Boneless skinless chicken breasts are up there with the most commonly grilled foods — and right alongside pork chops as the most commonly overcooked and dried out meats on the grill. So what’s the answer? A little whack and a soak!
One of the biggest factors in overcooking chicken breasts is the irregular shape. If you grill the chicken until the thicker end is cooked through, the thinner end will be dried out. The solution here is to pound the the thicker end until the breast is about the same thickness all over. Slide the breast(s) between two sheets of plastic wrap and use a flat meat mallet, a small heavy bottom pot, or a rolling pin and give it a few whacks.
Try soaking chicken breasts in a brine to ensure that they stay moist and juicy. Without getting too in to the science, know that that soaking in a salt solution reshapes the proteins in the meat so that they retain moisture. It’s simple enough and in the big scheme of things, doesn’t take long at all… these aren’t whole turkeys after all. A soak for 30 minutes and no longer than 2 hours will keep the chicken breasts juicy and seasoned throughout. Don’t over-brine or the chicken will become rubbery.
Standard proportions for a brine is 1 tablespoon Diamond brand kosher salt dissolved in 1 cup of water. Make enough brine to fully submerge the chicken. Try adding fresh herbs, smashed cloves of garlic, sliced citrus to the brine for a little added flavor.
The heat of your grill will also contribute to your success – too hot and the chicken will dry out; too low will leave the breasts pale and unappetizing instead of nicely marked and beautifully golden brown. Grill chicken breast over medium-high heat (around 375°F to 400°F) on clean, well-oiled and preheated grates. Grill time will be about 4 to 6 minutes per side max.
Just don’t overcook them! The USDA says that chicken breasts are safe to eat at an internal temperature of 165°F. That means pulling them off the grill at 160°F and the carryover cooking while the chicken rests will raise the temperature the additional five degrees. Personally, I pull them off even a couple degrees earlier. Use a digital meat thermometer…. Seriously.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!