Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: March 17, 2022

Grilling chicken for the first time may be challenging, especially if you don't know how long you should grill the meat.

Don’t worry; I’ll guide you through the process of grilling the chicken meat perfectly. I’ll help you improve your grilling skills and learn how to prepare a tasty meal.

Things to Consider Before You Start Grilling

Chicken cooking on grill

1. Type of Grill

There are different types of grills you may use, and the most common types include:

  • Charcoal grill
  • Gas grill
  • Electric grill

The gas and electric grills have regulatable temperatures using dials or knobs to provide the necessary heat for cooking chicken.

When grilling chicken, controlling the temperature so the meat doesn’t burn is crucial, and these grills make it easy.

“Grilling, broiling, barbecuing, whatever you call it—is an art, not just a matter of having your tools and throwing your meat on the pre, understand your tools first.” - James Beard, Chef

Many charcoal grills have an opening that allows you to control the air entry. The airflow regulation helps control the grill temperature, and thanks to it, you can prepare perfect chicken breast with beautiful grill marks.

You can also use an instant-read thermometer to check if the meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature [1].

2. Chicken Meat

Chicken meat is very tender and burns easily under high temperatures. On the other hand, if the temperature is too low, it may be undercooked and pose a health danger.

When preparing chicken, make sure it is not overcooked, and keep in mind food safety.

Understanding Chicken Grilling Temperatures

Grill with high heat

Before you start grilling, make sure you understand the following temperature ranges: 

  • Minimum or Low-Heat: 249 - 274⁰F
  • Medium-Low Heat: 299⁰F
  • Medium Heat: 349⁰F
  • Medium-High: 399 - 449⁰F
  • High: 499 - 649⁰F
  • Cremate: 649⁰F+

The FDA indicates that the lowest temperature to grill or cook chicken should be 165⁰F [2].

If the internal temperature is below 165⁰F, the meat may pose a health hazard. In order to achieve this minimum safe internal temperature, the grilling temperature has to be higher than 165⁰F.

You can also determine if your chicken is done without measuring the temperature.

Cut through the meat and observe its running juices. If the juices from inside are clear, your meat is ready.

However, to be on the safe side, it is better to use a meat thermometer, just in case.

3 Factors Affecting the Grilling Duration

Different parts of a raw chicken

Three factors affect how long you need to grill chicken breasts, thighs, wings, and the entire chicken, including:

1. Chicken Bones

Different chicken parts affect the overall cooking duration. For example, bones can prolong the cooking time as it takes longer to heat up and cook chicken with bones.

Also, they absorb much heat from the meat, increasing the cooling period.

2. Chicken Skin

Poultry skin holds lots of fats. The fats usually insulate the meat from heat, reducing the chances of proper grilling.

High temperatures may burn the skin while the internal temperatures remain below 165⁰F.

If you want to prevent the skin from burning, after you preheat the grill, add some olive oil onto the grill grates.

Chicken skin prolongs the cooking time more than bones. For example, skinless chicken breasts take a shorter time to cook compared to breasts with skin.

If you don’t want to wait for long, it is best to prepare boneless skinless chicken.

However, if you love the yummy crispiness, you need the skin.

3. Chicken Age and Meat Thickness

Keep in mind that aged chickens take more time to prepare, as the older they are, the tougher the meat. Choosing younger chickens will save you some time.

The thickness of the chicken meat also affects its cooking time. Before you cook this meat, keep in mind that it will take longer for thicker pieces to reach the recommended internal temp.

If you want to end up with thin, tender, and juicy meat, make sure to use a meat mallet.

How Long You Should Grill Chicken Breasts?

raw chicken breasts on wooden board

In order to prepare the best grilled chicken breast without skin or bones, you need to know how long to keep them on the grill.

The average chicken breasts are about 9 ounces each, and grilling for at least 5 minutes on each side is a minimum.

Many people love preparing grilled chicken breast, not only because of the amazing taste but also because they require a fairly short amount of time to prepare.

