Many Italian menus these days offer a catchy-sounding item: "brick-grilled chicken." This translates into whole chicken, cut open and flattened, marinated, and then grilled under a weight. It's an old technique, designed to produce juicy meat and rich brown skin.
But is it a gimmick, an attempt to make basic grilled chicken sound intriguing? Our restaurant research revealed that in some trendy eateries, it is the weight seems to have very little effect on the bird. In others, however, it seemed a truly effective method; the grilled chicken was moist and succulent.
Butterflied chicken marinated in lemon and herbs browns beautifully under the weight of bricks.
In our test kitchen, we unearthed the secret to successful brick-grilling: The weight must be heavy enough. Four bricks suffice, and they work well because they're flat and compact. When you lay the split-open chickens skin down on the grill and then set a roasting pan filled with the bricks on top, the weight flattens the fowl to steaklike thickness for quick, even browning there's no time for the meat to dry out. One turn, to brown the birds on the other side, sans weight, and they emerge juicy, crisp, and handsomely ridged with grill marks.
And what's good for a chick is good for a bird of any size. We brick-grilled Cornish hens even quail with mouthwatering results.