posted February 20, 2024
Perfect Grilled Chicken Breast
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breast
- Grilled Chili Lime Chicken Breast
- Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken
- Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken
- Sweet Heat Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast
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
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (About 2 pounds)
- 2 Tablespoons Signature Sweet Rub ((link for homemade version in notes))
Grilled Chicken Breast Marinade
- ⅓ 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 Seasoning2 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.
**This post was originally published in January 2018. We recently updated it with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.
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