June 23rd, 2014
01:30 PM ET
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America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full¬time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most¬foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook's Illustrated magazine, and on our two public television cooking shows.

Grilling bone-in chicken breasts is trickier than it seems. You want well-browned, crisp skin, and tender, moist meat. The challenge is the thick part of the breast: It’s quite slow to cook, while the tapered end cooks quickly. Adding a glaze to that equation makes the situation even a little thornier.

Here’s how we ensure success: First, we brine the chicken breasts to boost their moistness and to season them. Second, we set the grill up with a modified two-level fire; the hot side is used for browning and crisping, and the cooler side for the bulk of the cooking time. Finally, we apply the glaze to the chicken breasts only in the final minutes of grilling, so that the sugars won't burn.

Once you master this basic technique for grilling chicken breasts, you can apply any number of glazes or sauces, even barbecue sauce, if you like.

grilled chicken

Grilled Bone-In Chicken Breasts with Chipotle-Orange Glaze

Ingredients:

Glaze

2 oranges
1 small shallot
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
2 Teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 Tablespoon molasses
3/4 Teaspoon cornstarch
Table salt

Chicken

1/3 Cup table salt
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (about 12 ounces each) *
Ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for cooking grate

* To help ensure that all the chicken breasts finish cooking at approximately the same time, try to buy pieces of similar size. Don’t use boneless, skinless chicken breasts—the bone and skin protects the easily overcooked breast meat from becoming dry and chalky, and the skin gives the glaze a surface to cling to. If you purchase kosher chicken, omit the brining step.

Instructions:

Prepare Glaze

1. Grate 1 teaspoon zest from 1 orange.
2. Squeeze 2/3 cup juice from 1 or 2 oranges (use zested orange first).
3. Peel and mince 1 small shallot. You should have about 1 tablespoon.
4. Mince 1 or 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. You should have 1 to 2 tablespoons.
5. Mince enough thyme leaves to yield 2 teaspoons.
6. Combine zest, juice, shallot, chile, and thyme in small saucepan.
7. Whisk in 1 tablespoon molasses and 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch.
8. Simmer mixture over medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes.
9. Season with salt.
10. Reserve half of glaze for serving and use other half for brushing on chicken while grilling.

Prepare and Brine Chicken

11. Trim ribs off 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts.
12. Trim excess fat from each chicken breast
13. Dissolve 1/3 cup table salt in 2 quarts cold water in large container.
14. Submerge chicken in brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour.
15. Rinse chicken under cold water.
16. Dry thoroughly with paper towels.
17. Season chicken with pepper. (If using gas grill, proceed to step 25.)

Prepare Charcoal Grill

18. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal (6 quarts, or about 100 briquettes).
19. Allow to burn until coals are fully ignited and partially covered with thin layer of ash, about 20 minutes.
20. Build modified two-level fire by arranging all coals over one half of grill, leaving other half empty.
21. Position cooking grate over coals, cover grill, and let grate heat up, about 5 minutes.
22. Scrape grate clean with grill brush.
23. Dip wad of paper towels in oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate.
24. Grill is ready when coals are medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grate for 3 to 4 seconds). (Proceed to step 29.)

Prepare Gas Grill

25. Turn all burners to high and heat with lid down until very hot, about 15 minutes.
26. Scrape grate clean with grill brush.
27. Dip wad of paper towels in oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate.
28. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).

Grill Chicken

29. Cook chicken over hotter part of grill until lightly browned all both sides, 6 to 8 minutes for charcoal grill or 10 to 14 minutes for gas grill.
30. If constant flare-ups occur, slide chicken to cooler side of grill and mist fire with water from spray bottle.
31. Move chicken, skin side down, to cooler side of grill, with thicker side of breast facing hotter side.
32. Cover loosely with aluminum foil.
33. Cover grill and continue to cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers 150 degrees, 15 to 25 minutes longer.
34. Brush bone side of chicken with glaze.
35. Move chicken, bone side down, to hotter side of grill and cook until browned, 4 to 6 minutes.
36. Brush skin side of chicken with glaze.
37. Turn chicken over and continue to cook until browned and instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 160 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes longer.
38. Transfer chicken to plate.

