The Best Grilled Chicken

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Say goodbye to dry, bland grilled chicken breasts. This recipe guarantees juicy, flavorful chicken every time.

Sometimes in cooking the simplest dishes are the hardest to get right, and grilled chicken is a perfect example. Because boneless chicken breasts are so lean, they often turn out dry, rubbery, and bland. Contrary to popular belief, marinating alone will not save grilled chicken from drying out; in fact, it’s often the marinade that causes the problem!

My technique and marinade ensure tender, juicy, and flavorful grilled chicken every time. You can serve the fillets on their own as a healthy main course (kids love them), topped with cheese on a toasted bun, or, as I often do, sliced over a Caesar salad. Bonus: the recipe is quick and easy. You do all of the prep ahead of time and you won’t even dirty a single bowl.

What You’ll Need To Make THE BEST Grilled Chicken

ingredients for grilled chicken breasts

STEP-BY-STEP Instructions

Step 1: Pound the Chicken

Place the chicken breasts in a 1-gallon freezer bag and pound to an even ½-inch thickness. This both tenderizes the meat and ensures even cooking. Left in their natural shape, the thin side of the fillet dries out while the thicker side finishes cooking. If you don’t have a meat mallet, a rolling pin or a saucepan will both work well.
pounding the chicken breasts

Step 2: Make the Marinade

Lemon is a key ingredient in this marinade, but I only use the zest. Contrary to conventional wisdom, acidic ingredients (such as vinegar or lemon juice) do not tenderize lean boneless chicken breasts. Just the opposite: they “cook” the exterior of the meat and give it a leathery texture. The zest gives the chicken ample lemon flavor, without affecting the chicken’s succulent texture.

zesting the lemonThe best tool for zesting citrus is a fine or microplane grater. Simply rub the lemon in one direction against the blades, turning the lemon as you go. Be sure to remove only the yellow part; the white pith underneath is bitter.

Once you’ve zested the lemon, mix all of the marinade ingredients except for the chicken together in a 1-gallon zip-lock bag (go ahead and use the same one you used for pounding if it is still in good shape).

marinade ingredients in bag

Add the chicken breasts to the bag and massage the marinade into the meat until evenly coated.

massaging marinade into chickenStep 3: Marinate

Seal the bag and place in a bowl in the refrigerator (the bowl protects against leakage); let the chicken marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

sealed chicken in bowl ready to marinate in the fridge

Step 4: Grill

When you’re ready to eat, preheat your grill to high heat and oil the grates (clean, oiled grates will give you the best grill marks). Be sure your grill is very hot before cooking the chicken; you want nice grill marks and char in the short amount of time it takes to cook these. When pounded thin, chicken breasts only need 2 to 3 minutes per side…no more! If you try to flip the chicken and it feels stuck, try giving it 30 seconds. It’ll release naturally when it’s ready.

You’ll notice that the recipe calls for the grill to be covered while the chicken is cooking. This creates convection heat which helps give the chicken a nicely charred exterior and a tender, moist interior.

chicken breasts on the grill

After removing the chicken from the grill, let it rest for 3 to 4 minutes before cutting into it. This will help keep the juices in and retain the meat’s moisture. (The timing is perfect as it’s just enough to get it onto plates, add sides, and put on the table).

While this chicken is best right off the grill, it’s also the kind of thing you can make a double batch of and freeze for future use in salads, pastas, and sandwiches.

Freezer-Friendly Tips

  • Make sure the chicken is completely cooled before freezing it.
  • Keep the chicken pieces whole (no slicing before freezing).
  • To avoid multiple pieces stuck together (which extends defrosting time), wrap each piece individually in plastic wrap and then place them all in a ziploc bag. This also allows you to defrost one piece at a time if you’d like.

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The Best Grilled Chicken

Say goodbye to dry, bland grilled chicken breasts. This recipe guarantees juicy, flavorful chicken every time.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1-3/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, from one lemon

Instructions

  1. One at a time, place the chicken breasts in a 1-gallon zip-lock bag; using a meat mallet, pound to an even ½-inch thickness.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients except for the chicken together in a 1-gallon zip-lock bag (go ahead and use the same one you used for pounding if it is still in good shape). Add the chicken breasts to the bag and massage the marinade into the meat until evenly coated. Seal the bag and place in a bowl in the refrigerator (the bowl protects against leakage); let the chicken marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the grill to high heat and oil the grates. Place the chicken breasts on the grill and cook, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcook. Transfer the chicken to a platter and serve.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 chicken breast (The nutritional information includes all of the ingredients for the marinade, so one serving is likely significantly lower in calories and fat than the numbers below.)
  • Calories: 413
  • Fat: 25 g
  • Saturated fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 2 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 42 g
  • Sodium: 958 mg
  • Cholesterol: 127 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Reviews & Comments

  • My family really loved this. I served it with grilled asparagus. Big hit.

