Perfect Grilled Chicken Breast

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Making Perfect Grilled Chicken Breast is easier than you think. These 5 simple steps ensure you get perfectly cooked, incredibly juicy, seasoned just-right chicken breasts every time.

Sliced, grilled chicken breast on cutting board. Text reads "Perfect Grilled Chicken Breast".

Grilled Chicken Breast

Chicken breast is one of the easiest cuts of meat to grill, but getting it just right can be tricky. That’s because chicken breast has a tendency to dry out quickly on the grill if you aren’t careful. Don’t worry, though. With my simple technique, and a reliable food thermometer, you’ll be grilling tender, juicy grilled chicken breasts in no time.

The key to getting perfect grilled chicken breast is by using two zone cooking, which means cooking the same meat with both direct and indirect heat. Check out my guide on How to Cook with Two Zone Cooking for everything you need to know about this process, including how to set up either gas or charcoal grills for it.

Raw breast meat on cutting board.

Picking and Trimming Chicken Breasts

Selecting the right chicken is key to ensuring great results. I recommend boneless skinless chicken breasts. These often come untrimmed in the package with minimal processing. You can also buy them trimmed, meaning that any excess fat, connective tissue, rib meat, or membranes have been removed for you.

If you’re not a fan of trimming chicken, buying them hand trimmed from the butcher can be a great time saver, just be aware it will usually cost you a bit extra per pound. If you want to save yourself some money, trimming yourself is a great way to go. Remove any dangling pieces of fat, rib meat, connective tissues, or loose pieces of chicken meat to create nice, uniform breasts.

The Best Marinade for Chicken Breasts

Spoiler alert: a great chicken marinade isn’t an exact, pre-measured packet of sauce you pick up at the store. To get the perfect grilled chicken marinade, you want to customize. Every great marinade has 5 key elements that make your chicken absolutely lip-smacking and the best part is that you can build it to your liking. The basic recipe looks like this:

  • Acid. White wine vinegar goes great with chicken but other vinegars, wines, fruit juices, Worcestershire sauce or a combination of these are tasty options as well.
  • Fat or oil. This recipe uses olive oil, a solid choice, but you can use other affordable options here as well (vegetable, canola, etc.)
  • Flavor and seasonings. Snag some pepper, Italian seasoning, garlic, and Parmesan cheese for this  recipe, or add your own favorite fresh herbs, garlic, ginger, or peppers.
  • Salt. Tossing in some good ol’ kosher salt or sea salt is a great option. You can also use savory ingredients like soy sauce to add some salt to your marinade.
  • Sugar. White sugar is all you need for this recipe, but I’m fond of using brown sugar, honey, or molasses in my marinades as well.

If you don’t want to make your own marinade, take a tip from my competition BBQ pitmaster friends and marinate in Italian dressing. Seriously, they really do use it for their competition entries. It has the perfect ratios of vinegar, oil, seasonings, salt, and sugar. So if you’re strapped for time, there’s no shame in snagging something tasty like this Olive Garden Italian dressing, and going from there.

Chicken in marinade in zip top bag.

How Long to Grill Chicken Breasts

From start to finish, it should take around 40 minutes to grill your chicken breast and get it to the recommended internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Because you’re cooking more to temperature than time, you should always have a reliable food thermometer available. I love my Thermapen ONE, but any solid food thermometer will work just fine. You’ll grill your chicken for roughly 30 minutes, or until your chicken reaches 160 degrees F.

Once you’re at that point, remove your chicken to a plate and cover it with aluminum foil for an additional 5-10 minutes. This will allow for carryover cooking to bring your chicken to that 165 degrees F, and for all that delicious juice to settle back in.

Storing Leftover Chicken

If you have any leftovers after serving your chicken, you can store it in your refrigerator and use it later. Simply place any remaining chicken breasts in an airtight container and place in your refrigerator. It will stay fresh up to 5 days this way. After that, the FDA recommends discarding it. I wouldn’t worry, though. You’ll rarely have leftovers with this yummy recipe.

Charcoal in grill.

How to Grill Chicken Breasts

Now that you’ve learned the secrets to grilling juicy chicken breast, here are the 5 easy steps to knock it out of the park every time.

  1. Trim chicken breasts. Trim any excess fat, rib meat, tissue, or loose pieces of meat from the breasts. If you want to skip (or at least minimize) this step, you can opt for pre-trimmed breasts from your butcher. Personally, I like to practice my trimming skills.
  2. Marinate the chicken. Combine your marinade ingredients in a gallon zip top bag and place your trimmed chicken inside. Press any air out and seal the bag. Massage your chicken to kickstart the marinating, and refrigerate for 4-8 hours.
  3. Preheat grill and season chicken. Preheat your grill to 350 degrees F for two zone grilling. Remove the chicken from bag and shake off any excess marinade. Season on both sides of the breast with my Signature Sweet Rub or Chicken Seasoning.
  4. Grill over indirect heat. Place seasoned chicken on your grill grates over indirect heat and close the lid. Cook until the internal temperature reads 155 degrees F with an instant read thermometer. This step typically takes 25-30 minutes, but will vary based on grill temperature, meat thickness, etc. This is why a good thermometer like my Thermapen ONE is crucial.
  5. Sear over direct heat, rest, and serve. Move your chicken to your direct heat and sear for 2-3 minutes per side. You’re looking for an internal temp of 160 degrees F, and a dark, rich color on the exterior. Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and cover immediately with aluminum foil. Allow the chicken to rest, covered, for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Top with my Everything BBQ Sauce, serve, and enjoy.