Let Chicken Rest and Serve

39. Tent chicken with foil.
40. Let rest 5 minutes.
41. Serve, passing remaining glaze separately.

More from America's Test Kitchen:
Grilled Chicken Souvlaki
Grilled Glazed Baby-Back Ribs
Peach-Glazed Grilled Chicken
Our Favorite Gas Grill
Equipment Review: Best Charcoal Grill (Video)

Previously:
Grill foolproof fish
Make a brilliant pork butt
Five slices of barbecue wisdom
Five tips for hot dog success
How to smoke a brisket in your backyard
Rack up on rib pointers



soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Mikey

    Chicken breasts, pressure cook first then grill to your liking.

    August 11, 2014 at 9:51 am | Reply
  2. scott

    why make a brine and brine for an hour when BBQ BATH will do that in 30 minutes and season it at the same time?

    July 15, 2014 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  3. Mark

    I've found that grilling chicken breasts is best done with very thin breasts rather than grilling a whole (half) breast. I usually cut each half breast into 3 supremes that can be grilled on high for just a few minutes per side.

    July 9, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  4. Arturo Féliz-Camilo

    Reblogged this on Mr. Feliz's Blog (Teacher Arturo).

    June 26, 2014 at 10:29 am | Reply
  5. mnbksa

    If food is America's new religion, grilling is the fundamentalist sect. Everyone knows the singular "right" way to God.

    FYI, charcoal won't save you. Just eat what and how you like. This recipe is just that: a recipe. Not an insult.

    June 26, 2014 at 7:03 am | Reply
  6. Bennie

    #1 rule, you DONT overcook. You can ALWAYS cook meat more. NOT LESS!!!!

    This is so sad NOONE knows this simple method. Cover the grill after 5 to ten minutes to LOWER the heat. YOU CAN ALWAYS COOK MEAT MORE. NOT LESS!!!!!!

    June 25, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Reply
    • Bennie

      Then uncover for a few, get heat going again...wtf...tend to your meat...god this was a dumb article.

      June 25, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Reply
    • CDC

      you can always catch salmonella before cooking your meat more too

      June 25, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Reply
      • Sarah

        Exactly what I was thinking

        June 25, 2014 at 10:31 pm | Reply
  7. Bennie

    This is idiotic. Don't overcook. Poke. Not too high heat. OMG. This is insane.

    June 25, 2014 at 6:38 pm | Reply
  8. Yakobi

    "15. Rinse chicken under cold water."
    Call the USDA police! Someone is recommending you rinse uncooked chicken!!! AHHHH!!!!!! CONTAMINATION SPREAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 25, 2014 at 3:43 pm | Reply
    • Thinking things through

      You can rinse (or not rinse) your chicken. I am suspecting that the anti-rinse crowd at the USDA does not realize most people know how to do it properly. Yeah, splatter the water – no good. Do it confined, good. Sheesh.

      June 25, 2014 at 7:47 pm | Reply
      • Mark

        Splatter danger or no splatter danger, rinsing is pointless unless you plan on eating chicken sushi. The outside will have been cooked above the temp where bacteria can survive and the water simply inhibits the browning of the meat.

        July 9, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  9. Yakobi

    Just 40 steps, no problem!
    No thanks, I'll stick to baking whole chickens in the same amount of time and just a couple steps.

    June 25, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  10. Ally

    I'm on the fence about the format Test Kitchen is using for these recipe articles. It only looks like 40 steps because they are counting preparation of the ingredients as steps. Other recipes just list the ingredients and then start the steps once you start to mix things. ie: "1 tsp orange zest" instead of "1. Grate 1 teaspoon zest from 1 orange"

    If you look at things like that, preparing the glaze above is only 4 steps, not 10. The way the article explains it is very detailed, which is intended to help an inexperienced cook learn new preparation methods. But listing every action as a separate step may be scaring away potential cooks that just see all the steps and think it's too complicated.

