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How to Grill Chicken

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Grilling tips for making the best chicken ever!


I'm not sure when or why knowing how to grill chicken became a prerequisite for enjoying a high-quality life, but it is. You can either fight it or learn. I suggest the latter. I'll even provide a few tips to get you started.

The key to grilling chicken like a pro is to get chicken that a pro would be willing to grill. Most barbecuers are afraid to get the good stuff—and by good stuff, I mean boneless chicken breasts—because, let's face it, they're easy to mess up. If you just have to have a bone in your chicken or want to grill a whole bird, make sure it's good, quality meat.

prepping chicken for grilling

Prep the meat!


If you go with boneless cuts, put the chicken in a plastic bag or in between two slices of wax paper, pretend it's alive and pound the life out of it. Thick chicken is harder to get just right. Pounding it makes it thin and easy to work with. The post-pounded chicken should be uniformly thin, between 1/4 and 1/2 inch. Beware of overly pounded chicken flesh that splits into several chunks.

grilled chicken marinade

Treat the meat!


For extra flavor, you may want to marinate your chicken breasts or pieces. Overnight or a few hours works well for most recipes. Marinating it too long in an acidic marinade can make the chicken look ragged and sad, so avoid over marinating too. The best marinade mixture contains approximately 1/2 oil (olive works best) and 1/2 acidic liquid (soy sauce, lemon juice, worcestershire). Add fresh herbs, spices and vegetables for extra flavor. There's a great post on how to make your own marinade as well as a Marinated Grilled Chicken, Teriyaki Marinade and Lemon-Herb Marinade recipe on Tablespoon.

You can either marinate the chicken in a plastic bowl with a cover (great for flipping and recoating) or, better yet, stick it in a resealable zipper plastic bag, shake it up, place it in the fridge and let it settle in. If you don't have time to marinade, rub a little barbecue spice on the bird before heating up the grill.

Also, check out this grilled chicken recipe collection. You'll find a variety of great ideas ranging from sweet to spicy and something in between!


Heat the meat!


Grilling chicken requires patience. If you're grilling with propane or natural gas, put the grill on high for a few minutes with the lid closed. Once the grill is hot, turn the heat on the lowest setting, lift the lid, and put the chicken on the grill. Flip every 6-8 minutes. Monitor flame ups and spray with water, if needed.

Total cook time depends on the grill, how much chicken you're cooking and how thick the chicken is. Cooking time ranges from 22-28 minutes for thinned out chicken over an open flame. If you skipped the meat beating, give yourself more time. Don't press down or slice the meat while it's cooking unless you enjoy dry poultry. If you prefer lathering the chicken in barbecue sauce, do so the last few minutes to avoid burning the barbecue sauce on the chicken.

grilled chicken and salsa

Eat the meat!


You may want to slice one breast in half before serving just to make sure it's done. If you've cooked the chicken correctly, there is no need for extra sauces. But you could keep some on hand just in case you need it.

Get Grillin'!


Here's a quick list of the recipes in this post. Enjoy!


What are your tried and true chicken grilling secrets?

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