How to Grill Juicy Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

How to grill boneless skinless chicken breasts so they stay juicy and don't get dried out.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

When it comes to grilling, chicken breasts can be problematic, especially boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The meat itself is lean, and without the bones to insulate it or skin to protect it, that naked chicken breast on the grill has a tendency to easily overcook and dry out.

So, what to do?

One method is to marinate chicken cutlets, or chicken breasts pounded to an even thickness, and quickly grill them on high heat. We use this method for our cilantro lime chicken and it works fine.

Another way, which doesn’t require you to change the shape of the chicken breasts, is to brine the chicken first, for half an hour.

Grilled Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

All it takes is 30 minutes in a simple 1/4 cup salt, 4 cup water brine solution, for the chicken breasts to absorb enough moisture so they can better hold up to the heat of the grill without drying out.

After half an hour the salt that is absorbed isn’t so much as to make your chicken salty, but enough so that the flavor of the chicken is enhanced. We would normally salt the meat, right? Don’t need to do that if you brine.

Then it’s a simple rub with paprika (great for color) and olive oil (no sticking on the grill), and onto the hot side of the grill it goes for searing, and the cool side for finishing. And you have beautifully grilled, perfectly juicy chicken breasts!

How to Grill Juicy Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Brining time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

It's always a good idea to use a meat thermometer when cooking meat at least an inch thick. We take our chicken off the grill at a little bit lower temp (150°F) than is  usually recommended for poultry, but that's because the chicken will continue to cook for a few minutes off the heat, and we let the chicken rest for several minutes before eating, so it's safe.

Ingredients

Brine:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt (or 3 Tbsp table salt)

Chicken:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil (plus more olive oil for the grill)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

Method

1 Brine the chicken breast: Use a whisk to dissolve the salt in the water in a large bowl. Add the chicken breasts to the brine. Put in refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.

2 Prepare your grill: Arrange your grill so that one side is for high direct heat, and the other side is cooler.

Alternatively, you can use a grill pan, heat on medium high heat.

3 Coat chicken with oil and paprika: Remove chicken breasts from brine and pat dry. Coat with olive oil, and sprinkle evenly with paprika.

4 Grill the chicken breasts: Brush some olive oil on the grill grates. Place chicken breasts on the hot side of the grill (or on the grill pan). Let grill without moving, until the chicken pieces start getting some grill marks (you can lift up one to check).

When the chicken pieces have browned on one side, turn them over, and move them to the cooler side of the grill. Cover, and let finish cooking.

Remove chicken from grill when the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 150°F.

5 Let the chicken breasts rest: Cover the breasts with foil to rest. The chicken will continue to cook in its residual heat while it rests. Let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into it.

Serve with grilled peppers, pineapple salsa, or just a squeeze of lime!

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Links:

Cilantro Lime Chicken here on Simply Recipes

5-Minute Grilled Chicken Cutlets from Serious Eats

Grilled Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

Showing 4 of 20 Comments

  • Cathy

    I am making roasted vegetable with orzo and would like to make this chicken ahead of time for a lunch crowd. Would this chicken stay moist ?
    Also any other side dish recommendations ?
    Thank you

  • Jay

    Approximately how many chicken breasts is this brine recipe for?

  • Elise Bauer

    Hi DinaMom, the longer you keep the chicken in the brine, the saltier it gets. That’s why we say 30 minutes on the brining. If you brined it for 45 minutes, that would make it too salty.

  • anh bia den dep

    I followed the recipe to the T very well written and tastes great.
    I added garlic powder and garlic salt to the chicken after the pat dry and added Hickory wood chunks to the grill for smoke flavor. Came out great, will make again.

  • Debi D.

    Cooking times vary;. But, OMGosh!! Juicy, juicy chicken ! I will brine all meats from here on out.

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Grilled Boneless Skinless Chicken BreastsHow to Grill Juicy Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts