The secret to juicy grilled chicken isn’t the seasonings or complicated marinades. It’s all about HOW you grill the chicken perfectly in 20 minutes or less.
Sometimes I get all wrapped up in outdoing / improving / out-creating some of my most favorite / simple / craveable recipes.
It’s easy to over complicate a recipe when I see all sorts of crazy inspiration and crazy mash-ups on the ol’ www. When inventive cooks take humble and mundane basic recipes I’ve always known and loved, then stuff them into a cannon with whatever’s trending at the moment, light the wick, and ka-boom-er-ama!
That’s not this recipe.
This grilled chicken breast recipe goes right back to the basics. It’s perfect for a quick and easy weeknight meal or meal prepping for salads and lunches in my Chinese chicken salad with pasta, a classic Caesar salad, or my favorite Italian chicken wrap.
This is the simplest, juiciest chicken breast recipe you might ever make / grill /eat. Once you make it, it’s sure to become the base to every chicken recipe you throw on the grill and it just might possibly lead you to lick that wick and send you over the moon.
What’s Needed to Make Grilled Chicken?
I love that you can doctor up grilled chicken breasts so many different ways, but if I’m planning on using the leftover chicken in other recipes like my favorite Italian chicken wrap or chicken caprese sandwich I prefer using minimal ingredients.
I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe. If you’re a fan of a cut whole bird or the darker meat chicken thighs, the same principles apply, but you’ll need to allow more cooking time.
Here’s all you need for the best, basic grilled chicken:
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Lemon halves (optional)
How to Season Grilled Chicken
Simple seasoning with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper is where all the flavor starts. Add more dried seasonings such as:
- dried herbs like oregano, basil, rosemary
- garlic powder, garlic salt
- chipotle powder
- garam masala
- smoked paprika
- lemon pepper
Give a squeeze of grilled lemon halves. Have you grilled lemon halves before? They’re one of my favorite grilled food flavor enhancers. The heat caramelizes the cut side and brings all of the juice front and center, making the lemon’s ultimately squeezeable. Try it on fish or veggies too. And if you’re a fan of limes or oranges, go crazy and experiment!
Use a marinade or slather with bbq sauce. If you prefer flavoring your grilled chicken breasts with marinades, try my garlic and lemon infused yogurt Greek chicken marinade. It’s so easy to make, and the resulting grilled chicken is insanely flavorful. Or, follow my bbq sauced grilled chicken breasts recipe for a sweet and tangy chicken.
How to Grill Chicken Breasts
This recipe is the main building block and grilling guide I use as the base for nearly all of my grilled chicken recipes. The secret to juicy grilled chicken isn’t in the seasonings or complicated marinades, it’s all about HOW you grill the chicken.
Set up the grill with two heat zones. If using a gas or a charcoal grill, designate one side of the grill for direct grilling (medium-high heat of 450-500°F) and the other side for indirect grilling (low heat or totally off).
Sear the chicken on both sides over the direct heat, then turn off one burner (or move the coals to one side if you’re grilling with charcoal) and move the chicken to the side of the grill where the heat has been turned off to finish “baking” over the indirect heat. The chicken continues to cook over the indirect heat but won’t burn. I usually close the lid and cover, but check the temperature and monitor how the chicken is cooking, opening the lid if the grill is too hot.
How Long to Grill Boneless Chicken Breasts
Depending on the thickness of your chicken, allow about 15-20 minutes to grill boneless chicken breasts. Cook the chicken over direct heat for the first 10 minutes or until nicely seared then move to the indirect heat for another 5-10 minutes depending on it’s thickness.
Cook until the chicken’s internal temp is 165° F, or juices run clear. In testing the chicken breasts for internal temperature, slide the thermometer laterally at one end, so it hits the center of the piece. Be careful not to overcook the grilled chicken, otherwise it’ll become tough and rubbery.
Give it a rest. Once the grilled chicken breasts are cooked, transfer to a plate and tent with aluminum foil to allow the juices to rest for about 5 minutes. Cutting the chicken too early will cause the juices to run out and it won’t be as juicy.
The Best Meat Thermometer
I LOVE this digital meat thermometer. It’s an investment but totally worth it. I’ve tried dozens of thermometers with inconsistent readings but this one is on the money every time.
If you don’t own a meat thermometer, resist the urge to slice into the middle of a chicken breast — that’s a guaranteed way to lose most of the juices. Instead, prick the chicken with a fork to see if the juices run clear. If the juices are pink, the chicken isn’t cooked through.
How Long to Cook Bone-In Chicken Breasts
Bone-in chicken breasts tend to have more flavor than their boneless siblings but take longer to cook. Allow 30-40 minutes total cooking time with 10 minutes over direct heat and 20-30 over indirect heat. When testing the temperature, be sure to avoid touching the bone which will be hotter than the internal meat.
More Easy Grilled Chicken Recipes to Make
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
The Best Grilled Chicken Breast Recipe
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lemons , halved
- Prepare one side of the grill for direct cooking at medium-high heat (450°F) and one side for low, indirect heat. Brush the cooking grates clean.
- Drizzle the chicken breasts with extra virgin olive oil and rub over the breasts. Season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Place the chicken breasts on the hot grill. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes or until they easily release from the grates. Flip the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes longer. Move the chicken to the indirect heat and cook for another 5-8 minutes or until the breasts are firm to the touch and opaque all the way through, registering 160°F internal temp (the temp will rise to 165°F as the chicken rests). Add the lemon halves to the grill half way through cooking the chicken, cut side down, and cook for 3-5 minutes then move the lemon halves to the top rack of the grill.
- Transfer to a plate and cover with a piece of aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Squeeze the lemon on the chicken for extra flavor.
More Grilling Recipes You’ll Love
- How to Make the Best Easy Grilled Corn
- Grilled Shrimp Vietnamese Spring Rolls
- Grilled Swordfish with Smoked Paprika and Herb Fruit Salsa
- The Best Juicy Grilled Pork Chops
- The Best Grilled Salmon
- Grilled Vegetables with Chimichurri Sauce
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