The Best Chicken For Grilling
For the juiciest, most flavorful grilled chicken, use bone-in, skin-on pieces. Place the chicken on a paper towel-lined tray and pat it dry. This removes excess moisture, which prevents the skin from getting crispy. Remember to wash your hands and all equipment after handling raw chicken.
Next, season both sides generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and allow the chicken to come to room temperature for 15 minutes. This helps it cook evenly and gives the salt and pepper a chance to work their magic. Keep in mind that sweet sauces like glazes and barbecue sauce shouldn’t be applied until the chicken is finished cooking. They will burn before the chicken is fully cooked.
Average Grill Temperatures And What They Mean
When a recipe says grill over medium heat, what do they mean?
If you arent familiar with the various temperature levels used in grilling, heres a handy guideline showing the average temperatures. Make sure you have a good wireless digital thermometer to check and monitor the temperature at the grill grates.
- Low heat 250-275°F
- High 500-650°F
- Cremation 650+°F
Cooking chicken too fast or too hot will end up burning the skin but leaving the meat undercooked, ugh!
So, the correct chicken cooking temperature will be in medium range, to cook it long enough without burning.
How To Grill Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs are more tender and fattier than the breast cut of the meat and are often the preferred cut of chefs. Herve Malivert, director of culinary affairs at the Institute of Culinary Education, says thighs both boneless and bone-in should be grilled at two temperatures for best results. First, preheat the grill to about 400 to 500 F, which depending on what type of grill you have should take about 30 minutes.
Place the chicken thighs on the hottest part of the grill . If the skin is on, put the skin-side down first. For boneless thighs, let them cook about 3 to 4 minutes, and for bone-in, allow them to cook for about 12 minutes on each side. To check if they’re ready to flip, use a grill spatula or tongs to move the chicken. If they can be pulled easily off the grates without sticking and is your desired color, they’re ready to flip.
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How To Grill Perfectly Tender Chicken Breasts Every Time
An actual conversation between me and my husband years ago:
Him: Shall we BBQ tonight?Me: Sure, what shall we make?Him: How about chicken breasts?Me: Ew. No. Why?
But that was before I learned how to grill perfectly tender and juicy chicken breasts!This post contains affiliate links from which I may make a commission. Your price remains the same.)
Grilled Chicken Method: Marinated Overnight
Timing: Overnight marinade + 12 minutes grill time
This classic and is incredibly popular on Pinterest. A marinade a mixture of an acidic liquid, like vinegar or citrus juice, mixed with herbs and spices promises to flavor the chicken and keep it juicy in one fell swoop. In this recipe, the marinade is loaded with dried and fresh spices and gets its acid from lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Some of the marinade is reserved for glazing the chicken while it cooks. The chicken breasts are marinated for at least one hour or overnight before grilling over medium-high heat.
I suspect that this method was primarily developed by indoor grillers using mostly grill pans. I found that the marinade made for very sticky chicken that might have burned over a charcoal flame . The cooked chicken looked good and had great flavor, but was bone dry and chewy. Over-marinating can toughen the meat, so if I were to try this method again Id go with a shorter marinating time.
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Our Favorite Chicken Marinade
As I mentioned above, you can use whatever marinade you love. Here is our favorite marinade when grilling chicken. Its light, flavorful and delicious.
Its based on this marinade recipe, but we add honey. We add the honey because we love how it caramelizes on the grill grates. You can marinate the chicken for as little as 20 minutes! Its that flavorful. Our easy chicken marinade has a tangy combination of lemon, garlic, red pepper flakes and mustard. This just might be one of the best marinades, ever.
What To Serve With Grilled Chicken
Grilled chicken is a healthy, delicious main course to serve by itself-but there are tons of ways to dress it up, too. You can put grilled chicken in just about anything: sliced on top of salads, stuffed into sandwiches, shredded for chicken soups or skewered on a kabob. Or top the dish off with a heaping pile of grilled veggies and youve got yourself dinner!
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Cooking Temperatures Thermometers And Food Safety
When it comes to checking the temperature of cooked chicken nothing can replace a quality digital, instant-read thermometer. They are highly accurate, fast and reliable.
I will touch on other methods to check for doneness if you dont have one, but nothing is better or safer. I STRONGLY recommend you have an instant-read digital thermometer before you cook your first piece of chicken! if you dont have one, check out our guide to the best instant read thermometers.
