Grilling is a method that uses close heat contact underneath food, which adds a smoky flavor and crispy outer coating. Due to this close contact with heat, foods with low fat content, such as boneless chicken breasts, are particularly prone to becoming dried out and having a tough texture when grilled. Some of the best tips for grilling boneless chicken breasts generally involve taking precautions to add as much moisture as possible before and during the grilling process, as well as cooking it for the proper amount of time.
It is usually advised to keep the skin on poultry prior to grilling, even if it will be discarded before eating, in order to retain the most amount of moisture possible. Boneless chicken breast often does not come packaged with the skin on, but moisture may be added by soaking it in an oil-based marinade for approximately two hours or more before grilling. Yogurt or buttermilk may also be used as the marinade before grilling boneless chicken breasts because the lactic acids help break down tough fibers to keep the meat tender. Brushing the chicken with oil before placing it onto the grill may keep the poultry moist, even if marinating is not possible.
Another one of the best tips for grilling boneless chicken breasts is to ensure that each piece of chicken is as flat and thin as possible. Most chicken breasts are not perfectly symmetrically, which can cause certain areas to overcook while other sections are not yet cooked through. Pounding the chicken breasts with a meat mallet or slicing them in half to form thin cutlets can help them cook more evenly.
Boneless chicken breast does not have much fat that renders off during grilling. This lack of fat can cause the chicken to stick to the grill grates and not be able to turn easily. To make it easier to flip the chicken, it is advised to spray the grill grates with nonstick cooking spray or brush them with oil before applying the chicken. Any glazes or sauces for the chicken should not be applied before grilling because the heat can cause any sugars to burn before the chicken is through.
When grilling boneless chicken breasts, a shorter grilling time with a high, direct heat is often recommended because it can quickly cook the chicken and not give it time to dry out. Since boneless chicken is thinner than bone-in pieces, it doesn’t take as long to cook through. Although exact grilling times may vary depending on the thickness of the chicken and the temperature of the grill, boneless chicken typically takes approximately four minutes per side. To get the smokiest flavor and cleanest appearance of grill lines on the chicken, it is advised to only flip the chicken once and not disturb it while it cooks. Letting the chicken breasts rest for around 10 minutes or so allows the juices to redistribute and helps the chicken remain moist.