Easy Grilled Chicken Breast marinated in lemon juice, garlic, and fresh herbs comes out perfectly cooked every time. Great for dinner and makes amazing leftovers.
Grilled chicken in a lemon herb marinade that's easy to make and will come out juicy and delicious every time. Serve it with some grilled green beans, grilled onions, or grilled Brussels sprouts for a delicious warm weather meal.
One of the most popular summer dishes is grilled chicken but it is surprising how often I hear that people don't feel confident in their ability to grill juicy, delicious, tasty chicken. Today I am serving about the ultimate guide to grilling perfect chicken breasts every time. No more dry chicken, no more flavorless chicken, this is chicken you will want to eat again and again.
During grilling months, chicken is something I make almost every week, usually by the double or triple batch. Not only is it a meal that my entire family loves, but it also makes the best leftovers. Use it for salads, tacos, quesadillas, chicken salad, and more. It's versatile, healthy, and a crowd pleaser.
Steps to Perfectly Grilled Chicken
- One of the most important steps to make perfect grilled chicken is to cut or pound the chicken into uniform thickness. Larger, thicker chicken breasts do not cook evenly leaving you with the thicker end raw and the thinner end overcooked. Always start by butterflying the chicken breasts or pounding the thicker end to create a more uniform thickness.
- Always marinate the chicken in something that helps to make it more tender. This could be any type of vinegar, citrus juices, yogurt, or another acid. This is another secret to juicy grilled chicken. Combine the acid with a fat, like olive oil, and flavor agents like garlic, fresh herbs, and spices. One important note, don't overdo it on the acid or you will change the texture of the chicken. A little goes a long way.
- Prepare the grill for the chicken. While the grill is cold, spray it with some cooking spray (grill friendly) or lightly oil the grates. To oil the grates, just dip a paper towel in oil and then rub it alone the grill grates. This ensures the chicken won't stick to the grill. You can also spray the chicken with cooking spray or brush with oil.
- Heat the grill to medium high heat. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for 3-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken. If you have cut the chicken breasts in half and pounded them thin (like a cutlet, they will cook in just 2-3 minutes per side. For thicker breasts, they may take 7-8 minutes per side.
- Do not flip the chicken breasts until it naturally releases from the grill. This lets you know it is ready to be flipped in most cases. If the chicken is sticking to the grill, give it another 30 seconds.
- Always let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving for the juices to redistribute. This is key to having a juicy chicken breast.
Easy Chicken Marinade
Plain chicken can be boring so you will want to add some flavor to the chicken breasts before grilling. In the recipe below, I included one of my favorite lemon and herb marinades. However, you can build your own using all different ingredients. Here's a basic formula.
- Fat: To help distribute the flavor and coat the chicken, you will want to use some kind of oil in the marinade. Normally this is olive oil but you can use coconut oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, anything goes. If you are trying to cut back on calories, you don't need to use that much oil in your marinades. You can also use yogurt instead for the base and just add a touch of oil for flavor.
- Acid: Then add some acid like citrus juices, vinegar, yogurt, wine, or beer. You can use just one acid or combine them. For example, you might use lemon juice and white wine vinegar or orange juice and rice vinegar.
- Flavor: Then add flavor using fresh or dried herbs, spices, citrus zest, garlic, onions, shallots, almost anything really. This could also include things like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or miso.
- Sweetness: Although it's not necessary, some people like to add honey or sugar to their marinade to help the chicken brown and caramelize. It also adds flavor.
How long to cook chicken breasts on the grill?
The exact cooking time for grilling chicken depends on the thickness of the chicken breast. Always cook the chicken to 165 degrees to ensure it is fully cooked and safe to eat. Some people take the chicken off a few degrees below that, around 160 degrees, since the chicken continues to cook as it rests.
As a general rule of thumb, thinner chicken breasts and cutlets will cook in about 3-4 minutes per side. Larger breasts will take more like 7-8 minutes per side. Always use a thermometer to check that the chicken is cooked in the thickest part.
Recipe Tips and Ideas
- Switch up the flavors of the marinade by using lime juice instead of lemon juice. Use cilantro as your fresh herbs and add some sliced jalapenos or red pepper flakes to add a little spice.
- Add a touch of brown sugar or honey to the marinade to add some sweetness to the mix
- If you aren't a fan of fresh herbs, leave them out. Then sprinkle some grill seasoning or spice rub on the chicken before tossing it on the grill.
- Make this recipe with chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts.
- Add some vinegar to your marinade. This is delicious with balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar.
What to Serve with Grilled Chicken
To keep things simple, consider serving your grilled chicken breasts with other items you can make on the grill or sides that don't require any cooking at all. Here are some favorites:
- Make some easy grilled vegetables on the side. This recipe can be made with any combination of vegetables you like or have on hand.
- Make a refreshing salad on the side like this Cucumber, Tomato, and Avocado Salad with fresh cilantro and lime juice.
- Round out the meal with some Grilled Corn on the Cob and then serve a simple salad or watermelon on the side.
- Turn the chicken into tacos with some warm corn tortillas, salsa, sliced avocado, and shredded cheese.
- Turn this into a delicious grilled chicken sandwich with a thin layer of barbecue sauce, red onions, lettuce, tomato, and a whole wheat roll.
More Grilling Recipes
Easy Grilled Chicken Breast
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- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce (or low sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1/3 cup fresh herbs (parsley, basil, cilantro, oregano, chives, etc.)
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Prepare the chicken by slicing large breasts in half horizontally and/or pounding them out so that they are uniform in thickness. Then add the chicken to a dish or ziploc bag. Pour in the marinade,. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, ideally no more than 4 hours so the lemon doesn't break down the chicken.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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