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The Secrets to Perfect Grilled Chicken – Every Single Time!

The secrets to making the perfect grilled chicken are right at your fingertips. Some people shy away from cooking chicken on the grill, however, with just a few hints and tips, you can make your own perfect grilled chicken in minutes!

There are a few simple keys to success: making sure your meat size is consistent, marinating the meat before cooking, and grilling it at the right temperature. But, with a few simple tips, you can make the perfect grilled chicken for every meal!

Grilled chicken with veggies - one of our favorite meals!
Grilled chicken with veggies – one of our favorite meals! (photo : merion weyo/shutterstock)

The Secrets to Perfect Grilled Chicken

Even Out the Meat:

Because most chicken breasts are thick on one side and thin on the other there is only one thing that can happen when you put it on the grill. The thin side is going to get done much quicker than the thick side, and that means over half of your chicken will be dry and tough!  With just a quick pounding with a meat clever or a rolling-pin, you can even out your meat in no time!

Slice Thick Pieces of Meat in Half:

This tip is so important, especially if you are trying to grill chicken in a hurry. The chicken breasts that are sold in many stores are very thick. If you slice each one in half horizontally, you will not only have meat that will grill much quicker, but you will actually be eating a smaller, and more reasonable portion.  

Marinating and/or Brining:

Marinade the chicken prior to grilling
Marinade the chicken prior to grilling

One of the biggest keys to moist and delicious chicken is to either marinate or brine the meat. Even if you only have 30 minutes before you grill it, do it!  You can use something as simple as Italian dressing or you can make your own brine using 2 quarts of water to 1/2 cup salt. Whatever you prefer, marinating or brining the chicken will help moisture be retained in the meat rather than be found on the bottom of your grill. 

Let the Meat Come To Room Temperature Before You Grill:

Ok, it doesn’t have to be exactly room temperature, but definitely remove the meat from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to placing it on the grill. This prevents meat from being shocked from the extreme temperature changes.

On the Grill:

The first time that the chicken has been flipped
The first time that the chicken has been flipped

It is best to make sure the grill is clean and oiled for best results.  Because chicken has little fat, it has a higher tendency to stick to the grates. If you oil the grates prior top placing the meat on the grill, it will most likely not stick.  And for temperature ranges….we have found it best to start the temperature around 400°F.  If  you start it higher than that, the outside of the chicken cooks much faster than the inside. And if it is much lower, the chicken cooks too slowly and the chicken becomes dried out and looks bland. 


The temperature that the USDA will tell you is safe when eating grilled chicken is 165°F. However, when we are grilling chicken we know that the safe temperature for removal off our grill is when the thickest part of our chicken is between 155°F and 160°F.  That is because we let our chicken rest under foil, which allows the chicken to continue to heat up and cook until it reaches that 165° F threshold. The Key — you must not overcook chicken!! If you take it off at 170°F – it is too late; it will be dry and tough to eat. We use an instant read digital thermometer that works wonders to let you know right where the temp is! For under $10, its a great investment for the grill.


kitchen tools
The key to great grilled chicken is letting it reach the safe to consume temperature and immediately take it off the grill!

No, I am not talking about having that extra beverage out on the deck while the grilling continues, I am talking about taking the meat off the grill and letting it rest before we dive into it with a knife before eating. All meats that are directly taken off the grill need about ten minutes to rest before we eat it. This allows the juices to flow back into the fibers of the meat, and not on your plate, before eating.  For us, this means taking our chicken breasts off the grill when the thickest part of the meat reaches 160°F and allowing it to rest for several minutes under aluminum foil for about ten minutes until a max temperature of 165° has been reached. This process allows the juices to retract back into the fibers of the meat, resulting in a juicy and tender chicken breast for every meal. 


Jim and Mary Competti have been writing gardening, DIY and recipe articles and books for over 15 years from their 46 acre Ohio farm. The two are frequent speakers on all things gardening and love to travel in their spare time.

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