Perfect Grilled Chicken Breasts
It’s easy to turn out moist and tender boneless chicken breasts from your grill as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The secret is to pound them to an even thickness, give them a quick soak in a simple salt and sugar brine, then just before grilling, brush them with a little seasoned olive oil.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1-1/2 lbs)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the brine:
- 4 cups water, divided
- 4 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Make the brine by combining 2 cups of water with the salt and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until all the salt and sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat and stir in 2 cups of ice water. Refrigerate until completely cooled (see notes).
- If your chicken breasts have tenderloins attached, remove them and reserve for another use.
- One at a time, place the breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound them to an even thickness of about 5/8-inch. Depending on the breasts, you may only need to focus on the thicker portions when pounding. Be careful not to make them too thin.
- Submerge the chicken in the cooled brine, weighing them down with a plate to keep them submerged if necessary. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes, no longer than 1-1/2 hours (we've found 45 minutes to be ideal).
- While the chicken brines, preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat (about 400 to 425°F).
- Remove the chicken from the brine, pat each piece dry with paper towels and transfer to a plate.
- Combine the olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and a few grinds of black pepper in a small bowl. The brine provides all of the salt you need, so don't add any extra. Brush the chicken breasts lightly on both sides with the olive oil mixture.
- Oil the grill grates and add the chicken. Cover and grill for 3 minutes on the first side, then turn and grill until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes additional.
- Total cooking time will depend on the heat of your grill and the overall thickness of the chicken. If your grill temperature is on target these boneless, brined breasts should cook through in 5 to 7 minutes. Note that they may not develop well-defined grill marks in that amount of time, but they'll still have a nice grilled flavor.
- Transfer the chicken to a clean platter, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
During grilling season, we like to make a double batch of the hot portion of the brine, then store half (2 cups) in the refrigerator to use for another meal. Making the brine ahead will save time because it's already cooled and all you'll need to do is add the extra water.
The brine mixture will keep for 2 to 3 weeks and you can use it for pork as well as chicken. Check out our recipe for Juicy Grilled Pork Chops to learn more.