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

VIDEO! How to Grill Boneless Chicken Breasts

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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38 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Anthony

    I followed this recipe for the first time tonight and it was a hit with the family. I altered it slightly by basting the chicken breasts with our favorite BBQ sauce as they were on the cooler part of the grill. They came out delicious and juicy!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Simon

    Your recipe seemed to lack flavor so I added some fresh thyme and basil from our garden. I tried to keep our small Akorn Char-Griller around 300 deg F. Two big fat chicken breasts still got done in minutes. They were moist, tender, and tasty.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Amy Brayd

    Excellent – just made this recipe for my family and finally had some delicious juicy grilled chicken. Many thanks!! Will be making this recipe regularly.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Terry

    Tender and moist boneless, skinless, chicken breasts-unbelievable! Had to broil in my oven due to outdoor grill not lighting. Will try it on my grill next time. Thanks for sharing your recipe!!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Wayne

    I’m planning on making this tonight, but I’m a little confused about something. It says to dear the chicken onto the “hot” side of the grill, and then move it to the “cool” side of the grill. I assume this means direct and indirect heat, but how hot is the hot side supposed to be; and should the cool side have the burners completely turned off?

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Grilled Chicken Breast RecipeHow to Grill Juicy Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts