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The Best Grilled Chicken

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

Bowl of sliced, grilled chicken.

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 prevent 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.

video tutorial

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.

Bowl of sliced, grilled chicken.

You May Also Like

The Best Grilled Chicken

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

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes, plus at least 4 hours to marinate


  • 1¾ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon zest, from one lemon


  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.
  4. Note: 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

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 chicken breast
  • 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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  • So good! Will definitely make again.

    • — Christine on May 16, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn – I don’t have a grill. Could I bake this chicken instead? Thanks!

    • — Eileen on May 16, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Eileen, For indoor cooking, I’d use a grill pan. Heat it over medium-high heat until hot. Add the marinated chicken breasts and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on the first side without touching, until the chicken develops nice grill marks. Using tongs, flip the chicken over and cook 2 to 3 minutes more, or until cooked through. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 16, 2024
      • Reply
  • We just got a grill and made this recipe for our first time grilling. The chicken was SO good and flavorful. I can’t imagine I’ll ever make it any other way!

    • — Lauren on April 7, 2024
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  • This is just INCREDIBLE! My 7 year old and husband raved over this chicken. Thank you for making me look good in the kitchen!

    • — Dana Everhart on April 6, 2024
    • Reply
  • I made this yesterday for Easter and it was absolutely delicious!!! This is my new method for cooking chicken from now on!!! Thank you so much!

    • — Sara on April 1, 2024
    • Reply
  • awesome easy most tender chicken you’ll ever make thanks Jenn

    • — denis teed on March 16, 2024
    • Reply
  • Truly this is the best, easiest recipe for grilled chicken breasts! Using the zest of the lemon was just the right amount of lemon flavor. The chicken breast were juicy and flavorful. We used them over spaghetti with melted mozzarella and Parmesan over the chicken breast. A perfect lower calorie chicken Parmesan.

    • — Patricia N on March 11, 2024
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  • This chicken was wonderful! Lots of lovely flavor, even though we only had about 3 hours to marinate. This is going to be a family favorite.

    • — Lisa Baarns on March 11, 2024
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  • I had some chicken breasts in the fridge I needed to cook, so I came back to your site and looked for that. This one popped up and sounded good, plus all the positive reviews were another reason I had to try it. Came out very good, though I think I slightly overcooked 3 or 4 of the 5 pieces. The last one off didn’t look as done, but came out the juiciest piece of all, so lesson learned. 🙂 Thanks for another great recipe! Family all loved it.

    • — Scott M. on March 2, 2024
    • Reply
  • This recipe is now my son’s favourite chicken dish.
    I was amazed how easy and quick it was to make such a lovely dish.

    • — Helen Patel on February 22, 2024
    • Reply
  • where is the ingredient lisr for the marinade?

    • — Elyce Wair on February 10, 2024
    • Reply
    • It sounds like you are just looking at the portion of the page that has the pictures with some instructions above. If you scroll down a bit to under the pictures, you’ll find the full recipe. Alternatively, at the very top of the page, to the right of the recipe name, you’ll see an orange/red button that says Jump to Recipe – if you click on that, it will take you directly to the recipe. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on February 12, 2024
      • Reply
  • I love this recipe and have used it countless times!

    My only critique is I feel it’s off on the salt measure. I cut back to about 1 tsp. with usually a little closer to 2 lbs. of chicken. I throw in the juice of half the lemon and haven’t experienced it making the chicken rubbery. I marinate for a few hours and not overnight so maybe there’s a sweet spot with the timing.

    It’s a versatile recipe and can be served with simple roasted veggies or with Greek pairings. Great for salads too. My go to grilled chicken!

    • — Brittany on February 8, 2024
    • Reply
  • This grilled chicken is absolutely delicious! Thanks, Jenn, for another winner.

    Carolyn & Sanders H.

    • — Carolyn H. on January 29, 2024
    • Reply
  • Thank you for this delicious and tender chicken breast recipe. I have already made it several times. We use it atop salad, in burritos, tacos and chicken sandwiches!!!!

    • — Jen on January 13, 2024
    • Reply
  • Chicken was so juicy! This recipe is a keeper for sure

    • — Paula Oldham on December 18, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is now my go to chicken breast recipe. You’re my first stop when I need a recipe and you haven’t failed me yet. Due to time I only marinated it for a couple hours, and because it’s 30 degrees here this time of year, I cooked it on the stove top in cast iron. It’s always perfect! Can’t wait to try it on the grill come spring.

    • — Vickie on December 14, 2023
    • Reply
  • I have made this recipe a few time and everyone really liked it! I was happy to read about the lemon juice and how it ‘cooks’ the chicken, making it rubbery. I now use only lemon jest for all my chicken needing that lemon flavor. Thank you!

    • — Megan on December 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • Absolutely the best chicken marinade! I’ve tried others and this one by far exceeds the others. Whole family loved it. It was so flavorful and delicious. This will definitely be the only chicken marinade recipe I use. Thanks Jenn!

    • — Sheryl on December 2, 2023
    • Reply
  • Best grilled chicken recipe I’ve tried and I tried it out on grilled pork loin. Best grilled pork loin!

    • — David on October 29, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Do you think this marinade would work for grilled pork chops?

    Thank you.

    • — Jack on October 25, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on October 25, 2023
      • Reply
  • This recipe is horrible! Bake the chicken first unless you want it seriously burned. It won’t cook thoroughly just by searing it for a few minutes…

    • — Amy on October 18, 2023
    • Reply
    • Amy, given that almost all reviewers here have raved about this recipe and method, you are clearly the outlier.

      I’ve made chicken breasts this way many times. It has never come close to being burned, or even dried out in the slightest, so somewhere it’s you who has gone wrong. The recipe isn’t the problem…

      • — Squirrel Butler on May 11, 2024
      • Reply
  • Jenn,

    Hello from England. I’ve now made this recipe several times and everyone who tried it thinks it’s absolutely fantastic. The flavours are incredible: I BBQ the chicken for a little longer than you suggest but that’s perhaps down to the equipment but it’s always beautifully moist once rested and packed with flavour I like to serve with either a mixed side salad, a few Saute potatoes or even sliced and served in pitta bread.

    As a novice cook I love your recipes, they are always easy to follow, not too complicated can be scaled up and best of all I get brownie points of my lovely wife and my friends are baffled at my new skills in the kitchen.

    • — Chris Goodwin on October 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • Definitely the BEST grilled chicken I have had in a very long time. This will be my ‘go to’ recipe.
    So easy, so flavourful & the leftover chicken will be a delicious add to any recipe. Thank you for sharing!

    • — Marlene Binda on October 2, 2023
    • Reply
  • I make this grilled chicken at least once a week. It’s so good. One of my favorite easy recipes. Great with tzatziki and a salad.

    • — Julie on September 26, 2023
    • Reply
  • I has no idea that grilled chicken could taste so good. Plus, since you’re grilling intructions are so clear, I was able to get over my fear of the gas grill and take over the actual grilling – that could also have made the difference.

    • — Bette S Levin on September 19, 2023
    • Reply

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