Now that you have a thermometer in hand, you need to know the temperature of a properly cooked piece of chicken.
How To Grill Perfect Chicken Breasts
Chicken breasts are not a very popular meat for summer BBQs, as theyre perceived as invariably turning out dry and boring. But the truth of the matter is that the problem often lies with the chef and not the meat itself. Over the years Ive learned a handful of tricks for grilling chicken breasts so that they turn out flavorful and juicy every time.
Read on for how to confidently include this delicious white meat at your next summer grill-out.
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How Do You Grill Chicken Breasts Without Drying It Out
The key is to cook on direct heat for the first 8-10 minutes , but then switch to indirect heat for the last 5-7 minutes. ALSO do not leave it on the grill until it reaches an internal temp of 165 remove it from the grill when it is around 160 and then let it rest off the grill. As it rests, it will continue to cook and the temp can continue to rise nearly 10 degrees! So imagine if you did leave it on the grill until it reached 165? It would continue to cook and might reach 175 before you eat it! It would be over-cooked and dry.
A Few Notes About Methodology
Our recipe suggestions came from Kitchns team of food editors and contributors. For example, contributor Patty Catalano suggested our own pounded thin, brined, and marinated chicken, while my friends The Grill Dads had a lot to say about dry brining . Each method was prepared so that they could be grilled and tested side-by-side. I used boneless, skinless breasts of roughly the same weight . Two methods had overnight brining or marinating times as options, and I did test them out to try and get the best results. Each method was tested on a gas grill following the directions for each method most call for medium-high heat, while two called for indirect and direct heat . All of the chicken was sliced and taste tested in our backyard by my family of four and two close friends. Here are the results.
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Experiment With Your Sauce
Where do you begin? Chicken wings are built for sauce. They are good naked, but coated in a luscious sauce they are a taste bud sensation. Here are just two suggestions:
Classic Buffalo Sauce
Buffalo sauce is always a favorite and is a cinch to make.
Youll need the following ingredients:
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- ¼ cup plus a little more of cayenne pepper sauce
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
What Temperature And How Long Should I Grill Chicken Wings
Youll want to cook wings at 375F, but make sure you preheat the grill for 15 to 20 minutes to make sure its up to temperature. Cook the wings for 35 minutes, turning once and at the end of cooking time, their internal temperature will have reached between 175F and 180F.
This is the time to toss them in your sauce of choice and then let rest. Resting meat is the easiest thing in the world, improves the succulence and flavor no end, and is forgotten by many. Ten minutes is all thats needed but it will make all the difference.
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Let The Residual Heat Cook It The Rest Of The Way Through
This is where setting up your zones come in handy. I dont know about you, but when I buy chicken, its never all the same size or thickness. So, you can put smaller pieces in the lower heat zone, and thicker pieces in the higher temperature zone. This ensures that everything cooks evenly, and all the way through at the same time. You also want to cook with the residual heat and not direct heat because you want to go low and slow for the rest of the cooking process. Its going to ensure that you dont dry out your chicken especially if youre cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
Best Prep Method: Butterflied
I’ve extolled the virtues of butterflied chicken in the past for oven-cooking applications, and I’m happy to report that it is just as successful for cooking chicken on the grill. How does it work its magic?
The most important thing that butterflying does is that it exposes the legs and thighs. With a whole chicken, the thigh joints are underneath the chicken’s back, insulated by plenty of fat and bone. They take a long time to cook. By the time they reach the requisite 165 to 170°F , the breasts of the chicken are well beyond overcooked.
After you cut out the backbone and flatten the bird, I find that running a metal or wooden skewer through its thighs and breasts will keep it level and make it easier to maneuver on the grill.
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The Best Grilled Chicken
Sometimes in cooking the simplest dishes are the hardest to get right, and grilled chicken is a perfect example. Because boneless chicken breasts are so lean, they often turn out dry, rubbery, and bland. Contrary to popular belief, marinating alone will not save grilled chicken from drying out in fact, its often the marinade that causes the problem!
My technique and marinade ensure tender, juicy, and flavorful grilled chicken every time. You can serve the fillets on their own as a healthy main course , topped with cheese on a toasted bun, or, as I often do, sliced over a Caesar salad. Bonus: the recipe is quick and easy. You do all of the prep ahead of time and you wont even dirty a single bowl.
