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How to Grill Chicken

Perfect Grilled Chicken

Get recipe: Marinated Grilled Chicken

Properly cooking chicken on the grill is an essential summertime skill. Learn how to grill chicken with our basic rules for consistently scrumptious, juicy meat. With our tips, you’ll get to be the authority when everyone starts on the inevitable conversation about how to grill chicken correctly! Once you’ve mastered these basics, you can start to mix it up with recipes like our Marinated Grilled Chicken or Grilled Fresh Salsa Chicken. Grilled chicken is also a perennial favorite for barbecue-style recipes. Check out our recipes for Orange-BBQ Chicken with Grilled Vegetables and Cheesy Grilled BBQ Chicken Wraps for some great ideas next time you are cooking chicken on the grill.

Preparing Your Chicken

Cooking chicken on the grill properly starts with how you prepare your meat. Chicken breasts in particular are tricky to grill because of their uneven size. Consider using a kitchen mallet to flatten the meat to an even height, no less than three-fourths of an inch thick. Do not flatten other cuts of chicken or if you are grilling bone-in chicken.

Option One: Brining

Brining your chicken is a great option, because the brining process reshapes proteins in the meat so that it retains more moisture while cooking.

Option Two: Marinades

Marinades are also a popular choice to add flavor when cooking chicken on the grill. Salad dressing is a great go to marinade.

Option Three: Seasoning

If you’re looking for a simpler, quicker preparation technique, you can season to taste. Your seasoning choice can be as simple as a little salt and pepper or a more complex specialty rub. The choice is yours.

Chicken Preparation Notes

Different marinades and brine recipes call for different amounts of time to be effective, but generally you’ll need at least one hour of additional preparation time. Also, remember that if you plan on using a sugar-based sauce to baste your meat like BBQ sauce, you should do so in the last 10 minutes or so of grilling. High-sugar bastes will burn if exposed to heat for too long.

Proper Grill Maintenance for Cooking Chicken on the Grill

Chicken, especially skinless chicken, has a tendency to stick to grill grates. It’s important to clean your grate before you begin cooking chicken on the grill. This can be done with a barbecue brush or a balled up piece of foil. Use your brush or foil to remove any errant pieces of food that may have stuck to the grill grate the last time you used it. Then apply a layer of oil to the cooking surface. You can apply cooking oil with a paper towel or brush.

Grilling Your Meat

After learning how to grill chicken, you can finally get started on cooking. Follow these helpful steps.

Step One

Determine the proper heat level and timing to grill your chicken based on the chart below.

Cut of Meat Heat Level Time
Whole Chicken Indirect Medium Meat 90 to 120 minutes
Bone-In Breasts Direct Medium-High Heat 10 to 15 minutes per side
Boneless Breasts Direct High Heat 5 to 7 minutes per side
Legs or Thighs Direct Medium-High Heat 10 to 15 minutes per side
Drumsticks Direct Medium-High Heat 8 to 12 minutes per side
Wings Direct Medium-High Heat 8 to 12 minutes per side

Step Two

Place your chicken on the grill grate, and cook the meat with the grilled covered. This will trap heat inside the grill and cook your chicken more evenly.

Step Three

Flip your meat once based on the timing suggested above. Try to avoid the temptation of repeatedly flipping over your meat. This will actually increase cooking time. One flip is adequate.

Step Four

You can determine doneness with a meat thermometer. Your chicken will be done cooking at 165°F.


Once the chicken is done, remove it from the grill and let it stand on a platter or plate covered in loosely in foil for about 10 minutes. This allows the juices to more evenly distribute themselves in your chicken. After 10 minutes, serve and enjoy! Congratulations, you are now fully trained on the basics of how to grill chicken! Now that you’ve mastered cooking chicken on the grill you may want to check out some of our great grilled sides, like our Grilled Asparagus Salad. You can also substitute grilled chicken in a number of our Easy Chicken Recipes for Dinner! It’s great to nail the basics, but always follow the recipe to ensure the best outcome.