    • — Melissa Johnson on July 28, 2021
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  • This is a hit! Easy & delicious; would be great for hosting guests!

    • — Laura on July 27, 2021
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  • Great!

    • — Bec on July 23, 2021
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  • Delicious! This is now our Go-To-Recipe for grilled chicken. Thanks for a great recipe.

    • — Donna on July 22, 2021
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  • My grandkids came for supper and requested grilled chicken. I am not a great lover of chicken because it’s often tasteless and dry. I found your grilled chicken recipe. Wow! This was fantastic. The chicken was full of flavor and very moist. This will go into my “serve to guest” recipes.
    Also. I served it with Crusty Artisan Bread. I had made the bread previously and froze it. I let it thaw and warmed it for 10 minutes. It was like fresh.
    You have become my go to chef.
    Gratefully.
    Gwen King.

    • — Gwen King on July 13, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe is truly amazing. The chicken is tender, juicy and flavorful. So easy to prepare. A keeper for sure.

    • — Marilyn on July 11, 2021
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  • I don’t like chicken. It doesn’t taste like anything. UNTIL I found your recipe!! I rave about it to my family and friends and they know it’s good because now I like chicken!!

    • — Jill on July 6, 2021
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  • It’s never too late to try something new. I’m 66 and just tried my hand at grilling!
    I used your recipe and the chicken is awesome! Perfection on my first try😆
    Thank you for the easy and delicious recipe.

    • — Jkirb on July 2, 2021
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    • The same for me! I appreciate your comments, thx!

      • — Nancy on July 17, 2021
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  • This is truly a great recipe. I loved the tip about the zest, thank you, as I have always found that problem using the juice. I made it with thighs. Absolutely fabulous!

    • — Jackie S. on July 1, 2021
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  • Amazing! And so easy!! Thank you!!

    • — karen weisblatt on June 27, 2021
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  • Can I substitute fresh oregano and thyme for the dried herbs? Which is better to use for this recipe? If fresh herbs are used, how much can be used?

    • — Lisa on June 26, 2021
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    • Sure – you’ll need about 1 Tbsp. of fresh thyme and 1-1/2 tsp. fresh oregano. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 28, 2021
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  • Hi Jenn,

    Do you have any go to sides to serve with chicken breast?

    • — Melissa J. on June 25, 2021
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  • I made this for the family and everyone loved it. My daughter took home leftovers, and said it was just as delicious cold the next day over a salad. I am the dad, and also the griller, so I will be making this again for my Father’s day meal over a cobb salad. I followed the recipe to the “T” and it was the the best chicken breast I ever had. I marinated for 6 hours making sure to work the marinade into the chicken every hour or so. Thanks Jenn, I will look for more of your recipes!

    • — Robert Rey on June 18, 2021
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  • Finally – a recipe that produces flavorful, moist, excellent grilled chicken breasts! The whole family loved them. These will definitely be on frequent rotation. Thank you!

    • — Mama Roy on June 18, 2021
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  • I never knew that “grilled” actually had a flavor, until now. I made this recipe yesterday on the grill. Didn’t quite have all the ingredients, but very close substitutions worked well. It was the first time I could actually taste a “grilled” flavor and I loved it. The leftover chicken breasts in the refrigerator still retained all their flavor the next day. Didn’t need to use barbeque sauce, either. Tastes great just plain or on a toasted bun. Had a little trouble writing all this because all the ads kept popping up on the screen.

    • — J on June 14, 2021
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  • Oh my gosh! This is absolutely amazing! We served this on a salad of baby greens with crumbled feta, assorted Mediterranean olives, tomato, sliced red pepper, sliced red onion, and a splash of Italian dressing with a fresh pita bread half. Truly the best chicken I have ever made and now my go-to chicken recipe! Thank you!!

    • — Demi on June 6, 2021
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  • Pounding the breast before the marinating was key. Marinating time should only be 2-3 hours as lemon gets intense. Great recipe for tender flavorful chix breast. Cook time is quick also.

