How to Grill Juicy Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

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How to get juicy chicken breasts on the grill? It's all in the brine! Just 30 minutes of brining makes all the difference between dry chicken and perfect chicken.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Grilled Chicken Breast: The Problem

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.

Grilled Chicken Breast: The Solution (Brine!)

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

Brining chicken breasts for grilling

How Long to Brine Chicken Breasts?

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

With a half an hour of brining, the salt that is absorbed isn’t so much that the chicken becomes salty, but enough so that the flavor of the grilled chicken will be enhanced. We would normally salt grilled chicken breasts, right? You don’t need to do that if you brine.

How to Grill Chicken Breasts

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

LOVE GRILLED CHICKEN? TRY THESE RECIPES

Updated August 4, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle and add some extra information to help you make the best grilled chicken breast.! No changes to the original recipe.

How to Grill Juicy Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

  • 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 that's 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 once it's off the heat. We let the chicken rest for several minutes before eating, so it's safe.

Ingredients

For the brine:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 3 tablespoons sea salt or Morton's kosher salt)

For the chicken:

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

Method

1 Brine the chicken breast: In a large bowl, whisk the salt in the water to dissolve. Add the chicken breasts to the brine. Put in the 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, set over 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 the chicken grill, undisturbed, until the 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 them finish cooking.

Remove chicken from grill when the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 155°F.

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

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

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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27 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Marta Greet

    Great recipe for lunch or dinner! Chicken breast cooked in a pan. Very tasty and juicy recipe!

    Try How To Cook Chicken Breast In A Pan –
    https://club.cooking/articles/how-to-cook-chicken-breast-in-a-pan/

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Frank

    Wow im going to give it a try now now

  3. JayP

    Thanks so much for the great tip, turned my usual dry skinless boneless chicken breasts into a delicacy

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Kim

    I added tonnes of thyme to the brine, and used generic BBQ spice (dried, Selection brand) after the olive oil brushing.

    I didn’t have a grill safe thermometer, so once I moved the chicken breasts to the cool side and limed them, I just kept checking for clear juices. I think I could have taken them off just a few moments sooner, but I get nervous about salmonella…!

    They were juicy, delicious, and my son rates the recipe a 9.5 out of 5. Thanks so much!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Shannon

    I’m going to use this recipe but I bought boneless skinless chicken breast. Do I still do the brine with the same amount of salt?

    Show Replies (1)
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Grilled Chicken Breast RecipeHow to Grill Juicy Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts