Part of Summer Central

How to Grill Chicken

Just 4 steps to perfectly juicy, grilled deliciousness!

Grilled chicken is a staple in our house. We cook outdoors for as much of the year as the weather allows, and though we adore our burgers and steaks, chicken is the meat that most often graces our grill. Chicken is easy to cook, but it’s also easy to undercook, over-season or over-cook to the point of dryness.
So I’m going to break down exactly how to grill chicken in just 4 steps. This method never fails! All your neighbors will drool from the delicious smells wafting across the yard, and after you host your first cookout with this chicken, they will all be begging you for the recipe. We are going to talk bone-in and boneless, sauce and no sauce, and of course my favorite way to start: the brine.

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My favorite way to start is with a simple brine. You can jump right in and toss fresh chicken on the grill, but starting with this completely basic brine will make a world of difference. It’s kind of unbelievable! I’d advise never ever skipping this step. To brine your chicken you will need a large stock pot, 1 gallon of fresh water (room temperature is fine), ¾ cup kosher salt½ cup sugar and ½ cup olive oil. Whisk it all together in your stock pot until the sugar and kosher salt have dissolved. Then add your chicken pieces.
If you are planning on cooking right away, you can just cover this pot of water and let the chicken soak at room temperature for 1 hour. If you are planning ahead, you can let the chicken brine in the refrigerator overnight. Just be sure to take it out an hour before cooking and go ahead with Step 2.



Drain the brine and pat the chicken pieces dry. Sprinkle the pieces all over with black pepper. You can also add your favorite chicken seasoning. has several that I love, including this Chicken Seasoning Recipe and this recipe for Blackening Spice Mix.


We cook over charcoal here, but gas grills are great, too! Whether you cook over charcoal or propane, you want to set up a hot side and a cool side of the grill. I pile the coals heavier on one side and scatter them more sparsely on the other side. Gas grills usually have variable heat on at least 2 sides. Close the lid to your grill and let the temperature reach at least 350°F. Then place the seasoned chicken on the hot grill grates skin-side down if your pieces are bone-in/skin-on. You also want to place the thickest part of the chicken over the hot side of the grill you set up.

Close the lid and wait:
 • 3 minutes for boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (thinly sliced)
 • 3 minutes for wings (drummettes or wingettes)
 • 4 minutes for boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thick cuts)
 • 5-6 minutes for drumsticks or thighs
 • 8 minutes for breasts on the bone

Then turn the pieces, close the lid again and let cook again using the times provided above.


Since chicken pieces are not uniform, you want to rely on the internal cook temperature to check for doneness. Insert your thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, taking care not to touch the bone. 160°F - 165°F is optimum for perfectly done, juicy chicken. If you don’t have a thermometer you can pierce the meat at the thickest part to see that the juices run clear. Just be aware that with chicken, a thermometer is always best!
If you like to sauce your chicken, brush your favorite BBQ sauce on when the chicken is at about 150°F. Close the lid and wait until the chicken has reached 160°F before serving.

Want more? Watch this video for more chicken grilling tips and tricks. 

About Heather T.

Heather, who runs, has been making messes in the kitchen since she was a little kid when her mom handed her a cook book and told her, “If you can read, you can cook.” Today she serves up fresh, healthy eats, easy weeknight meals and decadent sweet treats.