    June 25, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  11. Mick

    Big...juicy....breasts....

    June 25, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Reply
  12. realoldguy

    A recipe for chicken with 41 steps? I can't wait to try it!

    June 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  13. Thinking things through

    The best tip for grilling chicken white meat is to grill the thighs instead. With or without the skin.

    June 24, 2014 at 6:25 pm | Reply
    • rlj

      But thigh is not white meat.

      June 25, 2014 at 9:25 am | Reply
      • die die

        exactly. dark meat tastes better!

        June 25, 2014 at 9:56 am | Reply
        • Thinking things through

          Exactly. White meat is cat food. Well-sourced dark meat is healthy AND tasty.

          June 25, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
    • Carn E. Vore

      Exactly. I love grilling thighs, both "normal" and skinless/boneless. They've got more flavor, can take the heat better, and are much, much more forgiving if you err and cook them a little to long.

      June 28, 2014 at 8:40 pm | Reply
  14. scarf

    First of all, it's not 40 steps, unless you're using BOTH a gas grill and a charcoal grill (read the recipe, folks). Second, a lot of the "steps" are not things which would normally show up in a recipe as individual steps (e.g., 15. Rinse chicken.... 16. Dry thoroughly....) Most recipes would combine those as "Rinse the chicken and dry it." (Unless, of course, you're afraid of rinsing your chicken because it might contaminate some cooking surface that you're too lazy to clean). The recipe is only difficult to follow to those who find turning on their cooktop a chore.)

    June 24, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Reply
    • Meat Prep 101

      Yeah, it's more like:

      1.) Prepare glaze
      2.) Brine Chicken
      3.) Grill

      But then you see someone post their "amazing" boiled chicken recipe and have to realize CNN draws some of the worst people in the world to it.

      June 24, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  15. Tom

    Forty one steps is ridiculous

    June 24, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • rlj

      It would be, if there were 41 steps.

      June 25, 2014 at 9:27 am | Reply
    • recipes are stupid right

      you sound like my mom

      Grilled Chicken Recipe:
      1. Salt chicken
      2. Burn chicken

      June 25, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  16. foodyful

    Here's a better way to grill flavorful chicken breast:

    Remove skin and bones, and butterfly the chicken breast (a few times, so you have a 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick strip, kind of like a flank steak).

    Marinate with thin lemon slices, olive oil, S+P, and fresh thyme for 1/2 hour.

    Place on a HOT grill and grill about 3-5 minutes on each side. It will be nice and crunchy, very juicy, and done in no time at all.

    I have made this dozens if not hundreds of times. EVERYONE wants to know how I do it.

    So come on and try it out, and comment here how it worked out.

    June 24, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Reply
    • Meat Prep 101

      It has lemon, so it sucks.

      June 24, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Reply
      • foodyful

        Not sure that was a joke? Lemon? Suck? In any case, I don't think you can make a blanket statement like that and hope to be taken seriously. It's marinated for a short time, and it does not suck. :o) Ever tried preserved lemons, grilled lemons, fish cooked in lemons, Meyer lemons...

        June 24, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Reply
        • Mick

          Nice, going to try your marinade – ty for sharing.

          June 25, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
    • Knighthawk

      I only use boneless/skinless chicken breasts and I eat them often. I also almost always grill them on my gas grill. I start out by placing the breast in a zip lock bag and then using a meat tenderizing mallot, I pound the breast out to a uniform thickness (about 1/4" – 1/2") I then add whatever marinade I'm going to use, if any and then zip up the bag and refridgerate at least 1 hour. If I'm not marinading, I move to the grill. Get the grill very hot. Once the grate is cleaned, oil it. I then brush a small amount of oil (I prefer xtra virgin olive oil) on both sides of the chicken. Place on the grill and I simply add salt and pepper. Close the lid and grill for approx. 4 minutes. This will seal the surface of the chicken on the side to the fire and partially cook the chicken, but prevent the juices from cooking out of the chicken. I then turn the chicken over and again, close the lid and cook for an additional 4 – 6 mintues. I check the meat with a meat thermometer (you want a reading of 160 degrees F). The chicken will be cooked completely through, have a nice grilled exterior and a lot of moisture inside. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

      June 25, 2014 at 10:55 am | Reply
  17. Crane Kick

    Wow, people are really stupid if they take issue with this article. No wonder you all prepare crap. You're all probably the kind of people that post pictures of your Big Mac on your Facebook page and get a bunch of likes from your fat moronic family and friends.

