On The Table

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10 Best Chicken Cooking Tips

Finding your cooked chicken dry, rubbery, and burnt? Use these best chicken cooking tips for juicy and flavorful chicken each time for any occasion!

10 Best Chicken Cooking Tips

Is your cooked chicken dry, rubbery, or sporting burnt ends?

Not anymore!

Whereas chicken can fall flat if not executed properly, there are tips and tricks to yield the juicy product hoped for.

Whether prepping for a quick weeknight meal or leisurely BBQ on the weekend, find out how to grill chicken to absolute perfection!

How to Grill Chicken

Use these chicken cooking tips before, during, and after heating up the grill. Not only are they simple, but a sure shot way to grill up juicy and tender chicken all will swoon over.

1. Even Out Pieces of Chicken

From a thick center to its thinner ends, chicken breasts tend to be irregular in shape. This unevenness risks uneven cooking.

So before grilling, take a few extra minutes to even out the chicken. Focus on pounding the thick center and thin out to meet the edge thickness as best as possible. 

Not only can this cut down on cook time, but ensure an evenly cooked piece of chicken.

2. Brine the Chicken

Brining is the process of soaking meat in a saltwater solution. The salt penetrates the meat, which enriches the flavor and allows it to retain moisture when being cooked.

Brining is also useful when cooking both white meat and dark meat chicken cuts. White meat, including chicken breasts, tends to cook quicker. This can cause white meat to dry out as dark meat continues to cook. Brining keeps the white meat moist and juicy while the dark meat finishes.

While it is not a necessary step, taking just a short bit of extra time and effort is extra worth it! Follow these simple steps to brine for any chicken recipe:

1. Fill a pot with warm (not hot) water and dissolve in a small handful of salt.

2. Let the chicken soak in the brine for at least 15 minutes but in an hour ballpark. Overbrining chicken can break down its structure and cause a spongy texture.

3. Take out the chicken, rinse under cold water, and pat dry.

Feel free to add favorite seasonings to the brine or prepare a separate marinade.

3. Marinate the Chicken

Unlike bringing, which penetrates deep into the chicken, marinating essentially offers surface flavor. It also tenderizes the meat, especially if a tougher cut.

Marinades are often a combination of an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, with various seasonings. Adding olive oil or other cooking oils can deepen the richness, which is helpful to counter the leanness of chicken breasts.

As a pro tip, scale back on the amount of salt used if the chicken is brined. Too much extra salt can naturally lead to an overly salty piece of chicken. Likewise be sure to marinade after brining, as the brine can essentially take the marinade off.

Seal marinated chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour before grilling. You can also baste chicken with favorite sauce, including this BBQ grilled chicken recipe!

4. Allow Chicken to Rest

Allowing the chicken to rest is important on multiple occasions, including before and after cooking.

Before Cooking

Before adding the chicken breasts on the grill, allow to rest on the counter for about 30 minutes. Offering this time results in even cooking and a more desirable product.

After Cooking

The aroma of the grilled meat may be tempting, but not so fast... Allow the meat to sit undisturbed and unsliced for about 10 minutes after cooking.

And as a general rule, the bigger the piece of meat, the longer the rest time. Resting the meat is an important key to retain its juiciness and tenderness that was initially sought out after.

5. Clean & Prep the Grill

The chicken may be the star of the meal plate, but the grill is the star of the production show. Neglecting this major grilling tip can lead to major disappointment.

Before preheating the grill, be sure to clean the grill grates and change coals as needed. A clean grill is key yielding fresh flavored BBQ each time.

With a clean grill ready, light the coals and fire up the grill 15 to 20 minutes prior to cooking. This ensures a desirable sear on the exterior and moist interior while preventing sticking.

Also reduce the risk of sticking by rubbing a well-oiled paper towel using tongs directly over the rack using tongs. Do this prior to placing the meat on the grill.

6. Grill Chicken at an Appropriate Temperature

Chicken grills differently than steaks and other meats that are known for their sear. Grilling chicken over too high of heat can lead to a burnt exterior and raw interior (and no one wants that)!

For a chicken breast, place over direct heat at a medium temperature. Lay skin side down first at a diagonal. This site is the smoothest and can sport those grill marks.

Also, position the thinnest parts of the chicken under grilling areas with the least amount of heat. Doing so is a small, yet noticeable tip to not overcook and retain moisture throughout the entire piece of chicken.

7. Cook to the Right Temperature

Red meat may also be safely consumed at raw temps, but chicken and poultry are a different story. Eating undercooked chicken can lead to unpleasant food poisoning.

To test for cooking, insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken. If using bone-in cuts, make sure the thermometer is not touching the bone.

No matter the type, chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165°F before consuming.

8. Be Attentive

While grilling is essentially a hands-off cooking method, still be attentive. (Going from the juiciest chicken to the driest can happen quickly).

If needed, set a timer to remind you when to check on the chicken.

9. Never Squish the Meat

If the meat is stuck to the grill, do not pull the chicken and let it cook more. It will eventually unstick itself when ready to flip.

Do not "squish down" any meat, either, as doing so can squeeze out the flavor and moisture.

10. Serve Grilled Chicken

There are so many delicious ways to serve cooked chicken. These ideas can be enjoyed immediately or with any leftovers for quick meal prep during a busy week:

Star of the Plate

When grilled chicken tastes this good, allow it to be the main star on the plate! Pair with seasonal veggies such as roasted carrots, zucchini, and cauliflower.

Side with a starch source as desired, including brown rice and sweet potato fries.

Chicken Salad

Top fresh grilled chicken onto a bed of leafy greens or store for the week.

Also create a bulk chicken salad for a healthy snack or lunch throughout the week. Mix cubed or shredded chicken with Greek yogurt, chopped walnuts, apples, and other additions and seasonings.

Chicken Tacos

Shred or thinly slice grilled chicken for a taco party!

Top with the best taco toppings, including roasted corn, shredded cabbage, caramelized onions, and salsa.

Chicken Pasta

Lay grilled chicken atop a bed of whole-grain noodles, spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles.

Use fresh tomato or pesto sauce and add basil, oregano, and parsley to amplify the flavor profile.