Grilling chicken breast should be under low heat as you can overcook them on medium or high heat.

If you want to prepare grilled chicken breast with bones, you may have to double the total grill time.

Give each side of chicken breast at least 11 minutes of direct cooking. Don’t let the sides overcook and be charred, as your grilled chicken breasts may have a strong bitter taste.

If you want juicy chicken breasts, squirt some water or marinade on the chicken breast as it will add humidity and make the meat more tender. Repeat it every 3 to 5 minutes during grilling. 

However, if you plan to grill chicken breast on a gas grill, it is better to only marinate the meat.

How Long to Barbecue Chicken Leg Quarters?

Raw chicken leg being prepared for grilling

To achieve the best results, grill the quarters on indirect heat for between 30 to 50 minutes.

After that, have them on direct medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes, and you will be ready to enjoy some juicy meat.

You might marinate your chicken with some olive oil or lemon juice as barbecue sauce to achieve that extra flavor.

If you want to experiment in the kitchen, find a complex recipe and see how well you will do.

How Long to Grill Drumsticks and Thighs?

Chicken thighs typically have bones unless you remove them yourself. Cook the thighs and drumstick for at least 45 minutes on direct heat.

The bones and skin mean you have to grill the meat for longer as it takes this meat more time to cook.

Remember, the thickest part on the drumstick or thigh requires an extended grilling time.

You can prepare a simple marinade by combining lemon juice and some olive oil to get that added flavor.

Don’t forget to put the meat in a plastic wrap while it soaks in a marinade. Also, if you want crispy chicken skin, use medium-high heat.

How Long to Barbecue Chicken Wings?

Chicken wings on top of wooden board

Grilled chicken wings require medium heat as the chicken cooks. Ideally, you should grill the wings for between 21 and 27 minutes.

Chicken wings require constant flipping when barbecuing. Always flip them every 3 to 4 minutes and test doneness every time.

Their small size makes them susceptible to easy burning.

When cooking chicken wings, always have a thermometer nearby to prevent undercooking or overcooking the meat.

If you use a charcoal or a gas grill, make sure the heat is equally distributed and all parts are evenly cooked.

How Long to Grill Whole Chicken

You should grill the meat for 20 to 28 minutes per pound of the chicken’s total weight.

Therefore, if your chicken weighs 6 pounds, 120 to 168 minutes might be enough for barbecuing chicken.

Factors that may affect the cooking time include the grilling temperature and the weight of the chicken.

Once your meat is done, it is best to let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes before you start cutting.

After the chicken is finished, your options are unlimited - from simple grilled chicken meat with some vegetables and a barbecue sauce to a complex recipe with many ingredients, it is up to you to pick the best recipe for cooked chicken.

2 Effects of Undercooking and Overcooking

Close up image of a grilled chicken

No matter if you want to grill chicken breast, wings, drumsticks, or the whole chicken, keep in mind these two potential dangers:

1. Undercooking

Microorganisms, along with salmonella, are the common health hazard present in undercooked poultry meat. In addition, undercooked chicken lacks the natural taste one desires.

On a positive note, when the meat is undercooked, you have an option to return it on fire for further cooking.

2. Overcooking

You may concentrate on getting a crispier outer layer when you cook chicken breasts, quarters, or wings, but forget about the internal temperatures. If you overcook the meat, it can have a bitter taste, and may not go down easily.

How Long to Grill Chicken for a Perfect BBQ?

Nothing is more satisfying than preparing a perfectly grilled chicken for your family or loved ones. I hope that my guide has helped you learn how long it takes to grill chicken breast, wings, drumsticks, and whole chicken.

Whether you just season your meat with some salt and pepper or choose complex recipes, keep in mind the recommended grilling duration.

Hopefully, following the guidelines from above, you will be able to prepare perfect chicken breasts for your next family gathering.


References:

  1. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/poultry/chicken-farm-table
  2. https://www.fda.gov/food/people-risk-foodborne-illness/meat-poultry-seafood-food-safety-moms-be

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