Grilling chicken is a beloved ritual of summer, a symphony of sizzling sounds and tantalizing aromas. But, how long should you grill your chicken for optimal results? This question, as simple as it may seem, has many layers to it. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the art and science of grilling chicken, providing you with expert tips and advice to help you achieve perfect results every time.

How Long to Cook Grilled Chicken? Our Expert Tips Revealed

Understanding the Factors That Affect Cooking Time

Before we dive into specific cooking times, it’s crucial to understand the factors that influence how long it takes your grilled chicken to cook. These include:

  • Thickness of the meat: Thicker cuts naturally take longer than thinner ones.
  • Starting temperature: If your meat is still cold when you start grilling, it will take longer.
  • Grill temperature: Hotter grills cook faster.
  • Bone-in vs boneless: Bone-in pieces may require more time.

Grill Every Cut to Perfection

Different cuts of chicken require different cooking times and techniques. Here are some guidelines for grilling various types of chicken to perfection:

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

Chicken breasts are a popular choice for grilling because they’re lean and versatile. Cook them over direct heat at a medium-high temperature (400˚F) for 5 to 6 minutes per side until they reach an internal temperature of 165˚F.

Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders are smaller and thinner, so they cook faster. Grill them over direct heat at a medium-high temperature (375˚F) for 2 to 3 minutes per side until they reach an internal temperature of 165˚F.

Chicken Wings

Chicken wings require a bit more time due to their size and bone content. Cook them over direct heat at a medium temperature (350˚F) for 15 to 20 minutes, turning regularly (3 minutes on each side) until they reach an internal temperature of 165˚F.


Drumsticks are larger and have more connective tissue, so they need a longer cooking time. Grill them over direct heat at a medium-high temperature (400˚F), rotating every few minutes, for about 30 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 165˚F.

Thighs (Bone-In)

Bone-in thighs are rich in flavor and require a bit more attention to cook perfectly. Sear them skin side down over direct heat at a medium-high temperature (400˚F) until golden brown, about three minutes. Flip and sear for another three minutes; then transfer to indirect heat at a medium-low temperature (300˚F) and continue grilling, rotating and flipping occasionally, for 30 to 40 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 165˚F.

Boneless Skinless Thighs

Boneless skinless thighs are a flavorful and quick-cooking option. Grill them over direct heat at a medium-high temperature (375˚F) for 7 to 8 minutes per side until they reach an internal temperature of 165˚F.

Whole Chicken

Grilling a whole chicken is a bit more complex but yields a flavorful and juicy bird. Butterfly the chicken (spatchcock) by cutting out the backbone. Position the chicken skin side up over indirect heat at a medium-high temperature (375˚F) and turn once during cooking. For best results, put a foil-covered brick or cast iron skillet on top to flatten the chicken and encourage even cooking. The whole process should take about 50 minutes.

Ensuring Safe and Delicious Results

The best way to ensure that your grilled chicken is both safe and delicious is by monitoring its internal temperature. Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure that it is fully cooked and safe to eat. Using a digital meat thermometer is the best way to ensure chicken on the grill has reached this safe minimum temperature. Insert the thermometer into the thickest portion of the cut, avoiding any bones, to get the most accurate temperature. When the chicken has reached a safe temperature, remove it from the grill, cover it, and let it rest for five minutes before slicing or serving to let the juices reabsorb into the meat.

Mastering the Art of Grilling Chicken

Grilling chicken is more than just a cooking method; it’s an art form. From selecting the right cut to marinating for extra flavor and tenderness, every step is crucial in creating a grilled chicken masterpiece. Here are a few expert tips to elevate your grilled chicken game:

  • Marinate for extra flavor and tenderness: A good marinade can make all the difference. It not only adds flavor but also tenderizes the meat, making it juicier and more delicious.
  • Preheat the grill: Always preheat the grill before adding your chicken. A hot grill sears the meat on contact, locking in moisture and flavor.
  • Use direct and indirect heat: Temperature control is essential when grilling chicken. For cuts that require longer grilling times, such as a whole chicken or dark meats like drumsticks and thighs, you’ll need both direct and indirect heat zones on your grill.
  • Baste at the right time: From barbecue sauce to pesto, the sugar content in most sauces makes them easy to scorch, so wait to baste or add sauce until near the end of grilling. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the thermometer hits 160˚F to add a sauce high in sugar content. After saucing or basting, it’s best to grill on an indirect heat zone to finish without burning.

With these tips, you’ll be able to grill perfect chicken every time. Remember: Always monitor the internal temperature of your meat, use high-quality ingredients like fresh herbs or spices, and give yourself plenty of time – practice makes perfect!


Grilling chicken can seem daunting at first, but with the right information and techniques under your belt, it’s easy! Whether you’re grilling for a summer barbecue or a casual weeknight dinner, knowing how long to cook grilled chicken is key to achieving juicy, flavorful results. So fire up that grill and get cooking – your perfect grilled chicken awaits!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you cook chicken on a gas grill?

The cooking time for chicken on a gas grill can vary depending on the heat settings and the thickness of your meat. Generally, boneless chicken breast and thighs should be cooked for about 6-8 minutes per side over medium-high heat, whereas larger pieces like whole chicken can take up to an hour to cook thoroughly.

How long does it take to cook a bone-in grilled chicken breast?

Bone-in grilled chicken breasts typically require longer cooking times as compared to boneless ones due to their thickness and weight. Cooking them over medium heat until the internal temperature reaches 165°F or higher, takes around 30-40 minutes depending on the size.

What’s the best way to determine if my grilled chicken is done?

The most reliable way to check if your grilled chicken is cooked through is by using a food thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching any bones or gristle. The minimum safe internal temperature for properly cooked poultry is 165°F which indicates that all harmful bacteria have been killed off during cooking.

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