Learn how easy it is to grill the best juicy chicken on your backyard gas grill. We will cover it all in this easy grilled chicken breast recipe—from the preparation of the chicken, seasoning, grill temperature, how long to grill, and final internal temperature,
Chicken is the most popular meat in America, and the breast is the most popular cut. But, a grilled chicken breast is something that has most grill owners struggling. Mostly they get hockey pucks due to the wrong temperature or wrong timing.
Let's fix that—it is not hard, and no magic is involved. Learn the basics, then expand from there for your variations. The best-grilled chicken breast will be yours. You can never have too many great healthy chicken recipes.
A solid 5 for this technique.
🐓How to Prepare Chicken Breasts for the Grill
What chicken to use?
Skinless boneless chicken breasts are the choice for this recipe. Due to the fat and different temperature needs, Chicken thighs require a different technique—see Grilled Chicken Thighs.
Try to get breasts about the same size if possible—about 10 to 12 ounces is a good goal, but 8 oz. would be better. Bigger is just harder to cook, and the serving size is large.
If the breasts are thicker than ¾ inches, you should flatten them with a meat mallet or heavy pan. With grilling, the thickness of the meat will determine the cooking time more than weight.
If the chicken is frozen, it must be totally thawed before proceeding. I also suggest brining it if previously frozen since they tend to be dryer.
How to flatten thick chicken breasts.
If your chicken breasts are different in thickness or over ¾ inches thick, they need to be flattened.
Protect yourself and the surrounding area from splatter by placing the breast in plastic wrap or one-gallon freezer bags. Then use a meat mallet or bottom of a heavy pan on a large cutting board.
Brining chicken breasts
You can still get good results without a brine, but you will be consistently better with a brine. Also, if the breasts have been frozen, they lose some moisture, and brine will help that.
To brine chicken breast, use 2 cups of water with a tablespoon of table salt. You can add other flavors like garlic or sugar, but this discussion is about the basics. I like to use a zip-top bag, but you can use a bowl as long as the chicken is covered.
With this brine, you can get reasonably good results in 20 minutes. You can brine for up to 1 hour. More than that leaves too much salty taste to me.
After brining, you should carefully rinse the salt off the surface. Try not to splatter and lean up with an anti-bacterial cleaner in the sink area for food safety. See Chicken… To Rinse or Not To Rinse? for more food safety discussion.
Never use seasoning with salt if you have brined.
Seasoning grilled chicken breasts
The suggested seasoning that you can adjust to your needs is paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper. You can also use any combination of seasonings and herbs you love.
You can add dried spices or fresh herbs to the brine if you brine. But fresh herbs will tend to burn during grilling. Most commercial seasonings are heavy in salt and, if used with a brined meat, will be too salty for most tastes.
You can also use this technique for barbecued and marinated chicken breasts.
- How to BBQ Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast on a Gas Grill
- Lemon Marinade for Chicken
- Easy Chicken Marinade
♨️How to Grill Chicken Breasts
Getting moist and tender chicken breast on the grill is dependent on using the correct temperature on the grill and reaching the end point correctly.
A grill surface temperature of about 450° is best for grilled chicken. A little less is fine, and a smidge more is OK but never over 500°. You can NOT cook chicken properly on high heat. You will dry the outside long before the inside is even close to done or safe.
To get the grill temperature correct, you should use a grill surface thermometer. The hood thermometer is ALWAYS wrong. Please see A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill for more discussion.
If you don't have a surface thermometer (you should), medium to medium-high heat will be about 400°-500° on most gas grills. The cooking time will be different, but as long as you get the end-point of an internal temp of 165° correct with an instant-read thermometer, you will do ok.
⏰How Long to Grill Chicken Breasts
Generally, about 20 minutes of the grill temperature is correct. Smaller breasts may be a bit less, and larger may be a bit longer. Remember to never cook by time alone—cook to the final safe internal temperature of 165°.
You can cook faster if you use a higher temperature, but your chicken will have an overcooked surface and be less tender and drier.
