May 12, 2013
How To Grill Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
(while keeping it juicy)
A lot of people trash talk the boneless skinless chicken breast. That's understandable. There's no skin or bone to keep in flavor and tenderness. It's really easy to turn it into a disaster. Well I was thinking about it and I believe I have a way to salvage this. I mean what are you supposed to do when your wife comes home with a pack of 6 boneless skinless breasts? You might as well have a plan in place to nail it. Here's what I came up with.
The key to grilling juicy boneless skinless chicken breast is twofold: you need a punch of flavor and it can't be overcooked. I have three ways to increase the flavor: a BBQ dry rub, smoke, and a caramelized BBQ sauce. To cook it perfectly you need a thermometer and the reverse sear method of grilling.
The first thing is to cover the chicken breast liberally with dry rub. You can use any dry rub you want. I have a basic dry rub recipe here. Apply the rub and let the chicken rest in the fridge for a few hours.
Normally people grill chicken over direct heat the same way you would cook a steak. A few minutes on each side, or more likely a lot of minutes on each side, and then you have big grill marks and classic grilled chicken. Well this method doesn't really work well for a thick unbutterflied or unflattened piece of chicken. This method of grilling chicken also results in an almost crisp outer layer of chicken that can be quite dry.
The reverse sear method is when you cook meat over indirect heat (away from the coals) and then finish the cooking over direct heat (directly over the coals). So the general plan here is to put the rubbed chicken breast on the indirect side of the grill and let them sit there without flipping until they reach about 150 degrees F internal temperature. It will take about 30 minutes to get the chicken cooked to about 150. You'll want a dome temperature of about 400-450 degrees F. To get this you'll need about 1/2 of a charcoal chimney lit and ashed over. Also, you need to add a handful of wood chips (not chunks) or a product such as Kingsford's new smoke briquettes. This really adds some nice flavor. Don't worry about soaking any wood or being all fancy. Just throw in some wood chips or smoke briquettes on top of the coals and you'll get about 10-15 minutes of moderate smoke.
When the chicken reaches 150 or so move it to the grate directly above the coals. Now, after 30 or so minutes of grilling this area won't be high heat. It will more likely be a medium low heat which is just what you want. Grab a basic BBQ sauce and slowly brush it on each breast. During this phase of the grilling you can leave the grill dome open and stand there attending to the chicken. It will only take about 5 more minutes. Brush the chicken, flip the chicken and repeat. Enjoy this time at the grill. Keep doing this until the chicken is nicely coated with sauce and is cooked to 165 degrees F. I use a Thermapen to make sure that I know exactly what the temperature is.
Oh yeah, look at that. Perfectly sauced, lightly smoked chicken breast. I find it terribly difficult to take a picture of meat that is cut into. But, since it's pretty important to convince you that this method results in juicy tender chicken here we go.
This was so nice that I simply put it on a soft roll with a few shoestring fries on the side. This works out well! Let me know what you think!?
In summary, this method of grilling juicy boneless skinless chicken breast includes: adding a BBQ dry rub, using smoke wood or smoke briquettes, grilling with the reverse sear method and brushing a BBQ sauce on while the chicken finishes cooking over direct heat (about 165 degrees internal temperature).