Grilled chicken breasts in a cast-iron pot

Grilled chicken, as endless retail outlets prove daily, is an all-time favourite. Here’s my way of producing damn fine grilled chicken at home.

To make grilled chicken for four, you will need:

  • 4 chicken breasts of similar size
  • 2 lemons
  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns

How many braais have you endured where the grilled chicken was black on the outside and a terrifying pink on the inside? These burnt offerings not only taste as bad as they look, they can be unsafe. For healthy eating, cooked chicken must reach or slightly exceed an internal temperature of 74°C. With a great deal of fiddling, plus constant supervision, it is possible to achieve tasty, safely cooked chicken on a flaming braai. But for this hack, the best and least fussy route to grilled chicken is in a cast-iron pot over a gas flame.

First, the equipment. I have a cast-iron pot with a lid which has survived many grilling experiments. You can buy pots like this at outdoor shops and even the bigger supermarkets. You will need to cure or season the new pot by lightly covering all surfaces in cooking oil, then leaving the pot in a hot oven for an hour or so.

I use a Cadac fitted with a low pressure regulator connected by gas hose to a double ring gas burner mounted on bricks. Simple, effective, relatively portable and not expensive. Begin the grilling process by heating up the lidless pot for five to 10 minutes. While this is going on, prepare the chicken breasts. For better flavour, leave the bone in and the skin on. Pour the olive oil and the juice of both lemons into a shallow dish. Place the breasts in this mixture, turning them a couple of times. Coarsely crush or mill the black peppercorns and sprinkle these over the skin side of the breasts.

Careful timing is essential for cooking. Place the breasts skin-side down in the very hot open pot. Let them sizzle and smoke for two minutes, then turn them over, so that the bone side is down. Pour the marinade over the breasts, fit the lid of the pot and reduce the gas flow by 50%. Leave this to grill without any further attention for an additional 13 minutes. At this point, without removing the lid, kill the gas and let the chicken continue to cook in the residual heat for a further five minutes.

Remove the breasts from the pot and let them rest under a layer of fresh aluminium foil. This process allows the heat to distribute itself evenly throughout the cooked chicken breast. Collect the juices from the pot and pour over the grilled chicken breasts. Serve these with plain white rice to soak up the juices, or alternatively, with a crisp green salad. Salt, as always, is as the diner likes it.

Enjoy these juicy, grilled chicken breasts hot or cold.