    • — Ted on June 2, 2021
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    • I agree with Ted’s comments. I only had 2 hours to marinate the chicken and it turned out delicious. Even my very dear, loyal but sharply opinionated friend liked it.

      • — Marisa on June 4, 2021
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  • Amazing! Our guests were Guinea pigs on this recipe, and we all loved it! 😊

    • — Christine on May 31, 2021
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  • Great recipe! Can I ask what your beautiful countertop is? Looks like marble, but you put your lemon directly onto it.

    • — Kiki on May 31, 2021
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    • Glad you like the chicken and thanks for your nice words about my counters! They are Calacatta Gold Marble (That’s been honed). I love the way they look but they are a bit high maintenance (and need to be refinished every few years).

      • — Jenn on June 1, 2021
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  • Rave reviews from my guests. Turned out perfectly, this is truly a keeper.

    • — Margaret on May 30, 2021
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  • Hi Jenn, I don’t have a grill. What is the best way to cook this indoors?

    • — Kelly on May 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Kelly, I’d broil it. Set your rack about 4 inches from the heat source and broil for the same amount of time specified for the grill (flipping once). Hope that helps and that you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • You are right, this chicken is amazing and full of flavor. One question I have, you say to cook it on high heat, is there a temperature degree you recommend? Thanks!

    • — Kathy Walczak on May 26, 2021
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    • Hi Kathy, So glad you like it! I grill it between 550-600°F.

      • — Jenn on May 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • Great recipe. Very full fresh flavor and you still taste the chicken.

    • — Jason D on May 24, 2021
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  • I found this recipe today, and couldn’t wait to make it! Unfortunately I didn’t have a lemon around, but orange zest was amazing in this recipe. It’s a keeper 🙂

    • — Anne on May 21, 2021
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  • Had a craving for a chicken club. Came upon your recipe. Chicken was moist and tender, grilled in 4-5 minutes. Added fresh market applewood bacon and basil mayo. Awesome! Thank you for sharing recipes anyone can make daily. Would love to be able to make French Laundry or Per Se dinners but don’t have a sous chef, or the budget!

    • — John M Ward on May 21, 2021
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  • I made for the first time tonight! It is the best grilled chicken that I have ever made! Perfect!

    • — Beverly on May 18, 2021
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  • Can we skip the thyme and oregano? What’s the replacement options

    • — Shivani on May 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Shivani, You could use marjoram, rosemary, and/or herbes de Provence. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 19, 2021
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    • Hi Jenn, I made a double recipe and froze it right away. Do you have a recommendation for reheating after it is thawed?
      Thanks, Rita

      • — Rita on June 5, 2021
      • Reply
      • Hi Rita, I would reheat the chicken, covered with foil, in a 325°F-oven until hot.

        • — Jenn on June 6, 2021
        • Reply
  • My family and I love this chicken! Fabulous with the apricot couscous! Do you think I could use this marinade with pork tenderloin?

    • — Lou Ann on May 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure- I think it would work nicely for pork tenderloin. 🙂

      • — Jenn on May 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • Thank you! Making sandwiches with mozzarella and tomato and wanted something different 🙂

    • — Courtney R on May 17, 2021
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  • 🧡🙏 This is what I just looking for on the review board:) Always trust your recipes:)!!

    • — Sirena on May 16, 2021
    • Reply
  • Excellent!
    This was so easy to put together and was very moist and delicious.
    A keeper for sure!

    • — Lisa on May 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • Confession time – until this past weekend I had never grilled chicken. And to be honest, I rarely grill meat period. My husband is an outstanding grill guy, but he’s out of town for work and I really wanted a grilled chicken kale caesar salad for dinner. So off to Google to find a recipe. So happy, I clicked on this one!!! Super easy and super tasty. My only difference was to skip the plastic bag for pounding and marinating. The timing for the grill was perfect and my chicken breasts were juicy and fully cooked. Looking forward to the leftover chicken breast for a taco salad tonight.

    • — Sandra @ wifeonaboat on May 11, 2021
    • Reply
  • Delicious! I was only able to marinate the chicken for an hour before grilling due to time constraints (read as last minute dinner plan 🤗) it was still so flavorful and juicy. My whole family enjoyed, even my picky toddler who typically will not eat meat. Bookmarked to use again in the future. Thank you!

    • — Courtney Wheeler on May 11, 2021
    • Reply

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