How To Grill Chicken: Juicy Inside And Crispy Outside (For 4-6 People)

Have you ever wondered how to grill chicken that won’t end up dry and bland? When you check the chicken, it’s still not done yet. You wait for a couple of minutes, and it’s burnt. 

It’s a pain that you can’t master such a basic dish. But believe me, even the most professional chefs have to learn how to boil eggs. You only need a little attention to make this dish successfully. Follow the below steps to get it right!

how to grill chicken featured

Preparation

Choose The Good Quality Chicken For Grilling

To get a perfect result, the initial thing to do is choose the best part of the chicken for grilling and prepare it in the right way. 

Every part is okay for grilling, but we suggest using drumsticks, breasts, mid-joint-wings, legs, and thighs pieces – all skin-on and bone-in. Boneless pieces belong to the fairer color parts of a chicken. They tend to be drier and more suitable for deep-frying. (source)

Leaving the skin on the chicken helps to maintain the juiciness and tenderness. If you don’t want to eat the skin, you can remove it after grilling when picking a chicken piece on your plate. (source)

Separate into each part (breasts, wings, drumsticks, etc.), and ready for the next step. 

What You’ll Need

  • Gas/propane/charcoal grill (replace with a cast iron, non-stick pan if you don’t have one)
  • Salt and pepper (try to use kosher salt and freshly ground pepper if possible)
  • Lemon/vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs, aromas, spices (optional)
  • BBQ sauce/glazes or any sauce you like (optional)
  • Tongs, paper towel
  • Other ingredients & kitchen tools depend on specific recipes

Get Ready

Marinate The Chicken

Prepare a tray with towel paper, put chicken pieces on. Let them dry and come to room temperature. 

You can also use a towel to pat it dry. Removing water sticking outside of the chicken pieces allows the skin to get crispy easier and prevents chicken fat from splashing on your body while grilling.

You have 2 options: we call them the simple and the flavorful option to marinate the chicken. We recommend the first method for those who prefer everything quick and easy. If you have time, you should choose the second way- marinating the chicken as long as possible. 

  • Simple Option: 
  1. Spread a little olive oil on both sides of the chicken piece (oil helps to avoid dry taste)
  2. Sprinkle some salt and pepper generously.
  3. Leave the spices for at least 15-30 minutes to do their jobs.
  • More Flavorful Option
  • Dip the chicken pieces into lemon juice or vinegar (this will tenderize the chicken and keep them juicy) (source)
  • If you don’t like these acidic liquids, use only lemon zest. Mix them with some herbs, aromatics, and spices to create a marinade. This helps to add flavor to your dish.
  • Massage the mixture all over the chicken pieces
  • Put the chicken into a zip-lock bag or a bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. The longer the marinade takes, the richer your grilled chicken tastes. 
zip-lock bag chicken

Tip: You can prepare a massive amount of chicken and divide it into small bags for each course. This will reduce the defrosting time. 

Note: You can also marinate the chicken according to your own recipe. 

Preheat The Grill

  • Clean the grates 
  • Oil the grates: Use tongs to clamp a paper towel coated in olive oil, and then gently wipe the surface of the grill grates (lightly coat the towel, don’t soak it with oil, and then use tongs to turn it into a roll shape)
  • Pre-heat your grill 15 minutes before putting the chicken on it.
  • Divide the cooking surface into 2 areas: high and low heat. 
oil and preheat grills

If you are using a charcoal grill, move all the red hot coals aside and other smoldering coals on the other side. For gas grills, adjust the knob to turn one side of the burners to high heat and the other side to low heat. 

Note: Remember to cover the grill. It will help the heat distribute evenly inside the grill.

Start To Cook Chicken

When your grill is scorching (about 500oF), it’s time to put the chicken onto the grates. A very hot grill will create such beautiful and yummy char and grill marks on the meat’s surface. 

  • First, place the chicken on the high heat side. This area provides direct heat to sear the meat quickly and deliver a charred, crispy exterior. 
  • A thin piece of chicken breast needs around 3 minutes per side, and then you can move it to the cooler area. With thicker, larger parts like thighs or drumsticks, leave them there for about 8 minutes per side. This is just our recommended time. You can wait longer for a crispier skin. 

Tip: When you flip the chicken but it still sticks to the grates, wait for 30 seconds or 1 minute until you can completely pick it up. 

