Grilled Chicken

$9.02 recipe / $2.25 serving
by Jess - Budget Bytes
5 from 4 votes
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During grilling season, I make this Grilled Chicken for my family at least once a week. It’s one of those simple recipes that works for even the pickiest eaters! I brine large chicken breasts, then coat them in a sweet and savory spice rub to create the juiciest grilled chicken you’ve ever tasted! Everyone at my house loves this chicken, and the delicious char from grilling takes the flavor to the next level.

overhead view of 2 sliced grilled chicken breasts on a white plate.

Juicy grilled chicken is a staple at my house this time of year. I never have to worry if my picky toddler will finish her dinner or if my husband will go back for seconds. It’s one of the magical recipes that’s a winner every time. The best part is, the leftovers are great to use in just about every Budget Bytes chicken salad recipe we have on the blog which makes lunches the rest of the week a no-brainer. To top it all off, using the grill means my house isn’t sweltering hot in the middle of the summer! Need I say more?

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make grilled chicken:

  • Chicken: I like large boneless skinless chicken breasts for this recipe. They’re easy to divide in half and pound nice and thin for a tender bite. I grabbed a 2-pack that weighed in at 1.61 lbs. so there was plenty of chicken for everyone.
  • Brine: A simple mixture of kosher salt, granulated sugar, and water infuses the chicken with flavor, helps to combat moisture loss, and makes the meat super tender.
  • Spice Rub: A blend of salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, and brown sugar creates a savory, spicy, and smoky flavor with just a hint of sweetness.

Serving Suggestions

I love serving this grilled chicken sliced over a fresh green salad, but it’s truly so versatile! Lemon butter green beans, cheesy broccoli rice, or grilled vegetable pasta salad would all be delicious with this tasty chicken recipe. A light drizzle of Homemade Balsamic Glaze can take your grilled chicken to the next level!

Tips and Notes

  • Make sure to use kosher salt for the brine. The flat, flaky crystals dissolve extremely well in water and creates a crystal-clear brine.
  • Don’t skip the brown sugar; it helps develop that beautiful char.
  • Putting the smooth part of the breast down on the grill first helps ensure you get those glorious grill marks on the top! So, start with the smooth side down to ensure you get some sexy grill marks on that bird!
  • If your chicken is sticking to the grill, allow it to cook for another minute or two. It should lift off easily when you flip.

Storage Instructions

I recommend storing leftover grilled chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To freeze, wrap individual chicken breasts in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place them in a Ziplock bag to store for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium-low heat.

Our Favorite Cost effective grill

When I was looking for a grill for us to use in the Budget Bytes kitchen, I wanted one that was easy to find, simple to set up, easy to clean, and didn’t make me miss my charcoal grill. I went with the Ninja Sizzle Smokeless Grill after contemplating a few different ones that would be widely available at Walmart, Target, and Amazon.

The cheapest grill option I found was a simple and small camping charcoal grill. That’s also a great option if you want to grill outside, get that smokier grill flavor, and don’t mind keeping charcoal on hand.

The Ninja Sizzle Smokeless Grill we ended up deciding on comes with a grill top and a flat top, so it’s perfect as a quick, clean option for grilling at home or even in an RV/camper. (I have since bought one for my chef kit and my in-laws bought one for their camper!)

close up of sliced grilled chicken breasts on a white plate.
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Grilled Chicken

5 from 4 votes
I brine large chicken breasts, then coat them in a sweet and savory spice rub to create the juiciest grilled chicken you've ever tasted!
overhead view of 2 sliced grilled chicken breasts on a white plate.
Servings 4 (1/2 chicken breast each)
Prep 40 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Total 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts* ($8.03)

Brine Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt ($0.14)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar ($0.18)
  • 2 quarts water ($0.00)

Rub ingredients:

Instructions 

  • Create your wet brine: Combine 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in 2 quarts of cold water. Whisk to combine.
  • With a fork, poke holes all over the chicken breasts and then transfer to a Ziplock bag. Pound chicken breasts to 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch with a tenderizing mallet or rolling pin inside a Ziplock bag.
  • Pour the wet brine into the Ziplock bag with the tenderized chicken breasts. Close the bag and allow it to brine at room temperature for 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
  • Make the seasoning blend by combining the salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, and brown sugar in a bowl.
  • Remove the chicken breasts from the brine, rinse, and pat dry on both sides with paper towels, drizzle with olive oil, and rub with the seasoning blend on both sides.
  • Preheat grill to 475°F. Note: If you are using an indoor grill, we found putting the chicken on the grill while it’s preheating helps get the middle of the breast to temperature in a timely manner and keeps the outside from overcooking and burning. If your chicken has been in the refrigerator, allow it to come to room temperature for at least 10 minutes before starting the grilling process.
  • Cook the chicken for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until the internal temp reads between 155-160°F. The chicken will continue to cook while it’s resting (because it’s so hot and juicy!) so you can remove it a little early, just make sure it reaches the internal temperature of 165°F while resting, or you may need to throw it back on the grill for a couple more minutes.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


Equipment

Notes

*For this recipe, 1 serving = 6 ounces per person. 3-4 ounces is a typical serving size for chicken, but I was generous and went with 6 ounces per person for this recipe… so you could easily stretch it further if you needed to!

