How to Grill Chicken Breast? (3 Ways to Get It Done)

Devon Ferguson
Published by Devon Ferguson
Last Updated On: December 5, 2023

As a chef who has spent countless hours behind the grill, I can freely say that I’ve mastered the art of grilling chicken.

Grilling chicken breasts to perfection requires not only the right technique but also a deep understanding of the process.

Today, I will share my tips and tricks on preparing a perfectly grilled chicken breast - a dish packed with protein and perfect for any occasion.

Here’s how to up to your grilling game.

Quick Summary

  • Choose similarly sized, boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
  • Marinating chicken adds great flavor and juiciness to the meat.
  • Basting or brining can help keep the chicken moist and tasty.

3 Tips to Preparing the Chicken Breast

A top view of fresh chicken breasts ready to grill

Before you start grilling chicken breasts, it’s important to get the preparation right.

1. Choosing the Right Chicken Breasts

When choosing chicken breasts for your grilled chicken recipes, selecting high-quality, fresh meat is essential.

Look for chicken breasts that are plump and firm, with no signs of discoloration or bruising.

Choosing chicken breasts that are roughly the same size and thickness is also a good idea, as this will help ensure that they cook evenly on the grill.

2. Prepping the Chicken Breasts

Rinsing chicken breasts with cold water

To prepare the breasts for your grilled chicken recipe, start by rinsing the meat under cold water and patting it dry with a paper towel.

Next, on a quality cutting board for meat, use a sharp knife to trim any excess fat or skin from the chicken breast.

Removing the skin will help reduce the saturated fat content of the grilled chicken, making it a healthier option.

You can also buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts to skip this step.

If you have large chicken breasts that are not of a consistent thickness, use a meat tenderizer or rolling pin to pound them until they're of even thickness.

This will ensure they cook evenly on the grill and don't dry out in spots.

3. Marinating the Chicken Breasts

Marinating the chicken breasts with different herbs and spices

Marinating the meat is a great way to infuse chicken breasts with flavor and keep them moist and tender on the grill.

Some great marinade ingredients for a grilled chicken recipe include dried herbs like thyme and oregano and fresh herbs like rosemary and basil.

Many delicious recipes have you add your favorite spices, black pepper, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, kosher salt, lemon juice, and olive oil.

"Grilling chicken is an art - a balance between getting that perfect char without drying it out. The secret? A hot grill, a good marinade, and patience."
- Bobby Flay, American Chef

To marinate juicy chicken breasts, simply combine any of your favorite chicken marinades in a large bowl or zip-top bag and add the raw chicken pieces.

Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. I recommend you marinate for 12-24 hours to get a more amazing flavor.

Be sure to reserve some of the marinade for basting the chicken while it cooks on the grill. This will provide the meat with extra flavor and moisture.

2 Ways to Preparing the Grill

Before grilling chicken breasts, it's important to prepare the grill properly to ensure the grilled chicken breasts cook evenly and don't stick to the grates.

1. Preheating the Grill

A close up shot of the grill being preheated

Preheating the grill is essential for cooking chicken breasts evenly. To preheat your grill, turn it on high and let it heat up for 10-15 minutes.

This will ensure the grill grates are hot enough to sear the chicken and prevent it from sticking.

If you're worried about the grilled chicken breasts sticking to the grates, you can also spray them with nonstick cooking spray or use aluminum foil.

2. Cleaning the Grill

Another critical step in having chicken on the grill is to clean the grates thoroughly. 

This will help prevent leftover food from sticking to the chicken and ensure that the grill is free from any debris that could cause the grilled chicken breasts to cook unevenly.

To clean the grill, use a wire brush to scrape any leftover food off the grates. Then, use a damp cloth to wipe down the grates and remove any remaining debris.

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3 Ways To Grill Chicken Breast

Gass and charcoal grills are my favorite when grilling chicken breasts, although I’ve also got great results with grill pans.

Here’s a breakdown of these three methods.

1. Grilling Chicken Breasts on a Gas Grill

A close up shot of chicken breasts being cooked on a gas grill

Making tender and juicy grilled chicken breast on a recommended gas grill is an excellent option for those who want a quick and easy meal.