  • When the pieces turn brown with char grill marks, move the meat to the lower heat zone to simmer the interior without burning. This will also keep the juiciness and prevent the chicken from being too dry. 
  • Place the thighs and drumsticks closer to the center of the grill than the breasts and wings. Breasts and wings cook faster. They might get burnt or dry before other pieces get fully cooked. Therefore, keep them away from the flaming fire. 
  • Close the lid and let the chicken cook for 15-20 minutes.

Note: Remember to keep the lid on with vents open. It creates convection heat to cook the chicken evenly on both sides and retain the moisture inside. (source)

Add Sauce (Optional)

Okay, now it’s time to apply your favorite sauce. The sauce makes your dish look extremely tastier and more colorful. Each sauce also offers a different flavor to your grilled chicken. Thus, you can use BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce or glazes, etc., depending on your taste. 

You might ask why don’t we marinate the chicken with sauce in the preparation stage. The answer is you shouldn’t add sauce when the chicken is still raw; it will burn before the meat gets done and leave an ugly, dark black exterior to your dish. 

This stage might take up 1-2 minutes.

  • Use a brush to baste the sauce on the chicken pieces
  • Flip the chicken and repeat the action
  • Switch the meat to the high heat area to crisp it up until the sauce are well-brown
  • Watch the chicken carefully, turn and move when needed to avoid burning and dry because the interior is now fully cooked already. 
  • Baste again if you want to add more color to the chicken

Finish Cooking

  • Take the chicken off the grill grates when you see all things have been well done or when the internal temperature reaches 165oF. 
  • Let it rest for at least 4-5 minutes to keep the tender and juices inside. 
  • Cut the large part into smaller pieces for serving 
  • Add side dishes such as guacamole, fried rice, grilled veggies, or use the chicken in salads, sandwiches, and pasta. 
  • Place the rest in food containers and freeze for future use 

Summary

This section will provide a short instruction on how to grill chicken, ensuring a juicy, tender interior with a crispy exterior every time. This is a brief summary of all of the above steps if you want to skip the explanation and detailed description. 

Difficulty: Easy /Beginner

StageTimeDescription
Preparation5 minutesIngredients & Tools:

 

  • Salt, pepper, spices, etc.
  • Lemon/vinegar
  • Grill
  • Tongs, brush, paper towel

Wash the chicken and divide it into separated pieces like breasts, thighs, wings, etc.

Let them completely cool and dry 

Marinate4 hours (or overnight) 

 

Skip this stage if you don’t have time

Dip the chicken pieces into lemon juice or vinegar (if you don’t like acidic liquid, use lemon zest instead)

 

Mix them with some herbs, aromatics, and spices to create a marinade. 

Massage the mixture all over the chicken pieces

Put the chicken into a zip-lock bag or a bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Get ready 10-15 minutesOil the grates

 

Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the chicken 

Preheat the grill for 10-15 minutes

Divide into 2 cooking areas: high heat zone and low heat zone

CookingApprox. 25 minutesPlace the chicken on the high heat side. 

 

A thin piece of chicken breast needs around 3 minutes per side, and then you can move it to the cooler area. With thicker, larger parts like thighs or drumsticks, leave them there for about 8 minutes per side. 

When the pieces turn brown with char grill marks, move the pieces to the lower heat zone to simmer them without burning. 

Close the lid and let the chicken cook for 15-20 minutes.

Add sauce

 

(Optional)

1-2 minutesUse a brush to baste the sauce on both sides

 

Switch the meat to the high heat area to crisp it up until the sauce are well-brown

Watch the chicken carefully, turn and move when needed to avoid burning 

Baste again if needed

Finish 5 minutesTake the chicken off the grill. 

 

Let it rest for 4-5 minutes

Add side dishes

Final Words

Now that you have it – the one and only instruction you need on how to grill chicken perfectly. To be honest, it’s not that complicated. Just pay attention to the details and follow the recipe carefully. Small actions can make a big difference. Now let’s get the ball rolling!

Roger Lee
Roger Lee

Thanks for visiting my website. My name is Roger Lee, and I am a 30-year-old man with a hybrid blood of Chinese and Russian. I decided to set up this site to share with everyone my love and passion for open-air cuisine. It all started when my parents opened a restaurant and I had the chance of getting exposed to the art of outdoor cooking.
This website aims at sharing about my hobby, recipes, and tips for cooking to everyone. Try them out and tell me about your experience.