What Are the Best Tips for Grilling Chicken Breasts?

M.C. Huguelet

With a few simple tips, grilling chicken breasts can be a quick and easy way to prepare a nutritious meal. First of all, it is necessary to properly prepare the grill for cooking. Additionally, the chicken breasts should be cleaned, trimmed, and seasoned as desired. While grilling chicken breasts, it is also important to make sure they are arranged on the grill in a way that minimizes the chances of dryness. Finally, if the chicken breasts will be served as an appetizer or party snack, it may be useful to cut them into pieces and cook them on skewers.

A meat mallet, which can be used to flatten chicken breasts to make them cook evenly.
A meat mallet, which can be used to flatten chicken breasts to make them cook evenly.

One of the most important steps in grilling chicken breasts is preparing the grill properly. The grill should be preheated to a medium-high heat. This preheating process takes around five to 10 minutes for a gas grill, and up to 30 minutes for a charcoal model. As the grill begins to heat up, its grate should be cleaned with a grill brush in order to avoid giving the chicken a charred flavor as well as to minimize sticking. Lightly brushing the cleaned grate with olive oil can further discourage the chicken breasts from sticking.

Hot charcoal briquettes in a grill.
Hot charcoal briquettes in a grill.

Another important part of grilling chicken breasts is preparing the chicken breasts themselves. Each piece should be rinsed beneath cool water and then patted dry with a paper towel. Any remaining fat, skin, or connective tissue should be carefully trimmed away with a sharp knife. For fast-cooking chicken, it may be desirable to flatten each piece using a meat mallet. It should be noted, however, that very thin chicken breasts can become tough and dry quite quickly.

Before grilling chicken breasts, most cooks also apply seasonings. They may soak chicken breasts in a homemade or store-bought marinade, a process which can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. It may be preferable to simply sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, herbs, and spices immediately before cooking begins.

When the chicken breasts are ready for grilling, it is important to arrange them on the grill so that the chance of dryness is minimized. The chicken pieces should be laid out on the grate so that their thickest part is directly over the hotter sections of the grill. Generally, chicken breasts cook in approximately 10 to 15 minutes, and they should be turned at least once during cooking. To ensure that the chicken is fully cooked, it can be helpful to cut into one of the pieces to make sure its center is no longer pink.

Lastly, those grilling chicken breasts for a party snack or appetizer may wish to consider cutting the chicken into bite-sized pieces and then threading it onto metal or wooden skewers prior to cooking. Skewered chicken is easy to turn during grilling. Further, when prepared in this way, it makes for a handheld snack that can be picked up and eaten with little mess or difficulty.

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