Here Are A Few Ways To Tell If Your Chicken Is Cooked:
The most important factor to moist grilled chicken is to not overcook. Grill chicken according to the heat and times in this recipe, and watch carefully.
- Internal temp: The internal temp should reach 165° F to be safe. Pro tip: You can cook chicken slightly less to 160° and let it rest 5-10 minutes under foil. It will continue to cook to a safe temp and be moister.
- Visual check: Cut into the center of the chicken breast with a knife. It should be white, with just the slightest hint of pink. If its pure white and looks stringy inside, its overcooked. Note: using this method while the chicken is still cooking or before resting will cause some liquids and moisture to drain out.
- Test for firmness: Remove chicken from the grill. Once cooled slightly, press in the center with finger. It should have a little bit of give but also not be squishy feeling. Note: this method takes practice is the least accurate.
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How Long Do You Cook Chicken On The Grill
Just as some people prefer barbecued chicken thighs over drumsticks or breasts, the grill doesnt treat all these cuts equally either. The size and thickness of the pieces and whether theyre boneless or not affect both the cooking time and the minimum safe internal temperature that indicates when the chicken is fully cooked and ready to eat.
Using an instant-read meat thermometer is the only way to know for sure if its time to take your chicken off the heat. But there are some rules of thumb when it comes to gauging just how long that should take.
Bone-in cuts need to cook longer than boneless breasts or thighs. If youre looking to save some time, feel free to opt for cuts without the bone. Those with them, though, will stay juicier throughout grilling.
Boneless chicken breasts a blank canvas for all sorts of dishes and flavours are ready to eat the fastest. They need only about five or six minutes per side and youll want to pull them off just before theyre cooked all the way through. The residual heat from the grill will continue to cook them as they rest. Their internal temperature should be between 160°F and 165°F.
The dark meat of chicken thighs doesnt dry out as quickly, making it your juiciest option for grilling. Boneless thighs are as fast to cook as breasts give them about five minutes on each side. Youre looking for an internal temperature of 165°F.
depending on its size, of course.
Ready To Hit The Grill
Us too! Try some of PWWBs Top Grilling Recipes ASAP!:
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- Absolutely PERFECT Grilled Buffalo Wings Crispy buffalo perfection. Made with just 3 simple ingredients, grilled chicken wings could not be easier!
- Grilled Black Bean Burgers Burgers arent just for meat-lovers! These grilled veggie burgers are hearty, textural & grill up like a dream!
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How Long Does It Take To Grill Chicken Thighs And Drumsticks
Grill time for drumsticks and thighs takes at least 40 minutes. There are two schools of thought here.
One method uses direct heat the entire time. Using medium-high or 450°F means youll need to turn them every 5 minutes to prevent burning.
The other method is to use indirect heat for 30 minutes and direct heat for the last 10 minutes or so to brown them off.
Regardless of the method you choose, if you want to add sauce, do it during the last 10 minutes, so the sugar doesnt burn.
Its the same as cooking whole leg quarters. Look for an internal temperature of at least 180°F for best flavor and tenderness. At 190°F the meat should start to fall off the bone.
What Happens If It Doesnt Reach 165 Degrees F
There are two reasons the internal temperature must reach 165°F :
When discussing grilling times, we are talking about the time it takes for the internal temperature to reach 165°F .
Get Familiar With Direct And Indirect Grilling
Direct heat will get you great grill marks over a fast flame, while indirect will bring your meat to temperature. Direct heat means to cook the food directly over the heat source , while indirect cooking refers to cooking adjacent to the heat source. A combination of direct heat for prominent grill marks followed by indirect heat to cook the chicken to the correct temperature without drying it out makes for pretty, juicy chicken breasts.
A digital probe thermometer is one of the best tools you can own for the grill. While youve already done a lot of work to ensure that those chicken breasts are cooked correctly flattening them for even cooking, brining for juiciness, and cooking over direct heat for grill marks you still want to be doubly sure the chicken is cooked through.
Insert the probe thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken and look for a temperature of 165°F. While you can safely remove the chicken at 160°F and allow for some carryover cooking, 165°F is the safest temperature to ensure the chicken is cooked completely.
How to Get Really Great Grill Marks
Make the marinade.