America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo
Recipe Spotlight

The Formula for Perfect All-Purpose Grilled Chicken Breasts

Never eat a dry, tasteless grilled chicken breast again. Our technique guarantees juicy, flavorful results, for chicken you can use in countless applications.
By

Published Aug. 10, 2023.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts may not be the first thing that comes to mind for summer grilling—rich-tasting burgers, steak, and pork butt are more likely to top the list. 

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. 

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

Use these chicken breasts in salads, sandwiches, pasta, and tacos or pair them with bold sauces or chunky salsas. The grill also imbues this lean meat with a smoky-savory character that sautéing or roasting can’t match. 

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. 

Recipe

Grilled Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

A 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.
Get the Recipe

How to Use Grilled Chicken Breasts

5 Sauces to Put on Your Grilled Chicken Breasts

Sauce: Red PepperAlmond

Flavor profile: Smoky, nutty, and garlicky. 

Sauce: Poblano-Pepita 

Flavor profile: Charred and spicy from grilled poblano and jalapeño chiles, with toasty pepitas and herbaceous cilantro. 

Sauce: Tzatziki

Flavor profile: Creamy and garlicky with refreshing cucumber and chopped mint. 

Sauce: Argentinian Chimichurri

Flavor profile: Bright, herbaceous flavor with a kick from fresh garlic and vinegar.

Sauce: Kimchi Scallion 

Flavor profile: Funky, allium-y, and umami-rich.

400+ Grilling Recipes!

Master of the Grill

Whether you’re new to grilling or consider yourself a genuine pit master, Master of the Grill is perfect for you.

0 Comments

This is a members' feature.