Bobby Flay's Traditional Tip For Crisping Grilled Chicken Skin

Bobby Flay has shared a lot of food knowledge over the years — whether on his television shows or via his cookbooks and restaurants. His tip for grilling chicken with a brick placed on top for perfectly crispy skin may be one of his best hacks yet; although, in this case, he didn't actually invent the deceptively simple but effective technique.

Flay freely admits that using an aluminum foil-wrapped brick or other weight — you can use a cast iron pan if you're short of bricks at home — to enhance grilled chicken is a trick rooted in traditional Italian culinary culture. In fact, the origins of the al mattone method, as it is called, date back to the days of Julius Caesar. But there's a reason it's still around and — no less — grilling expert Flay advocates for its use. The weight of the brick brings more of the chicken into surface contact with the grill, resulting in notably crispier and more delicious skin.

Placing the chicken under a brick isn't the only tip the Food Network star has shared, however. He also had timing and temperature recommendations for how to cook the dish. 

Chicken under a brick, Bobby Flay style

Bobby Flay may be a New York City native, but the chef knows his way around Italian cuisine — whether it's making fresh pasta in no time or using a brick as a tool to enhance grilled chicken. Actually, the Italian word mattone refers not to a brick exactly, but rather to a weighted terracotta tile. Nowadays, the technique is commonly associated with Tuscan cuisine.

Many recipes for pollo al mattone (pollo is Italian for chicken) recommend spatchcocking the chicken so that it can more easily be pressed flat on the grill (or in the oven or a skillet). You won't get an argument from Flay on that front. Where he disagrees with some other supporters of the method is on how the chicken should be cooked. The conventional wisdom seems to be that the bird should be seared at high heat so that its skin is charred.

According to the former star of "Grillin and Chillin" and "Grill It! With Bobby Flay," however, that's not the best way to get juicy chicken with wonderfully crispy skin. Instead, the chicken should be grilled slowly under a brick at medium-low temperatures.

More grill tips from Bobby Flay

The brick trick works wonders with chicken, but it's not the only grill tip Bobby Flay is fond of sharing. For instance, he's a fan of using charcoal rather than gas to heat the grill. Not just because it's more traditional, but because he feels the food ends up having more flavor (especially with hardwood lump charcoal). Flay isn't against gas grills, which seem to be growing in popularity. But if he had to choose one or the other, and he wasn't in a hurry, he'd opt for charcoal.

Another Flay tip is to section the grill into two distinct areas so that you can cook with both direct and indirect heat. The direct heat zone, by the way, is where you can cook your meat, including chicken al mattone style using a foil-wrapped brick or a cast-iron pan.

Perhaps Flay's most oft-quoted suggestion, however, is for people to stop flipping burgers and other hot-off-the-grill specialties nearly so much. What you should be doing at the grill is very little, he cautions, noting that people shouldn't be flipping their meats and veggies more than once.