Grilling is one of the best parts of summer and when you live in the city, can be one of the most elusive. The first thing you need is outdoor space and the second thing you need is to live in a building that permits you to have a grill on the premises. The third and final thing you need are the skills to actually use said grill, which may not always come naturally. When the sudden urge strikes you to make Grilled Lemon and Garlic Chicken Breasts, this becomes a problem.
Like burgers, hot dogs or a rack of ribs, grilled chicken is a summertime rite of passage. Chicken is simple and versatile and generally absorbs the flavor of whatever sauce or marinade it’s cooked with. Yet, it can be tricky for a novice behind the grill to master the perfect piece of chicken.
I love concocting sauces and marinades for grilled meat, but my actual grill skills? Let’s just say those are better left to the experts. Before I hit the grill, I consulted chef Lee Ann Whippen of Chicago q and corporate executive chef Randy Waidner of Gibson’s Restaurant Group, who gave us a few pro tips to put to use when it’s time to play grill master.
Keep it Clean
When prepping the grill, make sure grates are cleaned or scraped prior to lighting, and grease them with oil on cloth to prevent meat from sticking. “Never use flavored charcoal or lighter fluid, as it leaves food with lingering chemical taste,” said Whippen.
If you’re using a community grill, like in a park or in the common area of your apartment or condo complex, it’s especially important to give your grill grates a good scrape before you start cooking. The last thing you want is for your chicken to taste like your neighbor’s day old salmon or steak.
Keep it Simple
When it comes to flavoring, Whippen recommends using a basic marinade and grilling meat or vegetables over medium heat to get charred grill marks without over cooking. If you’re grilling chicken with sauce, she suggests waiting until the last 20 minutes to sauce meat, which prevents sugars from burning the outside of the meat.
Once you’ve reached your desired temperature, which should be 165 degrees for poultry, let the chicken rest. “Always let meat rest 20 to 30 minutes before cutting to seal in flavors,” added Whippen.
Consider Chicken Thighs:
Though most of us reach for chicken breasts, Waidner suggests chicken thighs, which are fattier and juicier than chicken breasts. “Chicken thighs are simple, affordable and perfect for grilling,”Waidner said. ” For a dish that will delight family and guests alike, flatten the chicken thighs to around ¼ inch and marinate. Grill the thighs for around 8 minutes on each side. The extra fat from the thighs will translate into more flavor during cooking.”
If you decide to stick with chicken breasts, bone-in and skin-on breasts will yield more flavor, although boneless skinless breasts are the healthier, lower-calorie option.
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic, about 2 medium cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs
Marinate the chicken:
- Combine all marinade ingredients in zip seal plastic bag. Add chicken to the bag and seal. Place in the refrigerator and let chicken marinate overnight. If you're crunched for time, even thirty minutes of marinating will impart delicious flavor into your chicken.
Grill the chicken:
- Preheat burners on your gas grill to high, then adjust heat to medium. Turn off 1 burner and arrange chicken breasts or thighs on lightly oiled rack above it. Cook, covered with lid, turning only once, until cooked through, about 30-40 minutes total.
- This recipe can yield anywhere from two to four servings depending on your appetite and leftovers keep for up to three days and can be easily repurposed into salads or sandwiches.