How to Grill Chicken Breasts
The key to perfect boneless, skinless chicken breasts is a quick sear followed by indirect grilling. Learn how to grill juicy chicken breasts on a charcoal grill.
Let's get grilling
For grilling chicken breasts, you need a two-zone, medium-hot fire. Fire up a full chimney of Kingsford® Charcoal, or light a pile of about 100 briquets. When the coals are ready, arrange them in a two-zone fire. Replace the top grate, and allow the grill to heat up with all vents fully open. Just before placing the chicken on the grate, dip a folded paper towel in cooking oil and oil the entire grate using long-handled tongs. This will prevent the skinless breasts from sticking to the grate.
Boneless skinless breasts dry out easily, so we highly recommend marinating or brining before cooking. For a basic brine, combine ¼ cup salt to four cups water, and soak the chicken breasts for 30 minutes to an hour in a gallon size plastic zipper bag. If you choose not to brine or marinate, simply season to your liking.
Place the chicken breasts on the hot side of the grate, directly above the coals. Sear the breasts for about three to four minutes per side, turning only once, until golden brown. If the grill flares up, temporarily move the chicken away from the coals. When the breasts are properly browned, move them to the warm, or indirect, side of the grate. Replace the lid and, if using a grill thermometer, bring the temperature up to 350°F.
If you want to apply a sugar-based sauce or glaze to the chicken breasts, do it during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Slather a layer of sauce or glaze on one side of the chicken breasts, close the lid for five minutes to let the sauce bake on, then open the lid, turn the breasts, and repeat the process.
There are two common methods of testing grilled chicken breasts for doneness. The safest and surest method is to use a digital meat thermometer. Insert the tip into the thickest part of the breast and when the internal temperature reaches 165°F, remove it from the grill. The other option is to cut into the breast and take a look — the meat should be white, without a rubbery texture, and the juices should run clear. However, this method will release some of the juices.
For safe meat preparation, reference the USDA website.
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