The Best Grilled Chicken

Tested & Perfected Recipes

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

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, 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.

See more recipes:


  • I made this and I could not believe how it came out! I ate 2 lbs of meat to myself and had to stop myself before finishing all of it!!!

    • — Alec b on September 16, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made this and it was delicious, I put in a pita with red onions, avocado, tomato and lettuce, Mexican mix cheese and lastly avocado and cilantro sauce.

    Thank you for recipe.

    • — Diana on September 14, 2023
    • Reply
  • Yum! Not only is this grilled chicken delicious and easy to make, but it cooks up well making grill cleanup simple!

    • — Cindy on August 29, 2023
    • Reply
  • Question… when I see a picture of what I need for marinades or seasonings etc. I don’t know what I am looking at or measurements. How do I find that please

    • — Judith Tyo on August 18, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Judith, 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 August 18, 2023
      • Reply
  • This is the best! And super easy!

    • — Josie on August 18, 2023
    • Reply
  • I was so happy with how this turned out! I’m learning to bbq and this is my first success! The instructions are really precise, the chicken was so tender and delicious. I’m definitely making it again, next time with the suggested pepper salad. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! 😊

    • — Kathy S on August 7, 2023
    • Reply
  • This recipe was quick, easy and absolutely fantastic!

    • — Cynthia Kropp on August 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • I have tried a myriad of online recipes but never posted a review. I just had to tell you Chef Jenn that this is by far the best chicken I’ve ever made! It’s a weekly staple in my home–I make a big batch and do wraps, sandwiches, quesadillas etc. My 4-year-old started liking chicken purely because of your recipe! This recipe also helped me be more confident in my grilling skills. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Chef!

    • — Stefanie on August 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • Wow! This is a grilled chicken game changer for us! Thank-you!

    • — RA Huffman on July 29, 2023
    • Reply
  • Jen
    Just did your grilled chicken. absolutely the best
    We’re on our boat so limited supplies. This recipe
    doesn’t need much but what flavour, and the chicken was
    very tender.Thanks so much
    Vancouver BC

    • — Ron vaage on July 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • Fantastic marinade! Everyone loved it and said it was a make again.

    • — Cindy Accardi on July 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • Can this be griddled instead of grilling ? And how long to griddle for ?

    • — Jenny on July 13, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Jenny, For indoor cooking, I’d heat the griddle 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 a nice color. Using tongs, flip the chicken over and cook 2 to 3 minutes more, or until cooked through. If you have a grill pan, I love that here as it will give the chicken nice grill marks. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 13, 2023
      • Reply
  • When I placed the chicken on the grill, the olive oil made flames shoot up a foot high and completely engulf the chicken. I had to turn the burners down to low to control the flame. So that part about grilling on high heat…doesn’t mix with olive oil.

    • — JoJo on July 9, 2023
    • Reply
    • JoJo, you need to remove the chicken from the marinade not dump all the marinade onto the coals/gas flame. Maybe give the chicken a quick shake

      • — Bob on July 30, 2023
      • Reply
  • I love this recipe! It’s easy and very tender and flavorful. My husband loved it and had seconds. He typically doesn’t enjoy chicken that much.

    • — Donna King on July 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Made this tonight. Delicious!!!!


    • — Jack on July 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • After reading all of the rave reviews I can’t wait to try this tomorrow night. The only change I’d make is cutting the chicken instead of pounding it, much easier. I also am really looking forward to leftovers in a salad with the Caesar dressing mentioned.

    • — Leanne on July 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • After reading all of the rave reviews for this I am definitely going to make this, the only change I am going to make is I am going to cut them in half instead of pounding them, I’ll pound them a little to make them even. Can’t wait to try this tomorrow night, especially making leftovers with the Caesar dressing in a salad.

    • — Leanne on July 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • Easy and delicious!

    • — Linda Ferrara on July 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi – could i use chicken tenders instead of chicken breasts?

    • — Liz on July 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on July 3, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn ! I have an air fryer Cuisinart oven with all the functions. After searing the chicken, should I lower the oven temperature to 325F instead of 350 ? Just love your recipes ! Jocelyne

    • — Jocelyne Dubé on July 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! I don’t own an air fryer so unfortunately, I can’t tell you confidently whether or not this would work in one. These tips may help you to convert this and other recipes for your air fryer. If you want to cook the chicken indoors, 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.

      • — Jenn on July 3, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Wondering if I could freeze the chicken with the marinade, for an easy meal when staying at an Airbnb? That way I don’t have to lug spices, zester etc. I’m sure there are cookbooks dedicated to this situation but I cook your recipes and ATK exclusively 🙂

    • — Adrienne on June 30, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure, Adrienne, that would be fine. Have fun wherever you’re headed!

      • — Jenn on July 1, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thank you! Husband and I are headed to Napa, CA for wine and relaxation sans three rambunctious boys 🙂

        • — Adrienne on July 7, 2023
        • Reply
  • When I saw the fat in the nutritional index, I questioned all the chicken I have had in the past!!!!! haha THANK YOU for being thorough and noting the nutritional info was for ALL of the chicken and marinade:) I thought one chicken breast had 25 grams of fat!!! I feel much better eating chicken now….LOVE LOVE LOVE all of your recipes….you are my #1 go-to for all of my family meals

    • — Brenda Lagnese on June 29, 2023
    • Reply
  • Delicious! Followed recipe to a tee. Put in a wrap with he homemade Caesar dressing and some romaine lettuce. Will definitely make again!! Can’t wait for a leftover wrap tomorrow for lunch.

