Experienced microwave chefs almost all agree that the microwave links well with the barbecue grill for a two-step cooking procedure I'll call micro-grilling.
I've heard many stories of how a microwave oven saved the day when rain forced a half-cooked barbecue inside. But for micro-grilling, the microwave usually comes first followed by the barbecue. The microwaves give the inside of the meat a head start. Then during the barbecue step, the meat becomes crisp and brown on the outside, while the inside stays juicy. The microwave part of the cooking can be done while the coals are burning down to the correct grilling heat.
Chicken--one of the most popular barbecue foods--adapts well to micro-grilling because it retains its firmness when partially cooked. You can move it from the microwave to the grill without worrying that it will break up as hamburgers might. However, the skin of the chicken softens during microwaving. So care must be taken when moving it from the microwave to the grill or the skin will tear. Use a wide flat spatula or grasp the meat gently with tongs. It also helps to pretreat the grill with non-stick vegetable spray.
Precautions Against Overcooking
Sometimes, cut up chickens come with thigh-leg quarters or breast-wing pieces. These pieces brown most evenly if made to lie flat on the grill. Before microwave precooking, break the joint of the thigh-leg quarter. This will allow it to flatten easily. With breast-wing pieces, shield the wings with aluminum foil during the precooking step so they won't overcook. Before grilling, gently pull the wing out from the breast of the chicken and place wing side down on grill. After the breast pieces are cooked through, carefully refold the wing to its original place.
Although microwave authorities don't agree on the ratio of microwave to barbecue time, I have found that microwaving meat for about half its microwave-recommended time, then barbecuing it for about half the total barbecue time works well. For a whole, cut-up chicken, then, microwave for 10 to 12 minutes and grill on the barbecue for 20 to 30 minutes. Since microwaving time varies depending on amounts of food, adjust the microwave precooking accordingly.
After grilling the chicken, test for doneness. Pieces should look browned and firm. A small incision near the bone of one of the largest pieces should release clear juices.
Grilled chicken can be made more flavorful by placing it in a non-sugary marinade for several hours or overnight. If the dish is microwaveable, you can save time by marinating right in the microwave dish. Herb-seasoned vinegar and oil mixtures or lemon juice or wine-based marinades are good choices
Never salt chicken before cooking. Salt draws juices to the surface and can cause uneven microwaving. It can cause the chicken to dry out. If red barbecue sauce with sugar is used, brush it onto chicken at the last minute to prevent burning.
Choose a beautiful bright vegetable--like Crunchy Basil Tomatoes--to occupy the microwave for a few minutes just before the chicken is done.
MICRO-GRILLED CHICKEN ROSE
1 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, cut up
2/3 cup oil
1/2 cup rose wine
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Arrange chicken in 12x8-inch microwave-safe dish, with meatiest pieces at corners and edges of dish.
In 1-quart measuring cup or bowl, combine oil, wine, garlic, onion, tarragon and pepper. Pour over chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Before precooking, vent plastic wrap by turning back one corner. Microwave chicken at HIGH (100% power) about 10 minutes, basting chicken and rotating dish half turn after 5 minutes. Baste again. Place chicken pieces on preheated grill, about 4 inches directly above coals. Grill 25 to 30 minutes, turning after about 15 minutes. After 25 minutes, test for doneness by making small incision near bone. Meat is done when juices run clear. Sprinkle with salt. Makes about 4 servings.
Fresh basil comes in two types--the large leaf and the tiny whole leaf. Use either type, but chop the larger whole leaves before sprinkling over the tomatoes.
CRUNCHY BASIL TOMATOES
2 large firm tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh large basil leaves or tiny whole leaves
1/2 cup crushed corn chips
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Wash and core tomatoes. Cut crosswise into halves. Arrange halves, cut-side-up, around edge of microwave-safe dinner plate or 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle tops with salt, pepper, basil, crushed chips and cheese. Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 3 to 6 minutes (depending on size and firmness of tomatoes) until tomatoes are hot and cheese begins to melt. Makes about 4 servings.