    June 24, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Reply
    • Thinking things through

      Huh? I don't eat Big Macs, and I'm not fat. I'd just rather eat the more flavorful chicken thighs. Each to his own and I'll buy the whole chicken, save money, and you can do the less-interesting white meat parts. As since right now my cats get most of that.

      June 24, 2014 at 6:31 pm | Reply
  18. Carl M

    I just bought my chicken breast at Wendy's. Came with toppings, a bun and sauce. I did this in three simple steps.
    1. Drive to Wendy's.
    2. Place order.
    3. Drive away and enjoy a perfectly cooked chicken breast.
    No 40 steps, no time commitment, no spice collection or grill needed. Saved myself a lot of time.

    June 24, 2014 at 1:27 pm | Reply
    • rlj

      No real food either.

      June 25, 2014 at 9:29 am | Reply
    • Yakobi

      You forgot the step of paying for it.

      June 25, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Reply
    • Disgusting Meat Boil

      You forgot the step of paying for it Hot Carl Fatty. Enjoy your sandwich of death.

      June 25, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Reply
  19. Kevin

    In just 4 hours, $32, and 41 ingredients, you too can have simple-grilled chicken breast!

    What kind of person has the time and money to come home from work and do this?

    June 24, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Reply
    • rlj

      I don't have time to grill on a work day at all. But When I have time to grill, I would do this.

      June 25, 2014 at 9:31 am | Reply
  20. Joe

    Follow these 41 easy steps for a great grilled chicken breast! lol

    June 24, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Reply
    • rlj

      Did you just scroll to the bottom to look at the number on the last step?

      June 25, 2014 at 9:33 am | Reply
  21. palintwit

    Tea party patriots prefer a shovelful of roadkill.

    June 24, 2014 at 11:34 am | Reply
  22. Mac

    Have your butcher grind a package of chicken breasts to a burger texture. Mix with cumin, mushrooms and s&p. Flop on the grill. Heat and eat.

    June 24, 2014 at 9:52 am | Reply
    • rlj

      That sounds good too.

      June 25, 2014 at 9:34 am | Reply
  23. Art James

    A wonderful recipe if you want to spend your remaining time on earth in meal preparation.

    Instead –

    Precook your marinated chicken in the oven until just underdone and finish on the grill by completely caramelizing the skin.

    June 24, 2014 at 9:51 am | Reply
    • rlj

      You get what you put into it.

      June 25, 2014 at 9:34 am | Reply
  24. Aryugaetu

    Bone in? Why, when boneless is cheap and your guests will like the ease of eating it. If you like your guests, keep it all finger food by making them into sandwiches.

    This easy method can be done in your kitchen before heading out to the picnic.

    Easy Perfect BBQ Chicken (works for boned, boneless, even frozen!)

    1. Boil a large pot of water. Enough water to cover the chicken breasts.

    2. Water MUST be boiling, only THEN add the chicken.

    3. Continue cooking until the water starts boiling again. When it does, TURN OFF THE HEAT, get yourself a beer, talk with your friends, and let the chicken stay there for 1 hr until the meat is 160°F (71°C). Obviously, you don't have to worry about them burning. Technically, you're done, but they're bland.

    4. Slather with sauce (I wouldn't know where to find a shallot) and toss on the barbie until the sauce is hot and lightly browned. Takes about 5 mins. If the chicken is a little under temp (which I doubt), place on a moderate, rather than hot, grill until they reach temp.

    Impress your friends and spend much less time over a hot grill.

