Easy Grilled Chicken Recipe
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
Grilling tips make this easy grilled chicken recipe the BEST. Make these flavorful, juicy chicken breasts for dinner tonight!
Everyone needs a great grilled chicken recipe in their repertoire. A recipe that’s easy to prepare and makes flavorful, juicy chicken breasts, every time. If you’ve had a problem with tough, dried out chicken in the past, I’m here to help with tips for making the best moist grilled chicken!
You’ll want to serve these grilled chicken breasts with all of your favorite side dishes, or try my potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni salad or fruit salad. It’s perfect for picnics and BBQs. You’ll also want to use this grilled chicken on a BBQ Chicken Salad, with pasta or in sandwiches. Make extra grilled chicken to save time with meal prep!
Boneless, skinless chicken breast is an excellent source of lean protein. So long as you watch your portion sizes (a recommended serving size for chicken is 3 ounces), grilled chicken breast can be a healthy addition to your meals. Fill the rest of your plate with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits and a serving of whole grains for a balanced meal.
My easy grilled chicken recipe uses pantry ingredients so you can make it any day of the week! When you don’t feel like using your grill, try my favorite juicy baked chicken breast recipe or my easy crispy baked chicken thighs recipe. They are both family favorites!
How to make the BEST grilled chicken:
Marinate the Chicken
Flavorful, juicy grilled chicken starts with a good marinade. This grilled chicken recipe uses a simplified version of my chicken marinade recipe with olive oil and lemon juice. The lemon juice adds bright, fresh flavor. You can add the zest of two lemons to your marinade for more lemon flavor. When you marinate chicken in lemon juice, you don’t want to marinate for more than 2 hours or the acid will start to make the chicken tough. I recommend marinating your chicken for at least 30 minutes and no more than 2 hours.
Olive oil is essential in a good marinade because it keeps the meat moist. The lemon juice is acidic, and without olive oil to balance the acid your chicken would turn out tough. You will also add garlic and seasonings to the marinade. You may season the chicken to your tastes by adding other herbs that you enjoy, fresh or dried, to your marinade. Or try some Dijon mustard for extra flavor. My honey Dijon grilled chicken recipe is another one of my favorites!
For food safety, be sure to always place chicken in the refrigerator while it marinates. Do not ever leave it sitting out at room temperature. You will also want to discard any leftover marinade after you remove the raw chicken.
I use a zip-top plastic bag set in a baking dish to hold my chicken and marinade. The dish will catch any spills, should your bag leak. You can flip the bag over halfway through the marinating time to evenly coat the chicken.
This bag holder is really handy for holding your zip-top bag while you fill it!
How to Pound Chicken Breast
Pounding your chicken is an essential step to making tender, evenly cooked chicken breasts. When you buy chicken breasts at the store, they are often thicker on one side and thinner on the other. You want to pound them to an even thickness so that they cook evenly. The pounding process also tenderizes the meat.
To pound your chicken, place it in a zip-top bag and seal the bag. Use a meat mallet, rolling pin, or any heavy, flat object to pound the chicken into an even 1/2-inch thickness. You can then add your marinade to the same zip-top bag with the chicken.
Tips for Grilling Chicken
You can cook your chicken on an outdoor gas or charcoal grill, or indoors on a grill pan. You want to start with clean, oiled grill grates for the best grill marks. Clean grill grates also minimize the amount of potentially harmful blackened bits on your food.
You want to grill over medium high heat (375-450 degrees F). Using moderate heat ensures that your chicken won’t burn or dry out. Start grilling your chicken over direct heat to get nice grill marks and browning and then move it to a low heat part of the grill to finish cooking. Using two heating zones keeps your chicken from burning on the outside or drying out while the inside cooks through.
Cover your grill while cooking to keep the heat even around your meat. An instant read thermometer is the best way to check if your chicken is done. Insert the thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the meat. You want your grilled chicken to reach a temperature of 165 degrees F.
Once your chicken is cooked through, let it rest on a clean plate for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Slicing it right away when it comes off the grill will cause all of the juices to run out, which is definitely not what you want.
Troubleshooting: Why Would your Chicken be Tough?
If your chicken gets tough or blackened on the outside by the time the inside is cooked through, it may have cooked over too high heat. Next time, try cooking your chicken more slowly over lower heat.
If your chicken is tough and dry all the way through, it is most likely overcooked. This can happen with very large chicken breasts if you do not pound them to a thin, even thickness. Aim for 1/2 to 3/4 inch thickness for grilling.
If you do end up with overcooked chicken, a simple sauce is an easy way to add moisture. Shred the meat and toss it with some barbecue sauce. Or add salsa and use the chicken in a salad or tacos.
More simple grilled chicken recipes:
Easy Grilled Chicken Recipe
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
- Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until well combined.
- Place the chicken breasts in a zip-top plastic bag and pound them using a meat mallet or rolling pin until they are an even thickness, about ½-inch thick.
- Pour the marinade into the bag with the chicken, seal the bag, and place it in a baking dish (in case of leaks). Turn the bag to coat all parts of the chicken. Place chicken in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Clean the grates of a gas or charcoal grill (or use an indoor grill pan). Oil the grill grates and heat the grill to medium high (375-450 degrees F).
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard extra marinade. Grill chicken for 5-8 minutes per side, until cooked through. The internal temperature of the chicken should reach 165 degrees F. For the best grill marks and juicy chicken, begin cooking the chicken on a hotter part of the grill for a few minutes and then move it to lower heat to finish cooking through.
- Let chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Serve chicken right away or refrigerate to use for lunches, salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches, etc. throughout the week. Cooked chicken can be stored for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
- Nutrition information is for chicken only since most of the marinade is discarded or cooked off during the grilling process.
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