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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.

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.

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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
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.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (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. 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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  • I’m an avid cook and look up and use internet recipes every single day. I’ve never posted a review on a recipe before, but as I make this for like the 10th time, I feel like I have to give props where props are due. This is the best grilled chicken breast I’ve ever had or made. I come back to it again and again. It’s flavorful, juicy and delicious. It smells so good when it hits the grill! I’ve used it in wraps, pitas, on salad or just on its own with roasted potatoes and veggies. So so good!

    • — Elaina Wheaton on May 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • Jenn, I can’t thank you enough for this recipe!! The chicken was absolutely amazing! I served it to my husband tonight as a chicken Caesar salad using your delicious homemade Caesar dressing! I bought croissants from Costco this week for chicken salad sandwiches and I have so many that I cut up several croissants and made toasted rosemary, garlic croutons. My husband said it was better than anything he’s had in a fine restaurant! Thanks again for your fantastic recipes!

    • — Nancy on May 25, 2023
    • Reply
  • After making this Best Grilled Chicken (yes, it is) I realized how many of your recipes have become favorites at our house…Smash Burgers, Egg Rolls in a Bowl, Beef Enchiladas, Pecan Shortbread Squares to name only a few. I just put your cookbook in my Amazon cart. I know I’ll love it, but it’s also in thanks to you for all the wonderful recipes you’ve been sharing for free. You’re the best.

    • — Linda on May 24, 2023
    • Reply
    • ❤️❤️

      • — Jenn on May 25, 2023
      • Reply
  • My sister asked me how do restaurants get their grilled chicken to come out so juicy? I forwarded her this recipe! Perfection and so easy! I did use Bell &Evans thin sliced cutlets instead of breast. Will be making this all summer! Thanks Jenn. I think I use your recipes at least once a week if not more!

    • — Annalisa on May 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • Wow this was simple and delicious! This will definitely be a go to for grilling. Thank you.

    • — Sarah on May 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • Enjoyed this flavors from marinade. Simply easy meal with baked potatoes on grill and salad. Thanks.

    • — Judith Schell on May 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • I just made the marinated grilled chicken tonight. I followed your recipe as described. My man told me repeatedly, while we were eating, that it was the best chicken Caeser salad he ever had! Later while cleaning up he declared it a 10 out of 10. I loved it as well.
    Thanks Jen!

    • — Teresa DeLongchamp on May 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I don’t have an outdoor grill, how successful would a cast iron grill pan be for this ‘Best grilled Chicken’?
    I have been using over the years a few of your recipes, which have become staples but shame on me I’ve hardly sent feedback. 🙁

    • — Eleanor on May 21, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Eleanor, no worries about not sending feedback on the recipes — it makes me happy to know you’re using them! A grill pan is perfect for indoor cooking. 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. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 23, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi, Jenn. I love your recipes – they are consistently amazing! I recently replaced my gas grill with an outdoor Ninja electric grill. I haven’t yet tried this recipe but hope to soon. Do you happen to know if the cooking time is the same on the Ninja as the time your recipe calls for?
    Thank you.

    • — Diane Kotin on May 21, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes, Diane! I’ve never used a Ninja, so unfortunately I can’t tell you if the cooking time would be any different. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful!

      • — Jenn on May 22, 2023
      • Reply
  • Agree with marinating but another, arguably even more foolproof method for getting grilled chicken breasts that are not dried out is to coo the breasts sous vide the breasts in the marinade and then finish them with a quick sear on a grill.

    • — John Singer on May 21, 2023
    • Reply

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