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Grillmaster Exposes the Top Mistakes When Grilling Chicken Breasts

Grillmaster reveals the most common mistakes you make when grilling chicken breasts

Grilling chicken breasts can be a delicious and healthy way to enjoy a meal, but it’s not always easy to get it right. If you’ve ever ended up with dry and tasteless chicken or worried about undercooking it, you’re not alone. To help you become a grill master in your own right, we’ve gathered insights from Melissa Cookston, a seven-time World Barbecue Champion and owner of the Memphis BBQ Company restaurant chain. She shares her expert tips and reveals the most common mistakes people make when grilling chicken breasts. Let’s dive in and learn how to avoid these pitfalls for perfectly grilled chicken breasts every time.

Don’t forget to prep the chicken breasts

Before you even think about throwing those chicken breasts on the grill, take a moment to properly prepare them. According to Cookston, brining is key to retaining moisture and preventing dryness. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts lack the natural fat and skin that help lock in juiciness, so a quick brine will work wonders.
To make a simple wet brine, mix ¼ cup of salt (preferably kosher) with three cups of warm water and 1 ½ cups of ice. You can also flavor the brine by adding ingredients such as brown sugar, cracked black pepper, chili powder, cumin, or paprika. Soak the chicken breasts in the brine for at least 30 minutes, then remove and pat dry. If you choose to season the chicken after brining, be mindful of the salt content, as the brine has already added some saltiness.

Don’t grill the wrong side up.

When grilling skin-on chicken breasts, start with the skin side down. The smoother texture of the skin makes it less likely to stick to the grill. For skinless breasts, a light coating of high-temperature oil, such as canola or avocado oil, can help prevent sticking. Brush the breasts with the oil before seasoning.
Once the chicken is on the grill, cook it skin-side down for two to three minutes. This allows the skin to release naturally from the grates. Turn the breasts a quarter turn to create those nice crosshatched grill marks and cook for another two to three minutes. Finally, flip the breasts over and cook until done.

Don’t forget to use a meat thermometer.

Unlike beef, where internal temperature is a matter of preference, cooking chicken breasts is a matter of safety. To ensure that your chicken is safe to eat, it must reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius). Anything lower than this temperature poses a risk of foodborne illness, while anything higher will result in dry and tough chicken.
The only way to accurately determine the temperature of your chicken is to use a meat thermometer. Whether you opt for a fancy WiFi-enabled thermometer or a simple needle-and-dial one, it’s important to check the temperature. Reaching an exact 165 degrees Fahrenheit is essential for a healthy and enjoyable meal. So don’t leave it to guesswork, and always use a thermometer for perfectly cooked chicken breasts every time.

Bottom Line

Grilling chicken breasts to perfection requires some attention to detail and a few essential techniques. By avoiding the common mistakes outlined by grill master Melissa Cookston, you can up your grilling game and serve up delicious, moist, and safe chicken breasts. Remember to brine the chicken before grilling, start with the right side down, and use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken reaches the recommended internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a grill master yourself. So fire up the grill, prep those chicken breasts, and enjoy a delicious meal that will impress your family and friends.


Why should I brine chicken breasts before grilling?

Brining helps chicken breasts retain moisture during the cooking process, resulting in juicier, more flavorful meat.

Can I season chicken breasts before brining?

It’s best to season the chicken breasts after they’ve been brined and dried. However, be mindful of the salt content, as the brine will already add some saltiness.

How do I keep the chicken breasts from sticking to the grill?

When grilling skin-on chicken breasts, start with the skin side down, as it is naturally more resistant to sticking. For skinless breasts, lightly brush with a high-temperature oil such as canola or avocado oil before seasoning.

How will I know when the chicken breasts are cooked to perfection?

Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the chicken breasts reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius). This temperature ensures both safety and optimal juiciness.

Can I use a different type of oil to brush the chicken?

Yes, you can experiment with different types of oil, such as olive oil or vegetable oil. However, high temperature oils such as canola or avocado are recommended due to their smoke point and ability to withstand grilling heat.

Can I grill frozen chicken breasts?

It’s generally best to thaw chicken breasts before grilling to ensure even cooking. If you must grill frozen chicken breasts, adjust the cooking time accordingly and use a meat thermometer to ensure that they reach the safe internal temperature.

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