4 Reasons Why You Think You Hate Grilled Chicken (and Our Helpful Advice)

updated Jun 10, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Grilled chicken has had it rough from the get-go. In a stacked category of smoky grilled rib-eyes, juicy grilled pork tenderloin, and balsamic-marinated grilled mushrooms, grilled chicken doesn’t exactly come out on top (or, well, anywhere close). So we get it — you think you hate it. It’s actually easier that way, because if you hate it, you don’t have to make it, and that can be that.

But hear us out: Grilled chicken has come a long way from its bland and rubbery days, and we’ve helped get it there. We’ve brainstormed and problem-solved and grilled a lot of chicken, and have recipes and answers for all your grilled chicken woes.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

4 Reasons You Think You Hate Grilled Chicken (and How to Fix It)

1. It’s dry.

We’ve got a very literal solution for this problem — a salt-water solution, that is. Brining chicken in salt water for as little as 30 minutes before grilling keeps the chicken breasts juicy and prevents the chicken from overcooking. Feel free to have fun with the brine, too. This beer brine gives chicken a sweet, malty flavor while keeping it extra moist. A garlicky, slightly smoky buttermilk brine coats chicken in both fat and flavor.

Opting for bone-in chicken breasts can also help protect against dryness. The bones prevent the meat from drying out, while also distributing heat evenly throughout the breast.

Yogurt also does wonders to prevent dry chicken. Unlike super-acidic marinades, which can toughen meats, yogurt tenderizes the meat by gently breaking down the proteins. Get started with these grilled paprika yogurt chicken kebabs.

2. It’s boring.

Most things are, without the proper seasoning and treatment. But our favorite grilled chicken recipe calls for a sweet-and-spicy marinade-brine hybrid, which infuses the chicken with both flavor and moisture. To make sure the flavor penetrates the skin, prick each piece of chicken a few times with a fork before submerging it in the marinade.

No time to marinate the chicken? Opt for a simple glaze, which can be brushed on while the chicken cooks. Start basting about 15 minutes before the chicken is done, to ensure it doesn’t burn.

Our Favorite Marinades and Glazes

3. It’s impossible to tell when it’s done cooking.

Shrimp turns pink and steak has the “finger test,” but chicken? Not so obvious when it’s cooked all the way through. Pounding boneless, skinless chicken breasts acts as insurance, as you’re more likely to end up with evenly cooked meat.

The most foolproof method to determine if your chicken is cooked through, though, is to use a meat or instant-read thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the thickest piece — it should read 165°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, cut into a thick piece and make sure the juices run clear, and that the meat is opaque.

4. You just want a burger.

Now you know how to achieve a flavorful, juicy, tender grilled chicken breast. But it’s still chicken. If you want a burger, you gotta have a burger. And we won’t argue with you there.