Project Guide

How to Grill Chicken

Select the Chicken
Various chicken parts on a countertop.

When learning how to grill chicken breasts or other parts of a chicken, keep these fundamental things in mind.

  • Grilling chicken on the bone will have more flavor than boneless pieces.
  • A cut-up whole chicken provides a mixture of dark and white meat, which allows people to choose their preference. The downside is that pieces of various sizes require different cooking times, so you’ll need to pay careful attention while grilling.
  • Boneless and skinless chicken parts have the tendency to dry out more quickly than those with bones and skin left intact. 
Prep the Chicken
A person seasoning a piece of chicken.
  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking so that it comes up to room temperature.
  • To reduce flare-ups, excess skin should be trimmed before putting the chicken on the grill.
  • Use a paper towel to pat the pieces dry before seasoning or grilling chicken.
  • Season the pieces before placing chicken on the grill. 

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the grill are a popular choice, but they can dry out easily. Before grilling chicken breasts, Use a marinade of your choice or a basic brine can help keep them moist and juicy.

  • For a basic brine, combine 1/4-cup salt and 4-cups water in a gallon size plastic bag. Let the chicken soak for 30 to 60 minutes inside the refrigerator. Then remove, pat dry, season and allow them to reach room temperature.
Prep the Grill
A person pours hot coals into one side of a kettle grill.

Use two cooking zones when grilling chicken – one side of the grill for direct heat and the other for indirect heat.

  • Before putting chicken on the grill, clean the grates.
  • Preheat a gas grill to medium-high or start the charcoal for charcoal grills 10 to 15 minutes before you begin cooking. If using a grill thermometer, aim for a temperature around 425 degrees.
  • When the coals are ready, use a long-handled spatula or tongs to spread them evenly over half of the lower grate. Place the clean upper grate on top and allow it to heat up.
  • If using a gas grill, turn off the burners on one side of the grill.
  • Brush grill grates with cooking oil before placing any food on it.

Note: Refer to manufacturer’s instructions for how to grill chicken if using wood pellet grills.

Cook the Chicken
Pieces of chicken cooking on a hot grill.
  • Using grill tongs, pick up the largest dark-meat pieces, arrange the chicken pieces directly over the hot coals.
  • Sear the pieces for two to three minutes on each side until the skin is golden brown. For leg pieces, rotate a quarter turn every 90 seconds.
  • Keep your eye on the chicken. If the grill is too hot, the skin will burn before the piece is cooked through. Also, rearrange pieces while cooking if there are hot spots on the grill.
  • When browned on both sides, move the pieces to the other side of the grill to continue cooking with indirect heat.
  • Arrange the white meat farther away from the hot coals, with the dark-meat pieces closer to the direct heat.
  • Cover the grill so it acts as an oven.
  • After 12 to 15 minutes, turn the pieces over. Cover and cook another 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Check the internal temperature using grill thermometer. The breasts should cook the fastest.
  • When the temperature reaches about 150 degrees, use a basting brush and add sauce, if desired.
  • Finish grilling chicken over direct heat until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Tip: How long to grill a chicken depends on the size of the bird. On average a 3- to 4-pound whole chicken will take about 90 minutes.

Let the Chicken Rest
A sliced piece of cooked chicken on a cutting board.

When the chicken reaches the target temperature, transfer the pieces to a clean plate. Loosely cover the with aluminum foil and let the chicken rest for about five minutes to allow juices to settle in before cutting. While resting, the temperature will rise another five degrees.

Tip: USDA guidelines for how to grill chicken recommend a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Grilling moist, juicy chicken using your charcoal or gas grill is as simple as following a few easy steps and using the right grilling tools. Get everything you need, from the grill to the tongs. We have options to deliver online orders when and where you need them.