Great tender and moist grill chicken breasts start with a garlic buttermilk brine that adds great taste and acts as a brine tenderizing the chicken. Then grill for some great char, and you have a wonderful change of pace.
This is one of those "nice" recipes for a change of pace. It is a bit bland, but that is good sometimes. Please enjoy a change of pace.
I have done buttermilk brine (or marinade?) chicken before, and it seems to always be something special but always for oven or fried. When Chris over at Nibble Me This did a buttermilk grilled chicken, it looked great, but today I just didn't want spicy. Use call me demographically impaired today.
So today I'm using Martha Stewart's Buttermilk Grilled Chicken Breasts as the inspiration recipe. I always like simple, and you can't get much simpler than this. Soak in buttermilk for hours, add salt and pepper. Grill. Now that is simple.
A mid-4. Great tenderness and has the expected blander taste.
This is a skinless boneless chicken breast recipe. I don't mean it for other types of chicken.
When you pick out your chicken, try to get about the same size and thickness. If you have those very thick breasts, flatten out the breast a bit with a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy pan. Try for about ¾ inch thick.
If the chicken was frozen, it must be thawed before proceeding.
Trim off any trimmable fat and check for bone chips. We no longer recommend rinsing chicken, just a good pat dry. See Chicken... To Rinse or Not To Rinse?
I'm not sure whether to call this a marinade or a brine. It serves both functions. Buttermilk has a nice distinctive flavor, but due to the acidic pH, it will also break down proteins in the chicken.
I'm only adding some garlic powder for taste in the marinade. You could add some rosemary or thyme if you want.
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. I suggest a grill surface temperature of about 450°. A little less is fine, and a smidge more is ok but never over 500°.
To get this right, you should use a grill surface thermometer. The hood thermometer is ALWAYS wrong.
If you don't have a surface thermometer (you should), then medium will be about 400°-450° on most gas grills. The cooking time will be different, but as long as you get the end-point of 165° correct with an instant-read thermometer, you will do ok.
Please see A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill for more discussion.
Can I do this on a charcoal grill? Yes, but you need to be very careful about surface temperature. And, of course, times will vary.
🌡️⏲️Temperature and Timing
Most chicken breasts will take 20-25 minutes on a grill with a surface temperature of 450°. Smaller breasts may be a bit less, and larger may be a bit longer. Remember to never cook by time alone.
A chicken breast is done at 165° internal temperature in the thickest part of the breast. More will dry, and less is unsafe. An instant-read thermometer is required to get this right.
The chicken should rest off of the heat for about 5 minutes before serving. If longer, tent lightly with foil to keep warm.
I did update the cooking method to my current (2018) technique. Get a nice steady surface temperature and flip every 5 minutes until an internal temperature of 165°. Do not overcook and never cook chicken above 500° unless you love eating hockey pucks.
📖Other Chicken Marinades
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Trim chicken breasts. Sometimes I will score the surface to increase brine penetration.
Place chicken in 1-gallon zip lock in a large bowl. Cover with about 1 cup of buttermilk per breast. You want to cover the chicken completely. Then, add ¼ teaspoon garlic powder per cup of buttermilk. Mix everything well then refrigerate for 1-12 hours.
When ready to grill, remove from the bag but do not rinse off the buttermilk—salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat grill on to a grill surface temperature of about 450° medium-high on most grills. Clean and oil grates.
Grill over direct heat with lid closed. Flip about every 5 minutes until an internal temp of 165°. Usually, about 25-30 minutes, depending on the exact grill temperature and thickness of the chicken. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Breasts on a Gas Grill
- 2-4 skinless boneless chicken breasts - Trimmed
- lowfat buttermilk - to cover
- salt and pepper - to taste
- granular garlic powder - ½ teaspoon per cup of buttermilk
- Trim chicken breasts. Sometimes I will score the surface to increase brine penetration.
- Place chicken in a 1-gallon zip lock in a large bowl. Cover with about 1 cup of buttermilk per breast. You want to cover the chicken completely. Then, add ¼ teaspoon garlic powder per cup of buttermilk. Mix everything well then refrigerate for 1-12 hours.
- When ready to grill, remove from the bag but do not rinse off the buttermilk. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Preheat grill on to a grill surface temperature of about 450° medium-high on most grills. Clean and oil grates.
- Grill over direct heat with lid closed. Flip about every 5 minutes until an internal temp of 165°. Usually, about 25-30 minutes, depending on the exact grill temperature and thickness of the chicken.
- Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
My Private Notes
- Try to pick chicken breasts that are about the same size and thickness.
- If the thickness varies a lot, then using a meat mallet or heavy pan to get to about ¾ inch thick.
- I recommend real buttermilk here. You can use a substitute but there is some extra taste with the real stuff.
- Add some rosemary or thyme to the marinade if you want.
- Do not brine with salt before doing the buttermilk marinade/brine.
- Only salt lightly.
- Grill surface temperature is critical to getting this right. So use a grill surface thermometer. Also, use a meat thermometer to be sure the internal temperature is 165°.
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 May 31, 2010. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos and a table of contents to help navigation.
Special dog note: This is added with the last update. Blog money has always been "play money" for us. In late 2013 we lost our much loved golden retriever Jake. Well, that same month, my new ad company, Martha Stewart Circle, provided a huge boost in play money income. So Martha provided the money to pay for two English golden retriever puppies. So now we always say Martha Stewart bought us dogs. Thanks, Martha.