Boneless, skinless chicken breasts have the reputation of being one of the most boring things you can cook, and are typically relegated to can’t-think-of-anything-better weeknight meals. But I still love them, and I don’t think they have to be that way. Yes, it’s true that when I make chicken (which is often since it’s my go-to meat) I tend to braise bone-in thighs or roast a whole salt-rubbed bird. But you seriously can’t beat the simple, humble boneless, skinless chicken breast for ease and get-that-meal-on-the-table-because-the-toddler-is-screaming quickness.
If you follow a few simple steps, you can be rewarded with juicy, flavorful chicken breasts that take center stage on your plate:
- Pound your chicken breasts so that they are of uniform thickness. This will help ensure that they cook through at the same rate.
- Brine them! You don’t need to do it for long, 30 minutes is great, but tossing your breasts in a salty brine will seal in the juiciness and add flavor throughout the meat.
- Grill them! This adds a lot of flavor, whether you use charcoal or a gas grill. Just be careful not to overcook them.
- Let them rest for about 10 minutes for the juices to re-distribute, also helping to ensure that the breasts remain juicy.
- Finally, serve them with a simple sauce. A vinaigrette, which I’ve included below, is a healthy and simple way to add flavor. You can also top them with purchased pesto of any sort (basil, sundried tomato, arugula, etc); a zingy homemade chimichurri; or your favorite salsa, such as spicy chipotle or tomatillo.
Easy Grilled Chicken with Vinaigrette
Makes 4–6 servings
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, each about 8 oz
- 3 tbsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp sugar
- About 4 ice cubes
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano, thyme, marjoram and/or basil
- 1 clove minced garlic
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Place a chicken breast in a large zippered plastic bag. Pound the breast with a meat pounder until it is a uniform thickness, about 3/4 inch thick. Repeat with all of the breasts.
- In a bowl, stir together 1 cup hot water with the salt and sugar, until dissolved. Add 3 cups very cold water and stir until combined. If the water is still lukewarm, add 4-6 ice cubes. Add the chicken breasts, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, in a small jar with a lid, add all of the vinaigrette ingredients. Shake to combine. Set aside.
- Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for medium-high indirect heat. Clean the grill grate. Remove the chicken breasts from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Brush with olive oil.
- Grill over the fire until nicely seared on both sides, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes on each side.
- Transfer to the cooler side of the grill, cover, and cook until a meat thermometer reads 150-160F. Transfer to a platter, tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Spoon the vinaigrette over the chicken breasts and serve.