But here’s why you should make chicken breasts a summer grilling staple: They cook up fast, they aren’t prone to troublesome flareups, and they provide a neutral base for countless meals.
However, without skin or bones to provide insulation, or much fat to lend juiciness and tenderness, chicken breasts can easily become dry and flavorless on the grill.
Senior Editor Annie Petito was able to overcome these pitfalls with a few simple yet clever tricks that guarantee perfectly cooked, well-seasoned meat.
These grilled breasts are so reliable, practical, and flavorful, they may just become one of your favorite summer go-tos.
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The Four-Part Formula to Perfect Grilled Chicken Breasts
1. Pound breasts to an even thickness. Chicken breasts have a thick end and a thin end. Pounding the plumper end to about a ½-inch thickness helps ensure that it will cook at the same rate as the rest of the breast. To pound the breasts, place them between sheets of plastic wrap.
2. Brine for 30 minutes. In addition to seasoning the chicken, salt dissolves proteins within the meat that helps it trap moisture so it won’t dry out over the hot fire.
3. Add fish sauce and honey to the brine. Fish sauce is full of glutamates that add meaty flavor to mild chicken breast. And contrary to what you might expect, fish sauce doesn’t add a fishy taste, nor does it add the distinctive flavor that soy sauce would. Honey contributes complexity and encourages browning, bringing even more depth of flavor to the meat.
4. Oil the breasts and not just the grill. Oiling the grill before cooking is standard procedure, but tossing the brined chicken in oil provides even more insurance that the meat won’t stick to the grill.
Grilled Boneless, Skinless Chicken BreastsA brine keeps boneless, skinless chicken breasts juicy over the fire. But with the aid of a couple of extra ingredients, that liquid can add savory depth and encourage browning too.
How to Use Grilled Chicken Breasts
- Give your salads a protein boost. Top a classic Caesar or any green salad with this lightly charred chicken and turn it into a meal.
- Use them in place of shredded chicken. Substitute the grilled breasts in sesame noodles, easy tacos, and even Bang Bang Ji Si.
- Add them to pasta. Try the chicken on our farfalle with pesto or use it in penne with chicken, cherry tomatoes, and spinach.
5 Sauces to Put on Your Grilled Chicken Breasts
Flavor profile: Charred and spicy from grilled poblano and jalapeño chiles, with toasty pepitas and herbaceous cilantro.
Sauce: Argentinian Chimichurri
Flavor profile: Bright, herbaceous flavor with a kick from fresh garlic and vinegar.