Sliced chicken on cutting board.

More Delicious Grilled Chicken Recipes

Now that you’ve mastered the art of the grilled chicken breast, here are a few of my favorite grilled chicken breast recipes. Dive in and play around with the variety of some of my best chicken recipes:

Grilled Chicken Breast Recipe

Follow the recipe below and you’ll be turning tender, juicy chicken to feed the people you love. Once you feel confident, feel free to branch out. Try this same recipe with my Homemade Lemon Pepper Seasoning, or use this chicken for the hundreds of chicken recipes available for you to try in the Hey Grill Hey app.

Hey Grill Hey is here to help you become a backyard BBQ hero so you can cook with complete confidence. Be sure to follow us on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook so you never miss another handy BBQ tip or trick.

Perfect Grilled Chicken Breast

By: Susie Bulloch (
5 from 5 votes
Making Perfect Grilled Chicken Breast is easier than you think. These 5 simple steps ensure you get tender, juicy chicken breasts every time.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Marinating Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 35 minutes
Servings4 people


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  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts About 2 pounds
  • 2 Tablespoons Signature Sweet Rub (link for homemade version in notes)

Grilled Chicken Breast Marinade

  • cup olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • Trim the chicken breasts. Trim any excess fat, rib meat, connective tissues, or loose pieces of chicken meat from the breasts.
    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Marinate the chicken. Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a gallon sized zip top bag and add the trimmed chicken to the marinade. Press any air out of the bag and seal tightly. Massage the dressing around the chicken breasts. Refrigerate for 4-8 hours (8 hours for the best results).
    ⅓ cup olive oil, 3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, 2 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt
  • Preheat the grill. When you're ready to cook, preheat your grill to 350 degrees F with two-zone heat.
  • Season the chicken breast. Remove the chicken from the marinade and lightly shake off any excess marinade. Season on both sides of the breast with Signature Sweet Rub or Chicken Seasoning
    2 Tablespoons Signature Sweet Rub
  • Grill over indirect heat. Place the seasoned chicken on the indirect side of the grill and close the lid. Cook until the internal temperature reads 155 degrees F with an instant read thermometer. This step typically takes 25-30 minutes, but will vary based on grill temperature, meat thickness, etc. This is why a good thermometer is crucial.
  • Sear over direct heat. Move the chicken breasts over to the direct heat side of the grill and sear for 2-3 minutes per side until you have some nice color on the chicken and the internal temperature reads 160 degrees F.
  • Rest and serve. Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and cover immediately with foil. Allow the chicken to rest, covered, for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.


Sweet Rub Recipe:


Calories: 165kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 715mg | Potassium: 481mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 246IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 98mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!

**This post was originally published in January 2018. We recently updated it with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.



Susie is the BBQ Brain behind the Hey Grill Hey website. Her passion for smoked meats and developing fun, new recipes have landed her on the Food Network, cooking turkeys with Shaq, and on a couple of Guinness World Records. When she’s not grilling, she is hanging out with Todd and their three kids, preferably outdoors!

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Recipe Rating

Reader Reviews

10 Reviews

  1. Alan Oakley says:

    How does cheese marinate the chicken? I’m a little confused, thanks!

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      All the ingredients in a marinade start to break down, tenderize the meat, and infuse it with their flavors.

  2. G Man says:

    I have searched for a good recipe for grilled boneless skinless chicken breast for a long time. This recipe and method is by far the best that I have ever tried. I struggled with grilled chicken breast in the past because it always ended up to dry. But I have used this recipe multiple times and it never disappoints!

  3. Tony Jae says:

    I’m enjoying your videos and i’ve tried a few of your recipes. In my search for grilled chicken breast i came across this particular page. I started with a simple brine (1 cup salt + 16 cups water) for 30 mins, then used a store bought teriyaki sauce (that’s what i had on hand) that i marinated with for about 8 hours. I followed your instructions for the grilling portion; using a gas grill it took around 45-50 mins in indirect heat to reach 155 F internal temp, then an additional 10 mins to reach 165 F on direct heat. In my experiences cooking chicken breast it’s tricky to keep them from drying out. I was especially happy that i did not have to cut these down to thinner pieces or “pound to equal thickness”, so yeah, i’m pretty dang happy with the end result! Aside from my Traeger smoker this is the first time i’ve used indirect heat to grill and i’ll definitely be using your technique again and again, and next time i’ll try a bottle of italian dressing. Thanks so much for sharing another tasty recipe!!

  4. Daniel street says:

    Amazing article ! Using to the T and the Rub recommendation as well was great! thank you!

  5. yardbird says:

    Best damn boneless/skinless breast I ever did grill!!!
    Damn Grill, thanks for your secrets.


  6. Shari says:

    How do you do this in the oven ?

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      If you don’t have a grill, I would follow the same method and cook in a skillet.

  7. Reed Embley says:

    Can you over season or over marinate chicken? Or other meats for that matter. Your video showed 6 to 8 hours. Suppose it was 10 hours. Will that hurt the meat?

    1. Hey Grill says:

      When the marinade is highly acidic, it can cause the proteins to start to break down. That is great for increasing tenderness, but if it is on too long it can cause the meat to become almost powdery. 10 hours for chicken using this marinade isn’t too long, but I wouldn’t go a full day in the marinade.