How to Grill Juicy Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

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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 Recipe

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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 to 1 hour.

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.

grilled-boneless-skinless-chicken-breasts-method-1

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 11 Comments

  • Jackie Rafael

    Dear All, I always want to grill chicken breasts but end up with a smoky kitchen and house! Does this happen to any of you? Any suggestions on how to grill without this getting out of control??!

  • Evelyn

    OK, I pounded these flat anyway out of force of habit. Brined them for 45 minutes, coated them in olive oil and paprika, then grilled them on high heat for 2.5 minutes a side. Squeezed lime over. Delicious – perfectly cooked, tender, juicy and flavourful. Thanks for the brining tip!

  • Baltisraul......

    No need to rest chicken breasts. Resting is for any type of meat that is over 1″ thick. The only effect you get from resting a pounded chicken breast is that the chicken breast is not served as hot as it should. By the time you get it on the table and everybody is seated, it has rested all it ever needs.

  • Joe @ Joe's Healthy Meals

    Looks fantastic, and I agree that brining is the key. Great post on how to get super moist chicken breasts on the grill.

  • Brian V

    I literally grill, over gas, boneless skinless chicken breast 3 – 4 times a week year round. It’s a staple at our house. There are a few keys that I consider invaluable to being successful every time. The most important is to know your grill. If it has a temperature gauge built into the lid make sure it’s reading accurately. Like any other cooking device it will have hot and cool spots. Second I use olive oil, generously, to coat each breast and then I typically use a dry seasoning on top of that. I wait till the grill is at 400 and then put the chicken on. I leave the burner at medium high and cook directly over the heat. Experience matters here because a quick look/turn will tell you how the meat is doing. Starting a breast at 9 or 10 oclock and rotating to 2 or 3 will give nice sear marks. Flip at the approximately 5 minute mark and then rotate again 3 minutes later. Look for your first sign of clear juice flowing from the thin portion of the breast and within 2 minutes it should start appearing at the top or thicker end. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Depending on the size the total cook time should be in the 10 – 12 minute range.

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