The exact time will vary by the grill and the thickness and starting temperature of the meat. The chicken should rest off the heat for about 5 minutes before serving. If longer, tent lightly with foil to keep warm.
When is chicken done and safe to eat?
According to the FDA, chicken is done at 165° internal temperature in the thickest part. A higher temperature will dry, and a lower temperature is unsafe. An instant-read thermometer is required to get this right.
FAQs about Grilled Chicken Breasts
Yes, but you need to be very careful about surface temperature. And, of course, times will vary. On most charcoal grills, you will need to adjust the venting.
Yes. Grill chicken breasts are about 280 calories each with 8 grams of fat and 1 gram of carbohydrates. So they will fit nicely in almost every diet like low caloric, low fat, and even low-carb or keto diets.
Sodium will depend on your preparation and seasoning choices.
Not still frozen chicken by this method. The outside will be damaged before the inside reaches a safe internal temperature.
So thaw frozen breasts before cooking and consider brining since freezing tends to dry the meat.
1) Cook chicken breasts of about the same size and thickness. If thicker than ¾ inch the thin out the breast.
2) Get the grill temperature correct.
3) Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°. Less is not safe, and higher will dry the meat.
📖Grilled Chicken Breast Recipes
Grilled Chicken Tenders For the Kids
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Trim chicken breasts.
If the breasts are thick, use a meat mallet and flatten the thickest part of the breasts to ¾ inch.
If brining, combine 2 cups cold water with 1 tablespoon table salt. Submerge the chicken in the brine for up to 1 hour. As little as 20 minutes will help moisture a lot. Be sure to carefully rinse off the salt when done brining.
Clean and oil the grill grates. Preheat to a surface temperature of 450°.
Use the seasoning of your choice. I suggest ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. If not brining, add ½ teaspoon kosher salt. If you use a different seasoning, be sure not to add more salt if you have brined.
Pat dry the breasts, then brush with a light vegetable or olive oil coat.
Sprinkle all sides with a light coat of seasoning.
Place over direct heat with closed lid. Flip every 5 minutes until an internal temperature of 165°. About 20 minutes most of the time, but remember you are cooking to final internal temperature and not by time, so check the temperature a few times early.
Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving.
How to Grill Chicken Breasts - A Tutorial
- 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts - .8-12 oz each.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil - or other vegetable
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon granular garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Trim chicken breasts.
- If the breasts are thick, use a meat mallet and flatten the thickest part of the breasts to ¾ inch.
- If brining, combine 2 cups cold water with 1 tablespoon table salt. Submerge the chicken in the brine for up to 1 hour. As little as 20 minutes will help moisture a lot. Be sure to carefully rinse off the salt when done brining.
- Clean and oil the grill grates. Preheat to a surface temperature of 450°.
- Use the seasoning of your choice. I suggest ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. If not brining, add ½ teaspoon kosher salt. If you use a different seasoning, be sure not to add more salt if you have brined.
- Pat dry the breasts then brush with a light coat of vegetable or olive oil.
- Sprinkle all sides with a light coat of seasoning.
- Place over direct heat with closed lid. Flip every 5 minutes until an internal temperature of 165°. About 20 minutes most of the time, but remember you are cooking to final internal temperature and not by time, so check the temperature a few times early.
- Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving.
My Private Notes
- It is impossible to get good results without a good instant-read thermometer. Extra points for a grill surface thermometer.
- Use fully thawed chicken breasts if frozen.
- The breasts should be about the same size if possible. Flatten to ¾ inch thick if needed.
- Brine if you have time. Be sure to have the breasts completely covered by the brine.
- Use seasoning of your choice but not with salt if you brine.
- BBQ sauce is ok, but I suggest seeing the referenced BBQ recipe in the post.
- Cook over direct heat with a grill surface temperature of about 450° and hood closed.
- Cook to 165°. Not higher (it will dry) or lower (not safe.)
- Rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Smaller breasts may cook faster.
- Obviously, an easy recipe to adjust the number of servings.
- Good refrigerated for up to 3 days. Good frozen for 3-4 months but slice, shred, or dice before freezing is suggested.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor's note: Originally published June 7, 2019. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.