5 Tips for Better Grilled Chicken Breasts
Posted on October 7, 2014
I figured I better write this before the poultry boycott at my house fully propagates throughout the family. You see, I have overdone in. At least 3 in every 5 meals in this house features boneless skinless chicken breasts as the main feature. As a result, my 9 year old son has proclaimed that he is done with this particular protein. As for his impressionable 5 year old little brother, well, he can’t be far behind. So with that timeline in mind, I present this man’s top 5 tips for better grilled chicken breasts.
Tip #1 – Trim the fat
First things first, there is usually some pretty nasty fat hanging off of those chicken breasts and maybe some skin remnants. No one wants a bite of chicken fat, so trim those bits off like shown in this photo.
Tip #2 – Pound them down to size
This is the key step. All chicken breasts have an uneven thickness. If we don’t even things out, that thin side is going to overcook before the thick side cooks through. Cover the chicken breast with a sheet of parchment paper or an empty zip lock bag and pound the thick side down with a meat mallet or the bottom of a small sauce pot. The goal here is to create a more uniform thickness of about an inch thick throughout the breast so that it cooks evenly.
Tip #3 – Brush with Oil before seasoning
Now that we have a more uniform thickness to our trimmed chicken breasts, it is time to season. Before we season though, we want to brush both sides with some olive oil. The oil does two things for us. First of all, it will help prevent sticking to the grill. Secondly, the oil helps caramelize the outside of the chicken breast and the rub ingredients to create some great color and taste. Once both sides are all oiled up, season them with some Kosher salt, fresh black pepper or a nice rub of your choice.
Tip #4 – Grill visually and flip only once
Now we are ready to light a fire under this chicken! The two most common mistakes at this step are cooking the chicken breasts too long (over a temp that is too low) and flipping the breasts too often. One problem creates an overcooked, rubbery mess and the other ensures that parts of your chicken breast will stay adhered to the grill grates until your next cleaning. For temperature, preheat the grill to medium high with the lid closed for 15 minutes. Then grill with the lid open over the hottest part of the grill and DON’T TOUCH the breasts. If you try to flip too early, the meat is going to stick to the grill. Watch the breasts and they will turn more opaque as the cook through. When they are almost all the way opaque like this, it is time to flip:
Tip #5 – Use a thermometer
Once you flip the breasts over, now it is time to make sure they are cooked to the correct temperature. This is where a good instant read meat thermometer comes in to play. Most people are grilling several chicken breasts at the same time and each of those are going to hit the target temperature (160 degrees) at different times. Don’t risk under or over cooking, use a thermometer and remove them when the thickest part of the breast hits 160 degrees.