How to Grill Chicken Without Drying It Out?

  • By: Brendan

I’ve been grilling for a while now, but only recently have noticed that of all the meats I grill, chicken seems to dry out way faster than the others.

This is sort of intriguing because my chicken starts off juicier with my original marination recipe, and gradually loses its moisture, and turns dry during the grilling process.

How to Grill Chicken Without Drying It Out

There are several reasons why your grill chicken is always dry, and solutions to grill chicken without drying it out such as cooking at low temperature, basting it periodically, and monitoring the food as it grills.

Why is Grilled Chicken Always Dry?

Chicken is and probably always will be my top favorite to grill, owing to the fact that it’s the leanest sources of protein.

But some parts of a chicken tend to dry out faster than others, like those that don’t contain more fat to keep them moist. Chicken drumsticks and thighs are more forgiving, but chicken breasts surprisingly dry out faster.

A chicken’s biggest appeal—it’s low in fat content is also its biggest pitfall because lack of fat content results in temperature changes quickly as it’s heated.

So, the short answer to the question why is my chicken dry is because you’re likely overcooking it!

The only way to make sure that chicken cooks properly is by following slim rules of cooking it properly—this, unfortunately, isn’t that easy, and here’s why!

The issue primarily boils down to food safety! Poultry of all the meats is infused with natural bugs that no one wants to eat such as Salmonella.

This doesn’t imply that chicken is disease-ridden on its own, but the conditions they are raised and slaughtered in allow diseases such as these to flourish.

In order to protect ourselves from diseases, and to ensure that the chicken is safe to eat, we need to cook the chicken to 165-degrees Fahrenheit.

However, cooking chicken at 165-degrees means that it’s mostly on the brink of being overcooked, but doesn’t have to be!

I mentioned earlier that the sanitation of chicken is when you cook it at 165-degrees as recommended by the USDA. But is also a function of time!

When you cook chicken at 165-degrees, the microbes die very quickly in less than 10 seconds. But you can also kill these microbes at lower temperatures too—it just takes longer!

This equates to cooking chicken to reach 150-degrees Fahrenheit for 2.7 minutes for the same killing power as 165-degrees for a few seconds.

All in all, if your chicken is dry, you’re probably overcooking it, and this isn’t necessarily your fault, but due to the misinformation out there.

Different Ways to Grill Chicken Without Drying Out

There are several ways to grill chicken without drying out, most notably!

1. Buy Good Quality Chicken

This is common sense, but worth a mention! if a chicken hasn’t been properly fed or raised with best practices, it’s going to affect its quality and flavor.

You should always aim to buy chicken from a trusted source, because the better the quality of chicken, the better the results.

2. Thaw Chicken Before Grilling

Always thaw your chicken or any other meat before tossing it on the grilling. Not doing so will result in uneven cooking and dry spots.

Adding to this, the chicken will cook faster on the outside than the inside, which means that you will be consuming unhealthy meat even though you think it’s cooked.

3. Salt is Your Best Friend

Many home chefs and seasoned grillers believe that salt only imparts flavor in the food, but it does way more than that when applied in the right quantity.

Generously coat the entire surface of the chicken with salt before grilling. The excess salt will fade during grilling, so your chicken won’t taste like a salt lick.

Salt doesn’t just impart plenty of flavor to your chicken, but seals in moisture as well, preventing the chicken from drying out.

4. Prep Your Grill

Whether you’re grilling indoors or outdoors, it’s highly important that your cooking surface is set up for success.

This means that it is should be free of debris, and oiled lightly with vegetable oil to prevent the chicken from sticking and drying out.

5 Expert Tips to Prevent Chicken from Drying while Grilling

1. Don’t set the grill too high

Been there done that! Sometimes after a long 9-5 day, we want to get dinner ready asap, and the mistake we make is set the grill on high right after firing up the grill.

But chicken is one of those meats that won’t cook well under these circumstances, and will actually overcook on high heat, resulting in dry meat.

Further, you should also refrain from walking away from the grill when cooking chicken, because you need to flip the chicken often to prevent scorching or drying out.

2. Use a meat thermometer

Yes, a meat thermometer is an added investment, but one that will save you from a lot of heartache over burnt or overcooked meat.

Even seasoned chefs use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of chicken and other meats.

As mentioned earlier, the recommended internal temperature by the FDA is 165-degrees F for chicken.

3. Don’t add BBQ sauce to your chicken too soon

I’ve seen seasoned grillers make this big mistake—seasoning and adding BBQ sauce to the chicken before grilling.

While you can season your chicken, do not add BBQ sauce because most BBQ sauce recipes contain sugar, which browns much faster than the meat.

This can give you a false indication of the doneness, so add the sauce when the chicken has a couple of minutes left on the grill.

4. Skinless chicken isn’t the same as chicken with skin 

Grillers often confuse skinless chicken and chicken with skin in terms of cooking, but the former is more insulated than its skinless counterpart.

For this reason, skinless chicken needs to cook less than chicken with skin, or else it will dry out.

5. Let the chicken rest

We all have that innate feeling of indulging in succulent chicken right off the grill, but you have to resist this urge, and here’s why!

Chicken continues to cook internally after it’s taken off the heat, so you have to let this cooking process complete. This final cooking process also helps seal in the juices to keep the chicken moist.

How Do You Keep Chicken Moist After Grilling?

There are several ways to keep chicken moist after grilling, but the best way is by covering it with aluminum foil or a lid from a pan.

You should not use any other warming device to keep the chicken moist or warm, as doing so may dry out the chicken.

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