How to Grill Chicken

Grilling chicken brings out the best in the bird by crisping its skin, juicing up its meat and lending every part a deliciously distinct flavor.

Good To Know Tips

Good To Know
Butterflied Chicken with Lime & Ginger

Keep close watch. Grilling is still cooking. You can't just crack open a beer and walk away. Chicken is a little bit needier than a hot dog -- and can flame up if unattended. Keep your eyes on the clock.

Pop the hood. Good grilled chicken has a seared, crisp exterior that houses a tender, juicy interior. The only way to get that one-two punch is to grill over direct heat with the grill top off. Covering the grill creates an oven that bakes the chicken.

Use medium heat. Too hot and you have charred chicken with a raw center; too cool and you have tough meat and flabby skin.


What should I look for when buying chicken?

Buy chicken unwrapped from a butcher, if possible. It should be odorless and free of unusual discolorations or markings. When buying prepackaged options from the supermarket, skip ones that have a pool of drained juice at the bottom or have passed their sell-by date. Chicken should look moist, though the skin color may vary from white to yellow depending on the chicken's diet. Terms like "free-range" and "natural" are loosely regulated, so ask your butcher about anything important to you.

How do you know when it's done?

Use an instant-read thermometer, especially when grilling a whole chicken or breast meat. An internal temperature of 165 degree to 170 degree is considered done. If you lack a thermometer or the cut is too thin to read accurately, make a small slit in an out-of-the-way spot. Juices should run clear and the meat should no longer look translucent; breast meat will be white throughout.

What if there's a flare-up?

Leave empty grate space around the perimeter of the grill so that the chicken can be moved away from the flames. You can also close the cover of the grill briefly to starve the flame of oxygen.

Is chicken skin bad for you?

Chicken skin adds calories and fat to an otherwise lean meat, but it also provides extra flavor, holds in moisture and makes a perfect pocket for dry seasonings rubbed under the skin. When grilled properly, the skin becomes crisp as fat drips away. Remove the skin if you're concerned about fat or calories; otherwise, live a little and indulge in its crackly, savory flavor.