Fire away! Here's how to grill whole chicken, chicken pieces, and chicken kabobs for tender, juicy meat with flame-kissed flavor. Get easy tips, plus top-rated recipes to try.
Tame the Flame
When you're grilling chicken, it's always smart to have a cool area on the grill -- a safe place where you can remove chicken pieces when flare-ups threaten or when some pieces are just cooking too fast. Keep the white-hot coals on one side of the grill, and reserve the other "cool" side for chicken triage. With gas grills, you can simply adjust the flames on either side of the grill as needed.
Use this handy chart to see how long to grill whole chickens, chicken breasts, chicken kabobs, and more.
Hot Enough for You?
Many grills come with a built-in temperature gauge so you can see how hot it is with the cover closed, or you can buy a grill thermometer. Some folks swear by the hand-held method: counting how many seconds you can hold your hand about 6 inches over the grill.
- High Heat: 3 seconds or 500 F (260 C)
- Medium High Heat: 5 seconds or 400 F (205 C)
- Medium Heat: 7 seconds or 350 F (175 C)
- Medium Low Heat: 10 seconds or 325 F (165 C)
- Low Heat: 12 seconds or 300 F (150 C)
Follow the heat recommendations for the recipe you're cooking.
How to Grill Chicken Breasts
Chicken is one of the trickier foods to grill. And maybe the trickiest of all are boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The high heat of the grill can dry out the meat before it's cooked through. To avoid drying out your boneless chicken breasts, gently pound the poultry into uniform thickness; the breasts will cook more evenly.
Favorite Boneless Grilled Chicken Breast Recipes:
- Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken
- Spicy Chicken Breasts
- Marinated Grilled Chicken II
- Grilled Asian Chicken
- More Grilled Chicken Breast Recipes
How to Grill Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs tend to be more tender and juicy than chicken breasts, which makes them great candidates for grilling. Boneless chicken thigh meat lies flat so you don't have to pound it out to help it cook evenly. Bone-in chicken thighs also lie flat, but they'll take longer to cook.
Favorite Grilled Chicken Thigh Recipes:
How to Grill Whole Chicken
Grilling a whole chicken can be a bit of a challenge because of its size and shape. And yet, thanks to human ingenuity, you have a number of options:
- Not Your Average Grilled Chicken: Remove the backbone so the chicken flattens out to grill evenly. Makes an impressive presentation and it's easy to carve.
- Rotisserie Chicken: You'll need a special attachment to hold the chicken as it rotates over the grill.
- Beer Can Chicken: Stand a whole chicken up in a baking pan by inserting an open can of beer into the cavity of the chicken. Fans of this method swear the meat turns out moist and delicious.
Watch the recipe for Beer Can Chicken to see how it all comes together:
How to Grill Chicken Kebabs
Call them chicken kabobs, kebabs, satays, or skewers. Chicken on a stick is great for the grill.
- For the best results, cut chicken pieces and veggies into the same size pieces. (One- to 1½-inch inch cubes work well.)
- Skewer foods with similar cooking times together. While a skewer that combines bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and chicken looks appetizing on the plate, the tomatoes will likely turn to mush and/or slip off the skewer before the chicken is done.
- To stabilize round or hard-to-skewer foods like cherry tomatoes, use two skewers parallel to each other.
- To keep wood skewers from turning into kindling on the grill, give them a nice soak in water. Thirty minutes should do the trick. No need to soak metal skewers.
Some Favorite Chicken Kabob Recipes:
- Chicken Kabobs Mexicana
- Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs
- Chicken and Bacon Shish Kabobs
- More Chicken Kabob Recipes
Add Flavor with Marinades
Marinating is a simple way to add flavor to grilled chicken. Chicken doesn't need a long soak. Here are tips for successful marinating, plus the simple 1-2-3 formula for making marinades.
Some Favorite Recipes for Chicken Marinades:
- Marinated Grilled Chicken II
- Pretty Chicken Marinade
- Italian Chicken Marinade
- Korean BBQ Chicken Marinade
- Chicken Marinade
VIDEO: How To Make Grilled Chicken Spiedies
See how to make chicken spiedies, including the famous “zuzu sauce,” a wine- and vinegar-based marinade with loads of minty, garlicky, peppery flavor. "The term 'spiedie' (SPEE-dee) comes from 'spiedo,' the Italian word for spit," says Chef John. "And simply refers to meat grilled on a skewer."
Get the recipe for Chef John's Grilled Chicken Spiedies.
- Check out our Top Tips For Grilling Successfully.
- Find all of our top-rated grilled chicken recipes.
- Get recipes and tips for amazing chicken marinades.