Nutrition

Serving: 6ouncesCalories: 253kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 36gFat: 5gSodium: 7877mgFiber: 1g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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how to make Grilled Chicken – step by step photos

pouring water over sugar and salt in a large white bowl.

Create your wet brine: Combine 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in 2 quarts of cold water. Whisk to combine.

pounding chicken breasts in a ziplock bag with a rolling pin on an orange cutting board.

With a fork, poke holes all over 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts and then transfer to a Ziplock bag. Pound chicken breasts to 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch with a tenderizing mallet or rolling pin inside a Ziplock bag.

pouring brine into a ziplock bag with chicken breasts.

Pour the wet brine into the Ziplock bag with the tenderized chicken breasts. Close the bag and allow it to brine at room temperature for 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

spices and brown sugar in a white bowl.

Make the seasoning blend by combining 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp onion powder, and 1 tsp brown sugar in a bowl.

pressing seasoning onto chicken breasts on an orange cutting board.

Remove the chicken breasts from the brine, rinse, and pat dry on both sides with paper towels, drizzle with olive oil, and rub with the seasoning blend on both sides.

2 raw chicken breasts on a grill.

Preheat grill to 475°F. Note: If you are using an indoor grill, we found putting the chicken on the grill while it’s preheating helps get the middle of the breast to temperature in a timely manner and keeps the outside from overcooking and burning. If your chicken has been in the refrigerator, allow it to come to room temperature for at least 10 minutes before starting the grilling process.

2 fully cooked chicken breasts on a grill.

Cook the chicken for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until the internal temp reads between 155-160°F. The chicken will continue to cook while it’s resting (because it’s so hot and juicy!) so you can remove it a little early, just make sure it reaches the internal temperature of 165°F while resting, or you may need to throw it back on the grill for a couple more minutes.

overhead view of a sliced grilled chicken breast on a plate with salad.

Juicy, tender, and full of flavor, this grilled chicken is a winner every time!

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Comments

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  1. Do you have a recommendation for asugar substitute? I am not able to eat/consumer regular sugar at all due to health reasons. What is the reason for the sugar in the brine?

    1. We don’t have much experience with sugar alternatives, but I do know that several brands make stevia or monk fruit versions of brown sugar that you can find at larger grocery stores. You’re also welcome to omit it but it does add a subtle sweetness and caramelization to the chicken and the sugar in the brine balances out the salt!

    2. Hey Dari, I love Swerve (that’s the brand name) as a sugar-free brown sugar substitute. They have a granular sugar, confectioner’s sugar, and brown sugar! I’ve used all when cooking for private clients avoiding sugar and it’s a super easy swap. I know the Walmart near my house carries it (and we are in a very rural area) so I imagine/hope it’s easy to find where you are, too!

    1. Hi, D. I suggest 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes. It should stay nice and juicy! *Make sure you use a meat thermometer to make sure the breasts reach an internal temperature of 165. You can pull it a few degrees early and let it rest, covered with foil, but you want to make sure it’s fully cooked. I think you’ll be really happy with it! Enjoy.

  2. Help! I seem to be the only one who had a problem. The taste was delish, the chicken so tender and juicy, but it was so over-salty that we couldn’t eat it. I never have that problem and my husband loves salt, so it was so strange. I used the 1/4 cup kosher salt for the wet brine, and the 1 tsp salt for the rub. Perhaps the brine needs to be rinsed? But by that time it’s well inside the chicken, so I doubt a rinse would help. I did marinate in the brine for 24 hours. What am I doing wrong that it was way too salty?

    1. Hey, Wendy. I would recommend rinsing off the brine and patting the chicken dry before grilling.

  3. Have made this before and love it – a cost and waste saving tip id thought to pass on. For the brine- using the brine from feta cheese or dill pickles works a charm too and adds a slightly different flavour option. 😀

    1. Definitely! You just may have to cook them a bit longer. Checking the internal temp with a meat thermometer is your best bet!

    2. Yes, you will need to adjust your cook time on the grill– just make sure you have a meat thermometer handy!

  4. I made this today on the grill. Absolutely delicious. Chicken can be so bland and this is great! I made a big batch up for meal prep.

  5. I made this the other night using chicken tenders. It turned out delicious and had so much flavor. I did use 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper knowing how spicy cayenne can be. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I already had a request to make it again.

  6. Hi, I was reading through the nutrition facts. It says 7877 mg. sodium for a 6 oz. serving of chicken! Is this correct?

    1. It seems the nutrition counter is basing that on the salt used in the brine. Unfortunately, it’s hard to gauge how much of that actually makes it into the chicken vs is discarded after the brining. But rest assured it would be no where near that in actuality!

    1. The ingredients would all be the same, but the cooking time would likely be a little different since you’re cooking the bottom and the top at the same time. I would go by a meat thermometer for the best results!

  7. The JUICIEST grilled chicken. Love the brown sugar in the rub. Will definitely try this.