Most people don’t find grilled chicken breasts to be at all exciting. Even my own parents turned their nose up at the suggestion that we grill chicken breasts at a family gathering. Chicken breasts alone are NOT exciting, but they are a perfect blank slate just waiting for you to infuse it with flavor, spice, sweetness, and -at risk of being completely sappy- love. *sigh*
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Marinating Grilled Chicken Breasts
Chicken breasts need lots of love, but don’t let this discourage you from including them at your next cookout. A bath in the right marinade or a slathering of the right sauce can transform a boring chicken breast into something incredible.
The best news of all is that marinating or finding the right sauces doesn’t have to be difficult, and your standard Ziploc freezer bag can make the job even easier. Marinating is all about infusing the chicken breasts with lots of different flavors. My Lemon Lime Soda Marinade is a great example of this. The carbonation seems to make the chicken breasts extra juicy in addition to the great lemon lime flavor that it adds. The brown sugar adds a good bit of additional sweetness since my children prefer their chicken breasts on the sweeter side. In addition to keeping vampires away, the minced garlic gives the chicken a great “pop” of flavor while the soy sauce adds a savory element that is so important.
If you’re intimidated by creating exciting marinades, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. I have several delicious marinades right here with more coming in the future, or you can find some fabulous ideas on Pinterest.
The Best Techniques for Perfectly Grilled Chicken Breasts
Using a Tenderizer
To be honest, I frequently skip this step, but it really does make a difference. Using a meat tenderizer to gently pound your chicken breasts into an even thickness makes it that much easier to get even cooking throughout the breasts. No one wants to eat under-cooked chicken in the middle with over-cooked or burnt edges so take a few minutes to make sure your breasts have an even thickness throughout.
Marinate your Chicken
I believe I covered this fairly well above, but I can’t reiterate it enough. If you don’t marinate your chicken, consider giving it a nice dry rub of spices or find a really great sauce. Give that chicken some flavor!
Avoid Cross Contamination
It is best practice to always use separate plates, utensils, etc. for your raw meat than you use for your cooked meat. That is one of the reasons that I like to marinade in a Ziploc bag. I’ve never once been tempted to put my cooked chicken breasts back into a Ziploc bag after they have cooked. If a plate or utensil must be used to touch the chicken raw and cooked, be certain to clean in well in soapy HOT water thoroughly.
Prep your Grill
It is important to keep your grill clean. I use a grill brush right after I cook while the grill is still hot to clean off any marinade, sauce, bits of food, etc. I find that this is the easiest time to clean it. You can also rub a little oil onto the grill to help food to keep from sticking.
Know your Grill
My grill is pushing 10 years old. It is probably time to upgrade, but until I do, I know that my grill has hot spots and cold spots. Because of these hot spots, I move my chicken breasts around more than I would normally recommend. If I were just cooking for my husband and myself, I could strategically place the breasts in the middle heated areas. Since I’m feeding teen boys and typically fill up the grill, I use some well planned moving to keep the chicken cooked evenly.
Choose Medium Heat
No one wants to eat chicken that is burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. High heat runs that risk. Medium heat is much better at cooking the breasts evenly.
If you are using charcoal rather than gas, you can pile coals onto one side while cooking the chicken breasts on the opposite side to create a medium heat.
Cover your Grill
You want to trap the heat in so it can thoroughly cook your chicken. If your grill does not have a cover, consider creating a cover with aluminum foil or grilling your chicken in aluminum foil packets for more even cooking.
Use Tongs or a Spatula
Grilled Chicken Breasts are fully cooked at 165°F.
Chicken breasts are fully cooked at 165°F as shown on an instant read thermometer. Make sure that your chicken breasts are fully cooked before serving and eating to avoid getting ill.
Allow Chicken Breasts to Rest before Serving.
They only need around 5 minutes, but give your chicken breasts a little time to rest before cutting.
How I Grill Chicken Breasts
Grilling chicken breasts really is incredibly easy. I throw my chicken breasts into a Ziploc bag full of marinade and let them chill in the refrigerator until dinner time. Just before dinner time arrives, I slap my marinated chicken breasts onto the preheated grill, and dinner is ready in no time flat. I can pull out some hamburger buns for grilled chicken sandwiches or whip up some quick sides and … Voila! Dinner in a snap.