How to Grill Chicken Breast 


Chicken is likely the most enjoyed meat in almost any cuisine. It is especially popular when cooked on a grill. However, chicken breast is quite lean and can be a challenge to grill properly. It takes a little bit of care to make sure the breast meat remains juicy.

There is no need to stress over grilling chicken breast to perfection. We’ll take you through the process step-by-step with tips for moist and flavorful chicken breast.

How to Grill the Perfect Chicken Breast 

This recipe is for skinless, boneless chicken breasts that can be cooked on a kitchen grill pan/plate or outside on a gas or charcoal grill. We prefer using the indoor grilling method to avoid flare ups of flames. If you do want to grill over a fire, we recommend setting your grill up with a hot zone and a cool zone, otherwise known as direct and indirect grilling. This will allow for you to move the chicken away from the direct heat when flames lick at the meat.

grill chicken with vegetables in Thai cuisine

You will need to pound the breasts so that they are of consistent thickness. This prevents thinner areas from drying out while the meat cooks evenly. And, marinating the chicken for an hour also helps with the juiciness. Finally, you must rest the meat before slicing into it to be sure the moisture doesn’t run out of the breast, causing the muscle to seize up and become chewy.

A few things you will need

  • Cutting board
  • Sharp chef’s knife
  • Plastic wrap
  • Meat mallet or rolling pin
  • Large resealable plastic baggies
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Measuring cup and spoons
  • Wire whisk
  • Baking dish or large bowl
  • Grill pan/plate or outdoor grill
  • Kitchen tongs
  • Paper towels
  • Digital meat thermometer
  • Aluminum foil

Prep Time: 

10 minutes + marinating for 1 hour

Cook Time:

8 to 10 minutes

Servings:

6 to 8

Ingredients 

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil for the grill
  • 1 lemon or lime cut into quarters
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Step 1

Slice the chicken breasts in half widthwise at the thick center portion. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on your cutting board. Put the chicken breast halves on the plastic wrap and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap. (You will likely need to do this in stages or batches). Using the flat face of a meat mallet or a rolling pin, gently pound the thickest part of each piece of chicken to get them to a uniform thickness. You are not flattening the chicken portions into pancakes, just evening them out.

Step 2

Place the chicken into 1 or 2 resealable plastic baggies.

Step 3

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Pour this mixture over the chicken. Seal the baggies well and massage the chicken to coat well. Place the baggies in a baking dish or bowl to catch any leaks. Put this in the refrigerator for 40 minutes.

Step 4 

Remove the bowl or dish of chicken from the refrigerator and allow the meat to sit for 20 minutes so it can come to room temperature.

Step 5

Put the vegetable oil in the small mixing bowl. Place a wad of paper towel between kitchen tongs and dip this into the oil. Coat the grates of your cold grill with the oil.

Step 6 

Preheat the grill over medium-high heat to approximately 400°F. To check the heat of a grill that does not have a temperature gauge, hold the palm of your hand 5 inches above the grill. If you can only keep it there for 4 to 5 seconds before it feels too hot, the grill is ready. Any more time and the grill is not yet up to temperature.

Step 7 

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, allowing the excess to drip off, and place on the hot grill in a single layer an inch or so apart. Discard the excess marinade. Cook for 4 minutes. Flip over and cook for an additional 4 minutes on the other side. The chicken is ready when the internal temperature reads 165°F when checked with a digital meat thermometer.

Step 8 

Remove the chicken to a clean cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes before serving to prevent the juices from being released. This is one of the key steps to moist chicken.

Step 9 

While the breasts are resting, grill the lemon or lime quarters just to get some char marks. This also brings out the natural sweetness of the fruit. You can also quickly grill some vegetables to have with your chicken.

Step 10 

Season the cooked chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Serve with the grilled citrus wedges.

Servings Suggestions 

There are many ways to enjoy grilled chicken breasts. We like this lemon and herb chicken served over rice with grilled asparagus or grilled green beans.

Another great way to serve grilled chicken is to make a Caesar salad with romaine lettuce, grilled croutons, parmesan cheese, and a vinaigrette. Slice the chicken into strips and place on top of the salad for a complete entrée.

barbeque chicken breast decorated with some lemon slices putting on wooden board

If you have leftovers, another favorite meal is a sandwich of thinly sliced chicken, ham, Swiss cheese, and Dijon mustard grilled in a panini press or on a contact grill until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden and crisp.

Wrapping it Up

Just to recap, it is possible to grill chicken breasts that are juicy. Start by pounding the breast so that they are an even thickness. Marinate for 1 hour and allow the chicken to come to room temperature before placing it on a hot grill. Check the internal temperature of the meat so that you don’t overcook it.

Be sure to rest the breast portions before slicing into them so that the moisture stays inside the meat. If you follow these tips, you should have perfectly grilled chicken breasts.

David Walker
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