Whether you keep them on hand for quick lunches or serve them for dinner tonight, a juicy Grilled Chicken Breast is the perfect way to upgrade any meal.
Mastering the art of preparing a perfectly grilled chicken breast will make you feel like a has-her-life-together grown-up.
Sadly, they often turn out dry, bland, and rubbery.
However, with a few easy tips and techniques, you can cook flavorful, tender grilled chicken breasts that are fit for adding to other recipes (like Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad or Chicken Tortilla Casserole) AND are worthy of enjoyment as a stand-alone main.
5 Star Review
“I loved the hint of using a fork to poke some holes in the chicken breast and massaging the marinade into it when in the bag. Nice and juicy!”— Larry —
How to Grill Chicken Breast without Drying It Out
As with any method of chicken breast preparation (such as this Air Fryer Chicken Breast or Baked Chicken Breast), a few simple but critical steps will ensure your grilled chicken breast turns out juicy, moist, and well-seasoned all the way through.
To grill chicken breast without drying it out, be sure to follow these essential tips.
- Marinate. Marinades tenderize meat by changing its protein structure which helps it stay juicier for longer. Even 15 minutes can make a major difference in results. (Check out my go-to Chicken Marinade or Chicken Thigh Marinade!)
- Pound. Pounding the chicken to an even thickness helps it cook more evenly on the grill so that the ends don’t dry out before the center cooks through.
- Poke. While not strictly required, I like to poke holes all over my chicken breast with a fork to help the marinade absorb more quickly.
- Temp It. No matter what other careful steps you take to keep your chicken from becoming dry, NOTHING saves you if you overcook it. For best results, remove the chicken when it reaches the 155 to 160-degree F mark.
- Rest. No matter what kind of meat you are grilling (e.g., Grilled Pork Chops or Grilled Pork Tenderloin), allowing it to rest is mandatory. Resting allows the juices to reincorporate into the protein. If you cut it right away, those yummy juices will escape onto the plate.
How to Make a Grilled Chicken Breast
The ingredients and directions in this recipe will give you the guaranteed best grilled chicken breast you’ve ever made.
You can use this method to grill chicken breast on a gas or charcoal grill.
- If you do not have a grill, you can use a grill pan like this to cook an indoor grilled chicken breast on the stovetop.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts. Become deliciously tender and smoky on the grill. Plus, they’re rich in protein, vitamins, and iron. For tips on grilling thighs, see Grilled Chicken Thighs.
How Long to Grill Chicken Breast
The amount of time you need to grill juicy chicken breasts will vary based on the size of the breast and how thinly you pound it.
- Small Chicken Breasts (6- to 8 ounces each): 7 to 8 minutes
- Medium Chicken Breasts (8- to 10 ounces each): 8 to 12 minutes
- Large Chicken Breasts (10 ounces or more): 14 minutes or longer
In a hurry? Try making Grilled Chicken Tenders, which cook in about 6 minutes.
- Chicken Marinade. No matter which marinade you choose (this Orange Chicken Marinade is a reader favorite), it’s critical to create the juiciest and most flavorful chicken breast. You can also simply combine olive oil, lemon juice, kosher salt, and any of your favorite spices and herbs: paprika, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, and rosemary are all excellent choices.
- Pound the chicken breasts.
- Poke holes in the chicken.
- Add the chicken to a ziptop bag with the marinade. Seal and let marinate at room temperature (for at least 30 minutes) or in the refrigerator (for up to 12 hours).
- Let the chicken come to room temperature (if refrigerated). Grill chicken directly on the grill grates at 475 degrees F for 4 to 5 minutes on the first side and 4 to 8 minutes on the other side
- Let it rest for a few minutes, add toppings, and DIG IN!
The best way to ensure your chicken breast is not dry is to use an instant-read thermometer to test the internal temperature.
- Chicken and other poultry are considered safe to eat at an internal temp of 165 degrees F.
- I typically remove my chicken around the 155 to 160-degree F mark. The carryover cooking, while the chicken rests, will bring it to temperature and ensure it is juicy, not dry.
More Ways to Season Grilled Chicken Breast
Use this recipe as a jumping-off point for any of your favorite rubs and seasonings. In addition to the go-to chicken marinade I’ve suggested in the recipe below, here are a few more ideas to get you started.
- Lemon Grilled Chicken Breast. Zest 1 additional lemon into your marinade. Finish the grilled chicken with an extra squeeze of lemon juice.
- Italian Grilled Chicken Breast. Season the chicken with Italian seasoning. Serve topped with a handful of grated Mozzarella or Parmesan cheese.
- BBQ Grilled Chicken Breast. Instead of marinating, brine the chicken by sprinkling it with kosher salt. Let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Brush off the excess salt. Baste the chicken with Barbecue Sauce before and halfway through grilling. Serve with extra sauce for dipping.
