Summer signals weekend backyard barbecues for many of us. Throw a well-seasoned chicken on the grill and you’re almost guaranteed to have a delicious meal. This versatile protein offers something for every palate—delicate light meat, hearty dark meat, and crispy skin. “To cut calories while maintaining flavor and moistness, season the meat under the skin,” says Jackie Elnahar, RD, Esq., head of Teladoc Health Dietitian Services. “Cook the chicken with the skin on, then discard the skin before serving.”

Prep and grilling tips

Be careful when preparing poultry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Salmonella is responsible for about 1.2 million illnesses and 23,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. every year.1 “Avoid eating chicken when it’s undercooked,” Jackie explains. “It should reach an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit* to kill bacteria.” Here are a few tools and tactics to help you prepare and grill your chicken:

  • To help prevent the spread of bacteria, get a separate cutting board just for chicken.
  • Keep the juices from raw chicken separated from all other foods, including cooked chicken.
  • Don’t use wooden utensils with raw chicken. Use metal or nonporous plastic utensils instead.
  • If you buy a whole chicken, first remove the neck and package of giblets stuffed inside the chicken cavity. (You can save these parts for chicken stock.)
  • To make cutting up a whole chicken easier, cut it when it’s partially frozen. Important note: Never thaw and refreeze any foods.
  • How to loosen the skin and create a “seasoning pocket”: Slide your fingers between the skin and meat, and gently push your hand around to separate the skin without poking through or tearing it. If you prefer not to use your fingers, try using a small inverted metal spoon.
  • Use a food thermometer to test the meat temperature; be careful not to touch the bone.
  • Store prepped and seasoned chicken in the refrigerator until time to cook it.
  • You don’t need a rotisserie kit to grill a whole chicken; use the spatchcock2 technique to spread the chicken flat: 1) Lay the chicken back-side up and, using poultry or sturdy kitchen shears, cut away the backbone (save the backbone for stock). 2) Turn the chicken over, splay out the legs, and push down firmly on the breastbone until it flattens (you may hear or feel the bone crack). Tuck the wingtips under the body and you’re done. Cook the bird skin-side up and be prepared for oh-so-crispy skin and super-moist meat.
  • If you’re grilling chicken parts instead of a whole chicken, run two wooden or metal skewers through four or five pieces at a time. To turn the meat on the grill, flip the skewers and the pieces will turn at the same time.

Grilled lemon-herb chicken

If you’re trying to get away from seasoning your chicken with sugar-laden barbecue sauce or sodium-heavy soy sauce marinade, try this light and simple grilled lemon-herb chicken recipe:3

  • 1 five-pound roasting chicken
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil spray
  1. Prep chicken by removing neck and bag of giblets, rinsing chicken with cool water, patting the chicken dry, and trimming excess fat.
  2. Place chicken breast-side down on a cutting board. Cut chicken down one side of the backbone (don’t cut through the breastbone). Turn chicken over. Loosen skin on breast and drumsticks.
  3. Combine the lemon juice and seasonings. Rub the mixture under the loosened skin. Gently press the skin onto the meat.
  4. Seal the chicken in a large zip-lock plastic bag and marinate in refrigerator for at 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  5. Preheat grill to medium heat.
  6. Coat the grilling rack with cooking spray (away from open flame). Place chicken skin-side up on the rack. Grill approximately 55 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the meaty part of a thigh (not touching the bone) registers 180 degrees.
  7. Remove chicken from grill, let stand 10 minutes. Remove skin, slice, and serve.
Nutrition data

A word about food poisoning

The fastest way to ruin a cookout is for everyone to get sick from dinner. When cooking and dining outdoors, be sure to keep raw food as well as prepared dishes covered to protect them from insects and other contamination. To help avoid bacteria growth, remember “hot-hot-cold-cold”: Keep hot foods wrapped and warm, and store cold foods on ice. Shield all food from direct sunlight too.

You should also beware of Salmonella poisoning symptoms—which typically appear within six hours to four days after infection and run their course in four to seven days:4

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

If you experience any of these symptoms, please contact Teladoc. Our U.S.-certified physicians are available 24/7 to help diagnose and recommend treatment for these and a wide variety of non-emergency conditions and illnesses, including common outdoor nuisances such as insect bites, poison ivy, seasonal allergies, and much more. Request a visit through the app and the doctor will be there anywhere you are. Enjoy your summer!

* All temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit



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