    4 not 40 steps and they’re all easy.

    [An homage to the great chef Jeff Smith on PBS who would cook a whole bone-in chicken this way. It really works! When cool, pull off the meat and toss with BBQ sauce for great and easy pulled-chicken BBQ sandwiches.]

    June 24, 2014 at 8:47 am | Reply
    • Crane Kick

      You do realize you have more steps than them, right? Idiot.

      June 24, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Reply
    • Gumby

      Jeff Smith! Yes...I had the same thought! Never thought of taking his cooked chicken meat and creating pulled chicken.

      June 24, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Reply
      • scarf

        As I recall, 7 people accused Jeff Smith of forcing them to take his chicken.......

        June 24, 2014 at 6:07 pm | Reply
    • Disgusting Meat Boil

      Boiling meat before you grill or BBQ? That is disgusting! You are a rank amateur with no sense of taste or decency.

      June 25, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Reply
    • Bennie

      Your steps are ridiculous as well. Learn how to control the fire. Don't have the heat too high after the first five to ten minutes. Cook bone side first then flip. WTF. You DON'T boil anything. That Pre-cooks it. OMG. This is so sad...

      #1 rule, you DONT overcook. You can ALWAYS cook meat more. NOT LESS!!!!

      June 25, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Reply
  25. fire coals grate

    1. Fire up the coals 2. Get coals right. 3. Slap the breasts to the grate.

    June 23, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Reply
    • AleeD®

      Dang! Easy on the bressesses there cowboy.

      June 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Reply
  26. Rodger Crowe

    As with all recipes by noted chefs, including America's Test Kitchen, there are too many ingredients (which most home cooks cannot afford to stock because they require only small portions of the amount required to purchase in a store) and too many complicated steps (40!). Therefore, all these recipes are worthless to the average, at-home, person!! When will so-called "chefs" (and useless websites that feature their recipes) realize that they offer nothing useful to ordinary people?

    June 23, 2014 at 9:26 pm | Reply
    • KieranH

      Not true. I have a 4-month old, a spice-cabinet full of cardamom and garam masala, and make 40-step recipes during the work week. The lazy people who eat microwaved foods in a box are not "ordinary"....

      June 24, 2014 at 6:45 am | Reply
      • MattinDC

        Wrong! He is normal and you must be a stay at home mother? 40 ingredients is for a 4 star restaurant not your neighborhood kitchen...gmmme a break please what a joke.

        June 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Reply
        • DC Activist

          FREE THE NIPPLE…..

          June 24, 2014 at 12:29 pm |
        • Obama is God

          where do they say to use 40 ingredients? ADHD much?

          June 24, 2014 at 5:20 pm |
    • TNT

      I may not have all of the ingredients in my kitchen, but, I do find many helpful hints in "useless websites".

      June 24, 2014 at 7:58 am | Reply
    • Meghan

      Unfortunately, "average, at-home" "ordinary people" will end up with a dry and/or burned dinner if they do not know the technique. The 40 steps have an excessive amount of detail so that anyone who follows them will get good results every time.

      As for excessive ingredients, I didn't see anything too out of line in this one. If you were going to cook chicken, I would hope you would have chicken, salt, pepper, water, and vegetable oil available in your home. As for the glaze, do you have a bottle of bbq sauce, honey mustard, some leftover sweet & sour sauce packets, or heck even ketchup? Skip the first ten steps and just use what you have.

      June 24, 2014 at 8:55 am | Reply
  27. Campstovejack

    Chicken breast is the tofu of the meat world.

    June 23, 2014 at 5:41 pm | Reply
    • Campstovejackisright

      Came here to say this! Grill something decent FFS!

      June 23, 2014 at 9:10 pm | Reply
    • Thinking things through

      Exactly, although I think I prefer tofu.

      June 24, 2014 at 6:37 pm | Reply
      • Bennie

        You've never had thoughtfully cooked chicken. The problem is too high heat. Overcooking. This entire recipe almost is nonsense.

        June 25, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Reply

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