Hot on the Grill: Making Great Grilled Chicken

Great Grilled Chicken Tips and Tricks Blog

Cooking chicken correctly will yield exceptionally juicy results!

One of the most common and perhaps least raved about meats on the grill is the chicken breast. It is a staple of the average weekly menu plan in many homes, but it’s also typically considered one of the least exciting. In truth, though, chicken can be a flavorful, juicy main course – so why the bad rap?

Most of the trouble comes in the fact that chicken can be easy to cook wrong, so often people are judging the meat based on their experience eating it. However, if you cook chicken correctly, your opinion of it may start to drastically change and chicken night just might become one of your favorite meals of the week.

The first key to cooking chicken correctly is to take care with the cuts before you put them on the grill. Trim all the fat for healthier cooking; then, make sure all of the breasts or pieces are the same size – preferably from the center to the ends on each piece as well. Having different thicknesses of meat will mean that the thin parts dry out while the thicker parts are still cooking. Even thickness ensures even cooking.

The next step is to carefully monitor cooking progress to ensure that you’re not overcooking. Chicken is extremely easy to dry out, so once it’s cooked it needs to be taken off the grill immediately to keep it moist, juicy and delicious. Obviously follow the recommended cooking times in your Use & Care and use them as a guide, but you need to monitor the cooking progress as well since the cuts might be thicker or thinner than what was used.

A meat thermometer is a huge help in making sure you don’t dry your chicken out, because you can check the temperature and simply remove once it hits 165°F – the FDA’s recommended internal temperature on chicken. If you don’t have a meat thermometer on hand, you can do a touch test, but this is definitely more of an art than a simple thermometer check. To touch test, simply press on the center of the breast; it should be firm, but not hard – hard means that you’ve overcooked.

If at all possible, use one of the two methods above to avoid slicing into the breast to check the center for pinkness. Once you slice the breast, juices will run and the chicken will dry out if you have to put it back on to cook longer. This is true for all meats, but can be especially problematic for chicken, since it dries out so easily.

Between cutting your pieces correctly and monitoring cooking progress closely, you should be able to get a really well cooked piece of chicken without a lot of extra work. Even without any extra marinades or sauces, you should notice a difference in the taste of the chicken itself and find it a lot more appetizing. If you’re still less than wowed, the best thing you can do is add a marinade or a rub to provide some extra imparted flavor to the meat.

If you decide to go this route, try to avoid anything that uses salt, as this is a big contributor to drying meat out as it cooks. If you use salt at all, using it extremely sparingly – again, it’s better if you can leave it out entirely. For marinades, always give at least a few hours for the chicken to marinate in the fridge (6-8 hours is the ideal). You want to let chicken marinate for a long time because the liquid needs time to work into the deep tissue; otherwise, your marinade might not provide the bold flavor you were expecting. For rubs, as is typical, you want to do the rub just prior to cooking to avoid drying the meat out – even when it doesn’t use salt.

Once you’ve pretreated your chicken to your taste, you will still need to follow the first two suggestions above to achieve the results you want. The chicken will be good itself, with the seasoning simply adding more flavor.