Love in the Kitchen - making fast, healthy, homegrown meals you'll enjoy

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Perfect Grilled Chicken - Every Time

We are at the height of grilling season right now - I love being able to come home from work and throw something on the grill.  Dinner on the table in under 40 minutes!

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are great for the grill - quick to cook, and healthy too.  Chances are you have some in your freezer right now.  And if you pay attention to just three things, you can avoid dry rubbery chicken breasts and grill them perfectly every time.

  1. Moisture {make sure you have enough}
  2. Heat {not too hot}
  3. Time {not too long}

Seems pretty simple right?  Let's break it down.

First let's make sure we'll have juicy chicken breasts.  Brining is an important step in avoiding rubbery, dry chicken. Soaking the chicken in a salty brine reshapes the proteins in the meat in such a way that they retain moisture better when cooking.  And retaining moisture is key, as it provides some assurance that the meat will remain juicy even if a tad overdone, and be even better if cooked correctly.

Making a brine is simple - salt and water at its most basic.  Here I've added some other flavors (lime and red chiles):

Lime Chile Brine


  • 1 quart cold water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 3/4 cup Rose's Lime Juice
  • 1/4 cup dried red chiles
  • 4 large (8-oz) boneless-skinless chicken breasts, pounded to even thicknesses


Add the water, salt, lime juice and chiles to a 4-qt container. Whisk until the salt is completely dissolved. Add the chicken breasts, and let brine for 30 minutes.

Now it's time to grill!  You don't want to go too hot here, since the 500+°F of a new fire can too quickly dry out the breasts. On the opposite end, you don't want to go too low either because then there will no browning and you'll end with pale, unappetizing chicken. A medium-high fire, 375-450°F, is just about perfect, creating a golden crust without overdoing the meat.  {a grill thermometer like this one is really helpful}

In my experience, it only takes chicken breasts a few minutes per side over direct medium-high heat to both brown and be cooked through at the same time. That being said, it's a good idea to always have a two-zone fire—with all the coals piled on one side of the charcoal grate (or for a gas grill, turn off one half of the burners) — in case the chicken browns before it's done cooking through. This way you can finish the chicken up on the cool side of the grill, covered, and avoid burning the the breasts if need be.

Instant the thermometer in the middle of the breast—you know the chicken is done when it hits about 160°F. Let the chicken rest off the grill and the meat temperature will continue to rise to 165°F as approved by the FDA.

Now we have beautifully moist and evenly cooked chicken breasts!  You can add any sauce or side dishes you like to these - they will be delicious.  And you can say "Never again!" to rubbery chicken breasts!

zentMRS - Love in the Kitchen
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