Expert Tips for the Best Grilled Chicken

By: EatingWell Editors

Recipe to Try: Spatchcocked Chicken Under a Brick

Grilled chicken is a summer staple. This time of year is all about finding inspiration for chicken on the grill. Here we compiled tips from expert chefs, as well as how to shop for the best chicken and a handy chart that tells you how to prep and cook time for different types of chicken. Plus, get inpired with some of our favorite recipes and marinades to take your grilled chicken from basic to fabulous.

Get More Recipes: Ulitmate Grilled Chicken Recipes

Pick Your Chicken & Grill It

Here's your guide to how long it takes to grill pieces of chicken over direct, medium heat (400°F). Before you get started, pick a delicious healthy marinade recipe or dry rub recipe for your poultry. When you're ready to grill, oil the preheated grill rack, place chicken on the grill, close the lid and cook, turning once, until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F.

For 4 servings, start with 1 pound boneless chicken or 2 pounds bone-in.

Buttermilk-Brined Chicken Breast with Basil Mint Sauce

Recipe to Try: Buttermilk-Brined Chicken Breast with Basil Mint Sauce

Boneless, skinless breast

Prep Trim fat and halve chicken crosswise.
Grilling Time 4 to 6 min/side

Bone-in breast

Prep Remove skintrim fat and halve chicken crosswise.
Grilling Time 14 to 15 min/side

Boneless, skinless thighs

Prep Trim fat.
Grilling Time 5 to 7 min/side

Bone-in thighs

Prep Remove skin and trim fat.
Grilling Time 16 to 18 min/side

Drumsticks

Prep Remove skin.
Grilling Time 16 to 18 min/side

Kebabs (skinless breast)

Prep Trim fat, cut chicken into 1-inch pieces and thread onto skewers.
Grilling Time 4 to 6 min/side

Kebabs (skinless thighs)

Prep Trim fat, cut chicken into 1-inch pieces and thread onto skewers.
Grilling Time 5 to 7 min/side

Chicken Kebabs with Thai Chile-Plum Glaze

Recipe to Try: Chicken Kebabs with Thai Chile-Plum Glaze

Our Best Grilled Chicken Tips and Expert Quotes

  • Shop Smarter: When it comes to labels don't be fooled by the word "natural"—it may paint a pretty picture about quaint farms and happy chickens, but it merely means that no additives or preservatives were used in processing. If you want to know what the chicken was fed or how it was raised, organic is a better bet or seek out a local source that's raising chickens well.

  • Play It Safe: Don't rinse chicken—it only spreads bacteria to your sink and other surfaces. The only way to get rid of harmful bacteria is to cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F.

  • Take the Temperature: There's a sweet spot when chicken is fully cooked but still incredibly tender and juicy. Only way to hit it every time: use an instant-read thermometer to check that the temp is 165°F. Insert the probe at least 1 inch into the thickest part of the meat without touching bone.(Is your thermometer right? Plunge the probe into boiling water: it should read 212°F.)

  • Check the Ingredients: Some chicken is "plumped" with a solution of saltwater or broth to make it more tender and juicy. This may sound appealing, but you're paying for the weight of the solution and will end up with chicken that's too salty if you add on flavorings like rubs, marinades or sauces. Avoid chicken that lists anything other than water on the label.

  • Layer the Flavor: Add another layer of flavor to chicken while it's on the grill by basting with a sauce or glaze or quick-smoking it. On the plate, give your chicken a final tasty blast with a slathering of sauce or salsa.

  • The Butcher: "There's definitely a taste difference betweeen a more nautral chicken—one that was raised right and fed right—and the factory-raised kind. A more natural chicken will actually plump up when you cook it, rather than flatten and dry out."—Lou DeRosa, butcher and co-owner, Marconda's Meats and Puritan Poultry, Los Angeles

  • The Sustainability Expert: "The smells and the visual appeal of a perfectly grilled chicken make every bite so satisfying. The anticipation helps nourish you and your guests. I think we nourish each other not just with calories, but with the whole process of cooking for someone."—Barton Seaver, chef and director of Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard School of Public Health

  • The Grilling Fanatic: "I love brining chicken. Brining seasons it from the inside, so the flavori si really in there. Brining also plumps up the chicken. At my restaurants we bring every chicken before we cook it." —Elizabeth Karmel, founder of GirlsattheGrill.com, and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market and Hill Country Chicken

 

Watch How to Make Spatchcocked Chicken on the Grill

 

 

Get More:
Healthy BBQ & Grilled Chicken Recipes
13 Best Grilling Tips