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

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?

Grilled Chicken Breast: The Solution (Brine!)

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.

VIDEO! How to Grill Boneless Chicken Breasts

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.

Brining chicken breasts for grilling

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!

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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. I take chicken off the grill at a little bit lower temp (155°F) than is usually recommended for poultry, but that's because the chicken will continue to cook for several minutes once it's off the heat and resting. Taking the chicken off the heat at this temperature helps insure that the meat doesn't overcook and get dried out. If you feel more comfortable taking the chicken off the heat at a higher internal temperature, please feel free to do so.

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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48 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Sam

    So easy and so great in salads. I still prefer slicing the thicker chicken breasts in half to have more thin fillets on the grill which then char nicely. Also this was excellent with just 15 minutes of brining for me (was in a time crunch)!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Jon Kitrel

    As per usual, I started down my own path before checking w Simply Recipes… breasts thawed and sitting in olive oil, salt, and a little bit of Stubbs bbq sauce (hickory bourbon).
    I try to impress my sweetie with my grilling prowess so on the sly I checked SR for an edge… BRINE!

    I’ve used it for hams and turkeys in the smoker before, but never on the grill.

    Made the brine, more or less per instructions, dumped the whole works into a big bowl and let em soak for 30m. Started my charcoal at 15m.

    Such a simple “no-brainer” (aka: kick in the head) made my grilled chicken a huge success. Use the high heat for the sear and then again at the end to caramelize a sugary sauce… PERFECT.

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Mike

    We like BBQ so after they browned I flipped and quickly brushed on BBQ sauce. Then moved to cooler side until temp hit 155 then let rest covered in foil for 10 min. Came out very moist!
    It was a tad on the salty side, we didn’t have any kosher so we used table salt, that may have need the reason. Will use again!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Allen

    Oh my goodness—and I mean the goodness part. Followed the recipe: brined two large boneless chicken breasts. While it was brining, I got the coals ready. Slathered in olive oil with smoked paprika. Grilled for 7 minutes on first side, flipped, basted with BBQ sauce (Trader Joes brand) and then grilled another 3 minutes. Let it rest.
    All it needed was a knife and fork. Really moist.

    (Checked temp and it was at 180 F.)

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Jeanne Chapman

    If my husband should cut back on salt is brining with kosher salt a good idea?

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