How to grill boneless skinless chicken breasts so they stay juicy and don’t get dried out.
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, for half an hour.
All it takes is 30 minutes in a simple 1/4 cup kosher salt, 4 cup water brine solution, for the chicken breasts to absorb enough moisture so they can better hold up to the heat of the grill without drying out.
After half an hour the salt that is absorbed isn’t so much as to make your chicken salty, but enough so that the flavor of the grilled chicken will be enhanced. We would normally salt grilled chicken breasts, right? Don’t need to do that if you brine.
Then it’s a simple rub with paprika (great for color) and olive oil (no sticking on the grill), and onto the hot side of the grill it goes for searing, and the cool side for finishing. And you have beautiful, perfectly juicy grilled chicken breasts!
How to Grill Juicy Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
It’s always a good idea to use a meat thermometer when cooking meat 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 off the heat, and we let the chicken rest for several minutes before eating, so it’s safe.
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 3 Tbsp sea salt or Morton’s kosher salt)
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 3 Tbsp olive oil (plus more olive oil for the grill)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 Brine the chicken breast: Use a whisk to dissolve the salt in the water in a large bowl. Add the chicken breasts to the brine. Put in 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, heat on 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 grill without moving, until the chicken 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 finish cooking.
Remove chicken from grill when the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 150°F.
5 Let the chicken breasts rest: Cover the breasts with foil to rest. The chicken will continue to cook in its residual heat while it rests. Let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into it.
Serve with grilled peppers, pineapple salsa, or just a squeeze of lime!
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