  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and make sure the grates are clean.
  2. Remove chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess.
  3. Place the marinated chicken breasts on the grill with tongs and close the lid.
  4. Once the chicken breasts have been grilled for 5-7 minutes, it's time to flip them over. Use tongs to carefully turn them over, ensuring they don't fall apart.
  5. Cook for 5-7 minutes on the other side and until the internal temperature reaches 165°F [1]. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature.
  6. If you have a dual zone grill and larger chicken breasts, you may want to get sear marks initially on high heat, but then let them finish cooking on medium-low heat so they are perfectly cooked and not dry. The cook time will be a little longer than with small chicken breasts.

2. Grilling Chicken Breasts on a Charcoal Grill

Cooking chicken breasts on a charcoal grill

Grilling chicken breasts on a charcoal grill requires a bit more effort, but the smoky flavor is worth it.

  1. Start by lighting the charcoal and letting it burn until it's covered in white ash.
  2. Spread the coals evenly and place the chicken breasts on the grill.
  3. Brush any excess marinade on the chicken as it grills.
  4. Cook time for each side is 5-7 minutes or until the chicken breasts' temperature reaches 165°F using a meat thermometer.
  5. If you want grill marks on your chicken, rotate the chicken 90 degrees halfway through cooking.

3. Grilling Chicken Breasts on a Grill Pan

A top view of grilled chicken breasts on a grill pan

You can still grill chicken breasts on a grill pan if you don't have access to an outdoor grill.

  1. Heat the grill pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop and spray it with oil or cooking spray.
  2. Place the chicken breasts on the grill pan and cook for 6-8 minutes on each side or until the internal temp reaches 165°F on your meat thermometer.
  3. To get grill lines on your chicken, turn it 90 degrees halfway through the cooking process.

6 Tips To Keep the Chicken Juicy

A close up shot of chicken breasts being grilled on high flames

To keep the grilled chicken breast juicy and flavorful, follow these easy tips:

  • Avoid Overcooking: The key to juicy grilled chicken is to avoid overcooking it. Chicken breasts should only be grilled for 10-14 minutes, but always check the internal temperature before eating. If they overcook, the grilled chicken breast will be tough and dry.
  • Resting Time: Let the grilled chicken breast rest on the cutting board for 5-10 minutes after cooking [2]. This will allow the juices to redistribute and settle within the fibers, making the grilled chicken breast moist and tender.
  • Basting: Basting involves applying the reserved marinade over the chicken while it cooks. This helps keep the bird moist and helps you season grilled chicken while cooking it.
  • Brining: If you choose not to use a marinade, brine ensures the chicken stays juicy and enhances its flavor by adding salt and additional seasonings. Mix 1/4 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of sugar in a gallon of water to make a simple brine. Brine chicken breasts by placing the poultry in the brine for at least 30 minutes before grilling.
  • Pounding: Pounding the chicken breasts to an even thickness will help them cook more evenly and prevent dry areas. Use a wooden mallet to pound the chicken to a consistent thickness.
  • Storage: If you have leftover grilled chicken breast, store it in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. This will help prevent the grilled chicken breast from drying out in the fridge.

FAQs

How Often Do You Flip Chicken Breast on the Grill?

Flip chicken breasts once during the grilling process after cooking them for 5-7 minutes on each side. Ensure the internal temperature of the grilled chicken breast gets to 165°F.

Do You Grill Chicken Breast Covered or Uncovered?

It's best to grill chicken breast uncovered to achieve a crisp texture on the outside of the grilled chicken breast. The best grilled chicken will be cooked over direct heat while the grill lid is off.

How Do You Grill Chicken Without Sticking?

You grill the chicken without sticking by cleaning the grill’s grate with a brush to remove any remnants of previously grilled foods. Then, preheat your grill to medium-high and lightly coat the grates with a nonstick cooking spray or use extra virgin olive oil applied to a folded paper towel.


References:

  1. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2022/10/03/cooking-meat-it-done-yet
  2. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2011/05/25/cooking-meat-check-new-recommended-temperatures
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About the author

Devon Ferguson
Senior Editor
Devon Ferguson is the senior editor at Carnivore Style who loves dining and traveling. This well-traveled meat hunter has scaled cities high and low to scout sources for the finest meats. He's tested and reviewed nearly every grill, smoker and meat delivery box on the market.
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