Pellet grills are one of the best ways to make awesome chicken recipes, but getting perfectly cooked chicken with crispy skin doesn't just accidentally happen. You can help set yourself up for success with these tips and tricks from the Bearded Butchers. We will walk you through our steps when making chicken on our pellet grill to get crispy chicken skin.
Why Does Chicken Skin Crisp?
Chicken skin primarily comprises connective tissue and fat with a high amount of moisture. When you cook a chicken low and slow on a pellet grill, the chicken will tend to come out with the skin soggy or rubbery. This happens because not enough moisture is removed from the skin during cooking for the skin to crisp up.
Chicken skin gets crispy when you barbecue a chicken because of the higher temperatures. The heat allows the moisture to quickly evaporate from the skin, leaving it crisp while (hopefully) cooking the bird's meat before it reaches the proper internal temperature.
Figuring out how to get crispy chicken skin on a pellet grill comes down to properly preparing the chicken beforehand and adjusting the cooking method to get crispy skin. Let's talk about how to get golden brown and crispy chicken skin no matter how you cook.
Starting Out Right
One of the mistakes many people make when cooking a chicken is they rush the process and place the chicken in the pellet grill while the skin is still wet. The grill's heat must remove all excess moisture from the surface before it can begin to evaporate moisture from the skin. This process takes a long time, often much longer than roasting a chicken, so you have rubbery skin. Dry skin will crisp better.
Many people like to marinate a chicken before cooking it, and we often do this process as well. The key is to remove the chicken from the marinade and drip dry for at least a few hours. Before cooking, the chicken should be patted down with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.
Using a Dry Rub
A dry rub can help chicken skin get crispy by speeding up the process of removing moisture. We recommend removing the chicken from the package and letting it air dry for about four hours in the refrigerator. Pat the chicken skin dry with paper towels before adding the dry rub to remove moisture.
A dry rub – such as one based on the Bearded Butchers Blend Seasonings – includes a fair amount of salt. Salt draws moisture out of the skin and helps give you the crispiness that you want.
A dry rub can be applied any time before you cook chicken. We like to rub our seasoning blend onto our chicken about 30 minutes before we are ready to start cooking.
Don't forget to work the dry rub into the spaces under the wings and thighs if you are cooking a whole chicken. This adds flavor to the finished product and enhances the skin's crispiness.
The Secret Weapon: Baking Soda
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate which is an alkaline substance. If you remember high school chemistry, you'll recall that baking soda interacts with acids to produce carbon dioxide, which aids in browning.
You may see many people recommend using baking powder. Here is the problem: baking powder combines sodium bicarbonate and an acid, usually cream of tarter. The purpose is to limit the amount of neutralization that baking powder causes, reducing the amount of browning that happens when cooking chicken.
Changing the Cooking Temperature
Many pellet grill recipes for cooking chicken use a temperature of around 250 to 275 degrees until the bird reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. We usually cook our whole birds to 172 degrees to make sure that there are no undercooked areas.
A dry-rubbed chicken that was patted dry before cooking will have a noticeably crispy skin, but you can get an even crispier skin from your pellet grill if you would like.
The trick is to remove the chicken from the grill and increase the cooking chamber temperature to 475 degrees. Once the grill is at the correct temperature, put the chicken back on and continue cooking. Check it every two or three minutes until it reaches the desired crispiness.
If you leave the chicken too long, you'll risk overcooking it.
Tips for Separated Chicken Pieces
Leftover chicken with the skin on can be reheated so that the meat warms and the skin crisps. The trick is to reheat the chicken at a low temperature in the oven in a covered pan until it is at the correct temperature.
Heat a cast iron skillet on the stovetop and sear the heated chicken skin side down to crisp it up again. This is a great trick for leftover rotisserie chicken that often has rubbery skin.
Cooking Chicken Differently
One of the issues you face when cooking a chicken on a pellet grill is getting the skin crispy around the bird. Flipping a chicken isn't always possible once the cooking starts, and you will end up with some of the skin crispy while some will be soggy.
We have found two methods that help to more evenly crisp chicken skin. The first is to use a stand that allows the whole bird to cook upright, allowing more of the skin to come in contact with hot air and resulting in crispier chicken skin.
Another of our favorite cooking tips is known as spatchcocking. A spatchcocked chicken is cut down the spine and then flipped over. Pressing down on the sternum flattens the chicken out and the legs and wings can be arranged to get the most exposure to heat and airflow for crispy chicken skin.
Crisp skin is frequently ruined during the resting process. Grilled chicken, smoked chicken, and roasted chicken should rest for about 15 to 20 minutes after you finish cooking to allow the meat to reabsorb the juices.
Many people wrap the chicken in aluminum foil during the resting period to help retain heat. However, the foil causes moisture to build up on the skin, preventing it from being crispy.
A simple trick is to either rest the chicken uncovered or loosely cover the chicken with butcher paper. Butcher paper will absorb the steam and keep the chicken skin crispy during the resting process.
It is possible to get delicious, crispy chicken skin even when you are not cooking at a high temperature. A low and slow chicken in the pellet grill that doesn't crisp up can be roasted with high heat in the grill or in the oven.
The biggest thing is to start out with dry chicken skin and use an excellent dry rub that will add flavor to the chicken meat and help get the skin crispy at the same time.
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