When we first got a grill for our wedding seven years ago, I refused to cook chicken on it. I wasn’t very good at cooking (I’m still not very good, honestly) and I know that the risks of getting someone sick by serving them raw chicken are probably higher than with any other type of food. So taking those things into account, I stuck mainly to burgers, hot dogs and brats for years.
We don’t eat much in the way of steaks, but I have cooked steak and pork chops and things like that on the grill as well. But even with those foods I tend to overcook them for fear of serving someone something under-cooked that’s going to make them sick. And needless to say, not many people like overcooked chicken.
And I know I’m not the only one that has a hard time cooking chicken. I remember a trip a bunch of my friends took up to Wisconsin, which we used to do every year. We stayed in a friend’s family’s lake house, which gave us access to a grill to use. And rather than drive into town every night to eat, we would often just fire up the grill to make hot dogs, burgers, and one time… chicken.
There were always a couple friends that were tasked with cooking the food, mainly because nobody else wanted to do it, so I definitely can’t fault them for anything that might not have been cooked properly, since nobody else wanted to do it. But there was one night when we decided we were going to make chicken instead of the normal burgers and dogs, and for whatever reason, some of the chicken was served under-cooked and pink in the middle.
Now, it didn’t seem like all of the pieces of chicken were like this, and thankfully nobody got really sick as far as I can recall, but it just goes to show that cooking chicken can definitely be tricky. I’m guessing the difference in done-ness between the chicken pieces was due to the fact that some of the chicken was probably thicker than others, and maybe part of the grill was hotter than another part.
But whatever the issue was, there were definitely some pieces of that chicken that should not have been eaten, and that’s part of the reason why I’ve been so afraid to cook chicken all these years. Our friend that was cooking that not is completely competent in his ability to cook food, and knowing that even he had a hard time cooking the chicken, just turned me off to the idea of trying to do it.
Now, I don’t want to scare you guys away from trying to cook chicken… looking at it now that I’ve had some more experience with it, it’s not that hard to do if you take a few minutes and do it right. So let’s take a look at a few steps you can take in order to ensure that your chicken comes out delicious every time…
Ok, I have to put a bit of a disclaimer here. Everyone’s grills are different, every piece of chicken is different, and cooking times may vary slightly, so you may have to play around with the timing a little bit depending on your grill. Grills do tend to have spots that are hotter than others, but I’ve included a step below that will help you ensure the chicken is cooked thoroughly before you serve it to anyone, regardless of your grill.
So let’s get to it!
How to Grill Chicken
Prepare Your Kitchen
Here’s a list of items that you’ll need in order to prepare the chicken before it’s being cooked. For this recipe we’ll be using prepackaged boneless, skinless chicken breasts that you pick up from the grocery store. If you’re using thighs, drumsticks, or wings, your cooking times may be slightly different, so keep that in mind.
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
- Cutting Board
- Sharp Knife
- 2 Plates (one for raw chicken, one for cooked chicken)
- Salt & Pepper
- Cooking Spray (PAM or other)
- Meat Thermometer
As I mentioned above, I’m very cautious when it comes to touching things to raw chicken and then to cooked food, which is why I have some of these items on the list. I’ll explain everything in the next steps though.
Prepare Your Chicken
Now that you’ve got your kitchen area all setup, we’re going to prepare the chicken to be grilled. Lots of people have different ways that they like to prepare their chicken, but for the sake of this recipe/example, I’m only going to be using salt & pepper for seasoning, but feel free to marinate or season your chicken however you like.
- Take one of the chicken breasts and place it on your cutting board. (Chicken should be thawed all the way through if it was frozen)
- With your sharp knife, butterfly the chicken breast (cut it in half from the side, through the middle). This should leave you with two, thinner parts of a single breast. If you want to wrap one of those pieces in saran wrap and flatten it a bit more with a tenderizer, feel free, but that’s not something I tend to do.
- Take both cuts of the chicken breast and season with salt and pepper on both sides and place on to your plate.
- Continue to butterfly and season the rest of the chicken breasts that you will be cooking.
- Take the raw chicken on a plate, your fork and your cooking spray out to the grill.
Cooking the Chicken
Once you have all of your chicken breasts nicely butterflied and seasoned, it’s time to fire up the grill and start cooking. In this recipe/example, I am basing this off of a propane gas grill, not charcoal.
- Light the grill, close the top, and pre-heat it to around 450-degrees.
- Clean off the grill, ensuring that you don’t leave any little metal bits from your grill scraper on the cooking surface (those can be dangerous if swallowed).
- Using your cooking spray, spray down the surface of the grill where you will be placing the chicken (be careful of flair ups, they will happen when you spray).
- Using your fork, pick up a piece of chicken and place it on the grill with the fork mark side down. Repeat this step until all pieces of chicken are on the grill.
- Close the top and set the heat to medium-high heat. I like to have the temperature hover right about 425-450 degrees when the top is down.
- Set a timer for 6 minutes and walk away. Do not open the grill at all during this time.
- You can adjust the temperature as needed to keep the temperature between 425-450.
- After 6 minutes, open the grill and use your fork on the top of the pieces of chicken and flip them over.
- Close the grill and set another timer for 6 minutes and walk away. NOTE: If you have thinner pieces of chicken, they may not need the full 6 minutes, please use your discretion.
- You can now take your fork and your raw chicken plate back in the house and rinse them off, we will no longer need them.
- After the 2nd 6 minutes is up, take your meat thermometer and check the chicken to ensure that the internal temperature is at 165 degrees. As mentioned above, if you have thinner pieces of chicken they may not need the full 6 minutes, but I’ve found that this timing works perfectly for me.
- Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it using your tongs (or a clean fork if you really want to), and place it on a new plate, and serve.
I have found that about 90% of the time that 6 minutes per side tends to get me right to an internal temperature of 165 degrees when cooking the chicken, but it’s always important to be sure, which is why I highly recommend using a meat thermometer to measure the temperature.
If you’re looking for recommendations on which meat thermometer to use, since I’m a technology guy, I absolutely recommend a bluetooth enabled digital thermometer. I have a Weber iGrill that I use pretty much every time I use the grill, but there are definitely other options out there that are just straight up digital and don’t require bluetooth or your phone. The nice thing about the iGrill that integrates with the phone is that you never have to look up what temperature a certain food is supposed to be cooked at, since the app has all of that information built in. You can even leave the thermometer in your food and walk away and the app will notify you when you’re within 10 degrees of your desired temperature. It’s actually a pretty cool little device that I never thought I needed until I got one.
- Single probe capacity (one meat probe included)
- Meat probes are heat resistant up to 716˚F
And that’s it!
A quick rundown on how to grill chicken to ensure that it’s cooked perfectly every time and you don’t have to worry about getting anyone sick. I’ve been trying to eat a little bit healthier these days so I’ve been doing some lunch meal planning on Sundays and cooking up a bunch of chicken breasts to eat for lunch during the week instead of eating microwaved meals, deli lunch meat sandwiches, or fast food, and I’ve really started to get the hang of this. But if you have any other tips for grilling chicken, or see a flaw in my logic here, please let me know in the comments.
Like I said, I’m not a chef, I don’t think I’m great at cooking, so everything you read on this site is strictly from my experience, and I know I’m probably doing some things wrong, so please feel free to let me know.[sorry for the stock image for now, I’ll get a real image up soon]