5 Foolproof Tips to Make Chicken Not Dry on the Grill

Grill moist, flavorful chicken by pounding even thickness, marinating for flavor, brining for juiciness, cooking at right temp, and avoiding overcooking.

Raw chicken portions for cooking and barbecuing with skinless breasts, drumstick and wings. Black background. Top view.

Grilled chicken is a popular dish for outdoor gatherings. Achieving the perfect balance between a charred exterior and a juicy interior can be challenging. This guide shares ten foolproof tips for moist and flavorful grilled chicken.

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1. Use an Even Thickness

top view of process of cooking chicken breast in the kitchen with meat tenderizer hammer and knife

One of the keys to perfectly grilled chicken lies in its thickness. Chicken breasts, in particular, tend to have uneven thickness, with one end being considerably thicker than the other. This unequal distribution leads to uneven cooking, with the thinner end becoming overcooked and dry while the thicker part might remain undercooked. To avoid this, it’s essential to pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness before grilling.

To achieve an even thickness, place your chicken breasts on a cutting board and cover them with plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, rolling pin, or even your fist, gently pound the chicken until it reaches a consistent thickness, usually about half an inch. This process not only ensures even cooking but also tenderizes the meat, leading to a juicier result.

2. Marinade for Flavor and Moisture

Marinating is a significant step in preparing your chicken for the grill. Not only does it infuse your chicken with flavor, but it also helps in retaining moisture during the grilling process. The acid in the marinade works to break down the protein structure in the meat, helping it absorb more moisture and retain it longer. Even a short 15-minute soak in the marinade can make a noticeable difference in the end result.

There’s no shortage of marinade recipes to try. A simple yet effective marinade could include olive oil, garlic, kosher salt, ground black pepper, and an acid of your choice (lemon juice, lime juice, red wine, or balsamic vinegar). You can also add dried herbs like Italian seasoning for additional flavor. Experiment with different combinations to find your signature marinade!

In the video, Tasty explains-

  1. The four core elements of a marinade are fat, acid, sugar, and seasoning. These build layers of flavor.
  2. Fat helps the meat retain moisture and holds onto seasoning. Options include olive oil.
  3. Acid like lemon juice cuts through fat and brightens the dish.
  4. Sugar like honey aids caramelization for browning and flavor.
  5. Seasoning brings out flavors. Be creative with ingredients like garlic.
  6. Combine the elements into your marinade recipe as desired.
  7. Coat the chicken fully in the marinade to maximize flavor.
  8. Refrigerate for 30 mins up to 4 hours. After 4 hours, flavor won’t increase.
  9. The marinated chicken will have great flavor and beautiful browning when cooked.
  10. Using the 4 element framework, you can create easy, delicious marinades for weeknight dinners.

3. Brine for Tender and Juicy Chicken

Brining is another technique that can significantly enhance the juiciness of your chicken. This involves soaking the chicken in a solution of salt and sugar, which alters the protein structure of the meat, allowing it to hold on to more moisture during the cooking process. The result is exceptionally tender and juicy chicken, even after being exposed to the high heat of the grill.

A simple brine solution can be made using 2/3 cups of salt and 2/3 cups of sugar per gallon of water. Immerse your boneless chicken breasts in this solution, ensuring that they are entirely covered. Be careful not to brine for longer than an hour as the meat can become overly salty.

4. Cook at the Right Temperature

what is chicken leg quarter 5 Foolproof Tips to Make Chicken Not Dry on the Grill

Temperature plays a crucial role in grilling chicken. Too high heat could result in a burnt exterior with an undercooked interior, while too low could lead to dried-out, overcooked chicken. The key is to find the perfect medium. It’s also essential to remember that different cuts of chicken have different optimal cooking temperatures.

For boneless skinless chicken breasts, the ideal grilling temperature is medium-high or around 400˚F. An instant-read thermometer should read 165˚F in the thickest part of the breast to ensure it’s safe to eat. However, you can remove the chicken from the grill when it reaches 155-160˚F, as the residual heat will continue to cook the chicken, bringing it up to the required temperature.

5. Avoid Overcooking

A top view of overcooked chicken breast and wings on a grill outdoors

It’s a common misconception that chicken needs to be cooked until there’s no trace of pink left inside. This often leads to overcooked, dry chicken. In reality, it’s perfectly safe to consume chicken that is slightly pink as long as it has reached the correct internal temperature.

To avoid overcooking, it’s crucial to use an instant-read thermometer and remove the chicken from the grill once it reaches 155-160˚F in the thickest part. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting into it. This resting period allows the residual heat to continue cooking the chicken and lets the juices redistribute throughout the meat.

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to grilling chicken that is juicy, tender, and full of flavor. Remember, like any culinary skill, grilling takes practice. Don’t be disheartened if your first few attempts aren’t perfect. With time, patience, and a little experimentation, you’ll soon be the master of the grill!

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