Nothing’s better in the summer than a meal prepared on the grill. Everything just tastes better, it requires little more than “manning” the grill, and there’s endless things to experiment with. Grilled chicken is a summer staple, but more often than not, chicken can come out dry, undercooked or overcooked, burnt, etc. With these handy tips, you’ll be grilling chicken like a pro in no time. Dry/raw chicken no more!
Choose the right cut
Depending on how much time you have you’ll need to choose different cuts of chicken. If you’re not pressed for time, you can grill whole chickens (ideally you’ll spatchcock it first) or bone-in breasts and thighs. Need a quick weeknight dinner in 30 minutes or less? Choose boneless breasts or you can cut up chicken into cubes and thread onto skewers. I’ve even seen people have great success with par-cooking the chicken in boiling water or in the microwave ahead of time and then throwing it on the grill for a quicker meal.
Pound it out
If you do choose to go with boneless breasts – even if you aren’t crunched for time – be sure you pound them out to an even thickness. This will help the chicken to cook evenly and leave it juicier. If you don’t do this, the chicken takes a lot longer to cook and some parts will be dry from overcooking.
Pack on the flavor pre-grilling
The great thing about the grill is that you can throw your food on there and mostly forget about it other than flipping it occasionally. Try out different ways to flavor your chicken before grilling – you can marinade it (premade or whip up one of your choosing), brine it overnight in a salt water solution for extra juicy chicken, or apply a spice rub before you throw it on the grill. Even just a simple salt and pepper application before you put it on the grill will help improve the flavor. Do not just throw the meat on the grill with no seasoning!
Baste at the end
If you want to amp up the flavor more by basting on sauce while it grills, don’t start doing this until the end (about 5 minutes before it’s done) and turn the chicken repeatedly and reapply the sauce. This way the sauce will adhere to the chicken and avoid the sugars from the sauce burning too quickly. Barbecue chicken can be ruined easily if you burn the sauce.
Don’t crank the grill
Chicken is different than a burger – you can’t serve up medium rare chicken unless you want to be super ill. While you need to cook chicken thoroughly, if you have your grill up too high, the chicken will sear and burn but still be underdone on the inside. No one likes raw and/or dried out chicken! Leave the grill on medium heat and don’t put the chicken directly in the flame if you can help it.
Clean and oil the grates before you put the chicken on the grill. This will help it not to stick but will also lead to impressive grill marks 🙂 Another tip – close the grill cover so that the heat stays inside and will cook the chicken quicker.
Use a thermometer
Because you don’t want to risk serving undercooked chicken (no one wants salmonella from your cookout), insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken but be sure it’s not touching bone because this will give you a false reading. Once it’s at 165°F, it’s done! Meat thermometers are inexpensive and a very handy tool so I’d suggest buying one, but if you don’t have one, you can cut into the chicken and if the juices run clear (and the meat isn’t transparent), it’s all set. You can always throw it back on the grill if it’s underdone but it will lose juiciness once you cut into it the first time.
Let it rest
Like all meat, you’ll want to let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes after you pull it off the grill. The chicken will continue to cook and will also retain its juices better this way. Something to note – once you get more comfortable with grilling chicken, you might want to experiment with taking it off the grill when it reaches 160°F and then let it come up to temp as it rests.
Grilled chicken is a summer staple – with these handy tips for cooking chicken, you’ll end up with more flavorful meals and (hopefully for you) lots of leftovers to turn into salads or other quick dinner recipes.