- Buffalo Grilled Chicken Breast. Instead of brushing the chicken with BBQ sauce per the above, brush it with Buffalo sauce. Then use it to top this Buffalo Chicken Pizza.
- Teriyaki Chicken Breast. Create a marinade using 1/4 cup soy sauce, 3 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade to brush over the finished grilled chicken.
- To Store. Refrigerate chicken in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze chicken in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
If you’re planning to make grilled chicken breasts for a crowd, they can be marinaded up to 12 hours in advance. Grilled chicken is easy to make in bulk and freeze.
Whether on pizza, pasta, salads, or sandwiches, you really can’t go wrong with having leftover grilled chicken breasts in your fridge.
- On Pizza. Finish off your favorite pizza with diced pieces of grilled chicken breast. It would be a scrumptious addition to Ricotta Pizza or English Muffin Pizza.
- On Pasta. Grilled chicken would be a delicious addition to Penne Alla Vodka.
- On Salad. Add diced grilled chicken to a salad like this Spinach Strawberry Salad, Arugula Salad, or Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad.
- On a Sandwich. A grilled chicken breast sandwich, like this Grilled Chicken Sandwich is a delicious way to utilize this recipe! Serve the grilled chicken breast on your favorite bun with cheese and other toppings.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Tongs. The ultimate grill tool!
- Instant-Read Meat Thermometer. The most accurate way to ensure chicken is cooked through.
- Grill Pan. Perfect for making an indoor grilled chicken breast with grill marks and other grilled chicken recipes.
Pull out those tongs and get your grill on. This juicy grilled chicken breast is here to bring the heat and flavor!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can make grilled chicken breasts on the stovetop using a grill pan. Your level of heat should at least be set to medium-high. This will vary depending on your stove. The cook time will remain the same. Keep an eye on the temperature of the chicken and on your heat as well.
If you only have an analog thermometer, you can also use it to test the chicken for doneness in a pinch. However, an inexpensive digital instant-read thermometer is game-changing tool for grilling. If you cook meat often, I highly recommend this lightening fast, dead accurate one.
The time a chicken breast takes to cook through on the grill will depend on its weight and thickness. A small chicken breast can cook in 7 to 8 minutes, where a large one may need 14 minutes. I’ve outlined more general guidelines above in the ingredients section of this post.
Yes. It is possible to prepare grilled frozen chicken breasts, but it is tricky. You will need to utilize both direct and indirect heat to prevent the chicken from drying out and ensure the middle reaches the proper internal temperature for doneness. For best results, thaw the chicken first, either overnight in the refrigerator, or in an airtight bag in a bowl of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to ensure the chicken does not get too warm.
Grilled Chicken Breast
- 1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts about 3 medium breasts
- 1 batch best Chicken Marinade* see notes
- Chopped fresh herbs crumbled feta cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice, optional for serving
- Oil for grilling
- Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board (leave several inches between them and work in batches as needed). Cover with plastic wrap to keep things tidy, and with a meat mallet, rolling pin, or your fist, pound the chicken to an even thickness. It doesn't need to be ultra thin—just make sure the middle is fairly even with the ends (the chicken should be about 1/2-inch thick).
- With a fork, poke holes all over the chicken (this will allow the marinade to absorb).
- In a large ziptop bag, combine the marinade ingredients, then add the chicken.
- Seal the bag to evenly coat the chicken with the marinade. Place in a pan or bowl to catch any drips. Let the chicken marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate it to marinate for up to 12 hours (5 to 6 hours is ideal). Even 15 minutes is better than nothing!
- When ready to grill, preheat the grill to high (475 degrees F). If your chicken has been in the refrigerator, remove it and allow it to come to room temperature for at least 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grates.
- Place the chicken on the grill presentation (smooth) side down, shaking off any excess marinade. Cover the grill and let cook for 4 to 5 minutes on the first side, then flip. The chicken should lift easily off the grill; if it sticks, allow it to cook another minute or two.
- Recover the grill and cook for an additional 4 to 8 minutes. Chicken is considered done at 165 degrees F. I like to remove chicken from the grill around the 155-160 degree F mark and allow it to finish cooking while resting. DO NOT OVERCOOK, or your chicken will be dry.
- Place the chicken on a plate and let rest for at least 5 minutes (resting is mandatory!). Add any desired toppings or sauces. Enjoy!
- *INGREDIENT NOTE: You can use any of your favorite chicken marinades for this recipe. See the blog post above for suggestions. At a minimum, marinate the chicken in a mixture of 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 to 4 cloves garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 2 to 3 tablespoons of your acid of choice (lemon juice, lime juice, red wine or balsamic vinegar, etc.). You also can toss in a few teaspoons of your favorite dried herbs (I like Italian seasoning).
- TO STORE: Refrigerate chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze chicken in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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