Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen
Basil pesto doesn’t have to be just for pasta. America’s Test Kitchen found a way to imbue chicken with basil and garlic that would hold up on the grill. In order to get enough flavor into the chicken, they used homemade pesto, which tastes stronger and fresher than store-bought. They then added the pesto base to separate mixtures for marinating, stuffing, and saucing the bone-in chicken breasts. First, they cut pockets into the chicken breasts to fill with pesto and then marinated the stuffed breasts in more pesto. But that’s not all. They then added a third dose of pesto in a sauce to serve with the chicken after it was grilled.
Serves 4 Total Time 1 ¼ hours (plus 1 hour marinating time)
4 cups fresh basil leaves
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 ¼ teaspoons table salt, divided
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
4 (10- to 12‑ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, trimmed
¼ teaspoon pepper
- Process basil, 1/2 cup oil, garlic, lemon juice, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in food processor until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl as needed. Transfer 1/4 cup pesto to large bowl and set aside for marinating. Add Parmesan to pesto left in processor and pulse to incorporate, about 3 pulses; transfer 1/4 cup pesto to small bowl and set aside for stuffing. Add remaining 1/4 cup oil to pesto left in processor and pulse to incorporate, about 3 pulses; set aside for serving.
- Starting on thick side of breast, closest to breastbone, cut horizontal pocket in each breast, stopping 1/2 inch from edge so halves remain attached. Sprinkle chicken, inside and out, with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Place 1 tablespoon pesto reserved for stuffing in each pocket. Tie each chicken breast with 2 pieces kitchen twine to secure. In large bowl, rub chicken with pesto reserved for marinating, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- For a charcoal grill pen bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.For a gas grill urn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium-low. (Adjust primary burner [or, if using 3‑burner grill, primary burner and second burner] as needed to maintain grill temperature around 350 degrees.)
- Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chicken skin side up on grill (cooler side if using charcoal). Cover and cook until chicken registers 155 degrees, 25 to 35 minutes.
- Slide chicken to hotter side of grill (if using charcoal) or turn all burners to high (if using gas), and flip skin side down. Cover and cook until well browned and chicken registers 160 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove twine, carve chicken, and serve with remaining sauce.