    • — Dawn on June 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • So flavourful! The chicken was tender & delicious and we sliced it on top of a Caesar salad using your home made dressing! Perfection Jenn!

    • — Linda on June 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    There are quite a few comments to comb through so advanced apologies if this question has already been asked… I’m wondering if using fresh ingredients over dried will change the dish consistency. I’ve made this recipe before (loved it!) but oddly had forgotten about it…
    Thanks for all of your wonderful recipes. People think I’m a wonderful cook because of them. Ha!!! The baked chicken wings are a staple in our household. Have to try the grilled wings this summer!

    • — Wendy on June 23, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Wendy, So glad you like the recipes! Yes, you can use fresh herbs here; you’ll need 1 tablespoon of thyme and 1.5 teaspoons of oregano. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 23, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn!
    I’m a big fan, have made SO MANY of your amazing recipes, and my family loves them all! In fact, they’ll often say, “Is this a Jenn recipe?” 😍
    Quick question about this marinade…do you think it would work with grilled shrimp?
    Thank you in advance, and thank you for helping me make yummy meals for my family!!

    • — Tricia on June 21, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad your family likes the recipes! Yes, I think this would be delicious as a shrimp marinade. 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 21, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thank you so much!!
        So nice of you to respond so quickly 😍

        • — Tricia on June 21, 2023
        • Reply
  • I am sure this would have been delicious if I had not used 1 teaspoon of salt. The called for amount seemed like way too much so I reduced it. Unfortunately it still ended up overpoweringly salty

    • — s on June 20, 2023
    • Reply
  • Delicious! Came out perfectly. Even my picky 5 year old enjoyed it

    • — Savannah DeLaRosa on June 20, 2023
    • Reply
  • So simple and delicious! Absolutely a must with your Caesar salad dressing. Your recipes are always among my favorites. 😊

    • — The Kitchen Lady on June 17, 2023
    • Reply
  • What is the longest you’d suggest leaving in marinade …is 24 hours too long? And I made marinade with sea salt before I saw your response to someone to use table salt…is the 1 1/4 tsp still a good amount or will it be too salty?

    • — EL on June 16, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi EL, You can get away with 24 hours. And regarding the salt, I suspect you’ll be fine.

      • — Jenn on June 16, 2023
      • Reply
  • Delicious and will make again. Only marinated couple hours due to time frame. Love the lemon flavor from the zest. Perfect recipe! Thanks!

    • — Lynne Lamarre on June 11, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. I love your recipes. Would you recommend this marinade for bone in thighs and drumsticks? Thanks!

    • — Jill R on June 11, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure (and so glad you like the recipes)!

      • — Jenn on June 12, 2023
      • Reply
  • I’m making tonight. But I’m curious, you say to pound 1/2″ but when I look at your photo the pieces look really thick??

    • — Sonja Gelling on June 5, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Sonja, I’m obviously weighing in too late to help, but I wonder if you were looking at the picture of all the ingredients needed for the recipe. If you scroll down, you’ll see that I’ve pounded them to a half inch thickness. Hope that clarifies, and that you enjoyed the chicken last night!

      • — Jenn on June 6, 2023
      • Reply
  • I made this recipe last night, and as a chef myself (fancied, anyway) I usually change things up quite a bit as opposed to just using the stated recipe. However, reading comments that say something like, “I made this, but I changed (this, this, this, this…) and it was delicious!” doesn’t really tell the reader how THIS recipe is going to turn out. I made this marinade word for word not amplifying or omitting anything, 5 hours in the bath, and then hit it with the propane grill. I’m telling you… It was fantastic. Obviously like you said, you have to have it up high (mine was at about 675 F) and just a real quick flip, but the flavor was immense. The lemon zest and thyme really sets it off. This recipe is bookmarked, easy as all heck, and simply fantastic. Thank you so much.

    • — Jay Sparrow on June 2, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Could I smoke these chicken breasts or do you think the smoke would conflict or overpower the herb marinade?


    • — Doug on May 30, 2023
    • Reply
    • No, I don’t think there’d be any conflict in flavors — sounds delish!

      • — Jenn on May 31, 2023
      • Reply
      • Used fresh oregano and lemon thyme. It was the best served over garden greens

        • — Barb on May 31, 2023
        • Reply
  • I tried this recipe using a broiler. Cooked each side for about five minutes and it turned out amazing! I’ve never succeeded in making chicken breast juicy and tender and your recipe just opened up whole new world to me 🙂

    • — Siyan on May 29, 2023
    • Reply
  • I love this recipe for grilled chicken, and am wondering if this could be done with roasting or baking chicken ?

    • — Terri on May 29, 2023
    • Reply
    • Glad you like it! Are you referring to using a whole chicken? Thanks for clarifying!

      • — Jenn on May 30, 2023
      • Reply
  • Best grilled chicken I’ve ever made. Followed directions exactly as printed and the chicken turned out fantastic!
    Thanks Jenn!

    • — Edythe on May 29, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hands down this was the best chicken I’ve ever grilled. Followed the recipe exactly as written and it was perfect. Made it for a family bbq and I’m glad I cut a bite to try it first. When I went to make my plate there wasn’t a speck left! Even the picky four and six year old gobbled it up. If you have kids, you know that is the highest praise! 😂

    • — Melissa on May 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • I’ve made it twice. I didn’t have fresh garlic, so I used a little garlic powder. I cut back on the salt the second time. Moist and delicious. A big hit. Thanks Jenn!

    • — Jeanette Collopy on May 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • 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

Add a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.