This Is How Long to Grill Chicken

updated May 19, 2020
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Grilling chicken, whether you’re trying thighs or a whole bird, requires a little confidence. You want meat that is properly cooked without being dry — and you don’t want to have to cut open every piece to be sure. Luckily time, temperature, and a reliable thermometer will give you chicken from the grill that is stress-free and delicious.

Detailed recipes aside (we’ve got a few, if you need one), knowing the right timing for grilling chicken means you’ll be empowered to riff with whatever chicken pieces and marinade you have. This is how long you need to grill chicken — and what you’ll need to know to get it grilled right.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Best Temperature for Grilled Chicken

Most grilled chicken recipes call for a combination of direct and indirect heat. Direct heat creates grill marks and delicious crispness on chicken skin, while indirect heat cooks the chicken all the way through to the bone. No matter the recipe, all grilled chicken should be cooked to 160°F before being removed from the grill; some carry-over cooking will take it to the recommended 165°F. Use a digital probe thermometer to check the chicken’s internal temperature in the thickest part of the piece — a thermometer is your very best bet for guaranteeing your chicken is juicy.

Here’s How Long to Grill Chicken Breasts

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a blank canvas for grilling. You can marinate, sauce, and season them for everything from meal prep to dinner sandwiches. They’re also relatively fast-cooking for chicken. Grill whole breasts over direct heat for 5 to 6 minutes for grill marks and then move them to indirect heat to finish cooking for 15 minutes.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Here’s How Long to Grill Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks

Thighs and drumsticks pack a ton of flavor in their petite size. Grilled with their skin on and bone in, thighs and drumsticks are a little bit harder to cook on the grill. You’ll want to keep an eye on them while fat cooks out and be sure to avoid the bone when getting a temperature read. Cook chicken thighs and drumsticks for 20 to 30 minutes over indirect heat. Then move them to direct heat to crisp their skin for 5 to 6 minutes.

Credit: Olive & Mango

Here’s How Long to Grill a Whole Chicken

Whole grilled chicken is quite ambitious! But both beer-can chickens and spatchcocked chickens cook efficiently on the grill (without heating up your whole house). Beer-can chicken takes about 1 hour on the grill — using a combination of covered indirect heat and direct heat. Spatchcocked whole chickens take 45 minutes over indirect heat.