Published July 1, 1997.
Brine if you have the time, then cook over a two-level fire and cover the breasts for most of the cooking time--but not with the grill cover.
Unfortunately, "properly"--as in "properly cooked"--can be a hard adverb to live up to. A chicken breast is thick, it's got a bone to contend with, and it needs to be thoroughly cooked right to the bone, all while the skin simultaneously gets nice and crisp without burning.
When properly grilled, bone-in chicken breasts can be particularly tasty, with a kind of meatiness often lacking in boneless breasts. So we set out on a quest for properly grilled bone-in chicken--one with a juicy, evenly cooked interior, a nicely seared, crispy skin, and a robust grilled flavor.
We found that brining the chicken in a combination of sugar and salt improved the flavor and texture of the meat. The only drawback with this step is the skin’s tendency to burn rather quickly during the searing process. The solution is simple, though: just keep a close eye on the grill during those first few minutes of cooking.
We then grilled the chicken over a medium-hot two-level fire, which allows for cooking directly over the coals for high heat and to the side of the coals for indirect heat. We placed the chicken breasts over direct heat to sear both sides, then moved them to the cooler part of the grill to finish cooking. This produced a nice exterior, but we were still struggling with a somewhat dry interior.
We decided to try a version of an old restaurant trick, covering the chicken with a pie plate, which creates an oven effect but also allows air to circulate around the cooking food. Because we wanted to cook several breasts at the same time and figured few home cooks would have a collection of metal pie plates to use as covers, we substituted a disposable aluminum roasting pan. After giving the breasts a few minutes over the coals to acquire a good sear, we moved them to the cooler part of the fire, covered them with the pan, and cooked until the meat cooked through.list of recipes