggest challenges when grilling a whole chicken on charcoal is ensuring that it cooks evenly without burning. 

To prevent this, create an indirect heat zone by arranging hot coals on one side of your grill and leaving the other side empty. 

This method allows you to control the temperature better and avoid flare-ups.

3. Use a Marinade or Dry Rub:

A marinade or dry rub can add fantastic flavors to your grilled chicken while also keeping it moist during cooking. 

If using a marinade, let the chicken soak in it for at least two hours before grilling; if using a dry rub, generously coat all sides of the bird with spices before placing it on the grill.

4. Trussing or Spatchcocking:

Trussing refers to tying up or securing poultry’s legs together with kitchen twine before roasting or grilling them; whereas spatchcocking involves removing its backbone and flattening out its body structure before grilling . 

Both methods help ensure even cooking throughout the bird and result in juicier meat.

5.Ensure Proper Cooking Time:

When grilling a whole chicken on charcoal, accurate timing is crucial to achieve juicy yet thoroughly cooked meat without burning its skin. 

As a general rule, cook the chicken for about 20-25 minutes per pound, rotating it every 10-15 minutes to ensure even cooking. 

Use a meat thermometer to check if the internal temperature of the thickest part of the bird has reached 165°F.

6. Baste and Rest:

To add more flavor and moisture to your grilled chicken, baste it with a marinade or sauce during the last few minutes of cooking. 

After removing it from the grill, let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving. This step allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in tender and juicy chicken.

Safety Precautions for Grilling Whole Chicken on Charcoal

Grilling a whole chicken over charcoal can be an exciting and delicious experience, but it is important to take the necessary safety precautions to ensure a successful and safe outcome. 

Here are some key tips to keep in mind before firing up your grill.

1. Choose the Right Location:

When grilling with charcoal, it is crucial to choose the right location for your grill. It should be placed on a level surface away from any flammable objects such as trees, bushes or buildings. 

Make sure there is enough space around the grill for air circulation and avoid using it on windy days.

2. Clean Your Grill Thoroughly:

Before starting the fire, make sure your grill is clean and free of any debris or leftover food from previous use. This will prevent any unwanted flare-ups or potential contamination of your chicken.

3. Use Proper Tools:

When handling hot coals or turning the chicken on the grill, always use long-handled tongs or spatulas to avoid getting burned. Do not use your hands or regular kitchen utensils as they may not be heat-resistant.

4. Build a Two-Zone Fire:

Instead of having all the coals in one spot, create two zones by piling them up on one side of the grill while leaving some space empty on the other side. This will allow you to have direct heat for searing and indirect heat for slow cooking without burning your chicken.

5. Use a Meat Thermometer:

The only way to ensure that your whole chicken is cooked thoroughly and safe to eat is by using a meat thermometer. Insert it into thickest part of the meat (not touching bone) and make sure it reads 165°F (74°C).

6. Handle Raw Chicken with Care:

It is important to handle raw chicken carefully to avoid cross-contamination with other foods or surfaces in your kitchen. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw chicken and wash your hands thoroughly after handling it.


In conclusion, grilling a whole chicken over charcoal can seem intimidating at first, but with the right tips and techniques, it can become a simple and delicious meal option. 

From properly preparing the chicken to using indirect heat and checking for doneness, these steps will help ensure that your grilled whole chicken turns out perfectly every time. 

So fire up your grill and try out this method for yourself – you may just discover a new favorite way to enjoy chicken!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *