How Long to Grill Chicken – Time and Temperature Guide

In this article we'll explain what factors affect grilling time, and give the right time for grilling different chicken parts to get the best taste and texture.
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Last updatedLast updated: August 04, 2021
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Nobody will give you the definite answer to the question “How long to grill chicken”. To get the timing right, you need to consider a whole lot of factors like what part of the chicken you are cooking, at what temperature, the type of your grill, etc. Are you ready to find out how much time you are going to need in your particular case?

In this article, we will delve into how long to cook chicken on the grill. We’ll look at the different cook times on different types of chicken parts, so you can serve up delicious food without compromising on food safety.

Cooking temperature matters

According to the FDA, the appropriate internal temperature for all poultry is 165ºf Trusted Source Meat, Poultry & Seafood from Food Safety for Moms to Be | FDA Welcome to Safe Eats, your food-by-food guide to selecting, preparing, and handling foods safely throughout your pregnancy and beyond! www.fda.gov . While old school cooks often rely on checking to see if the juices run clear, this is not necessarily accurate.

It is a good idea to rely on a thermometer probe and proper placement of your probe to ensure that you reach the minimum internal temperature. The FDA recommends checking the internal temperature at the thickest part of the bird. If you’re grilling a whole chicken, you should insert the probe at the thickest area of the thigh without touching the bone, but if you’re grilling irregularly shaped chicken parts, you should test in several areas to ensure the chicken is properly cooked.

How long to grill different chicken parts

How Long to Grill Chicken - Time and Temperature Guide

Since the thickness and shape of chicken can vary according to what part you’re grilling, it is important to understand the different grilling times for chicken.

If you’re grilling a whole bird, you will need to consider the weight of the chicken. Generally speaking you will need 18 to 25 minutes per pound. However, bear in mind that the heat must be able to penetrate the skin, meat and bone before it is properly cooked through. Thicker meats will require a longer cooking time for the heat energy transfer.

For example, a whole chicken weighing six pounds could take 105 to 150 minutes, depending on the ambient temperature, efficiency of your grill and the starting temperature of your chicken. Additionally, whether you grill it on its back or upright will impact the cook time and cooking temperature.

Of course, you can compensate for this long, slow cooking time, by spatchcocking your chicken. This will allow you to reduce the overall thickness of the chicken to therefore reduce the cook time to 30 to 40 minutes.

Just bear in mind that even with the best gas grill, you should rely on your thermometer, not the clock to determine if your chicken is done.

Breast

Chicken breasts are a great option for a family dinner or backyard cookout. Grilling the chicken can add some great flavor, whether you’re adding the meat to a salad or serving up warm sandwiches. Boneless chicken breasts typically weigh five to eight ounces, so the cook time is typically 12 to 15 minutes. However, since there is so little fat on skinless chicken breasts, you should cook on a medium direct heat and turn every five minutes to avoid burning.

If you have bone in, skin on chicken breasts, the answer to the question of how long to grill chicken breast is a little more complicated. Typically, this type of meat will take twice as long as a skinless, boneless chicken breast. So, you can expect to need about 25 minutes for a similar size breast.

You should use indirect medium heat for the first half of the cook time, finishing with direct heat. However, you’ll need to take care to avoid burning the skin.

Thighs and drumsticks

If you’re wondering how long to grill chicken thighs or drumsticks, again there are a few variables. You’ll need a good propane grill like the Weber to reach a consistent 450ºf temperature. You can use direct heat for the entire cook, but you will need to turn every five minutes to avoid burning. Typically, this method will require approximately 40 minutes of cook time.

The other method is by using indirect heat for the first 30 minutes. You can then brown off the chicken with direct heat for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Regardless of which method you use, you should only add sauce during the last 10 minutes to avoid any sugar in the sauce burning.

The same principle applies if you’re grilling whole leg quarters. While 165ºf is the standard safe internal temperature, if you want the meat to start to fall off the bone, aim for 180ºf to 190ºf.

Legs

The best method for how long to grill chicken legs is to pat the legs dry to ensure crispy skin. You should set your gas grill to 450ºf to 500ºf temp, which is medium high on most models. However, if you’re using the best charcoal grill, you’ll need a little more prep.

The best method is to distribute your charcoal briquettes on one half of the grill. You can then cook your drumsticks over direct heat, using the other side for smaller drumsticks or any flare ups. Aim to rotate every five minutes to get a good skin char.

How Long to Grill Chicken - Time and Temperature Guide

How long to grill chicken drumsticks will typically be 30 to 35 minutes. Aim to reach an internal temperature of 180ºf for the best flavor.

However, be sure to use a thermometer to get the correct temperature and check the joint area for any loose parts, as you don’t want a child to aspirate a loose bone.

Wings

If you’re going to grill your chicken wings over a direct medium fire, it will take 20 to 25 minutes. You should start with the lid of your grill closed for three or four minutes. You can then open up the grill and turn your wings every few minutes to ensure even browning.

How Long to Grill Chicken - Time and Temperature Guide

After approximately 15 minutes of turning, you can use your thermometer to check the internal temperature. In addition to reaching 165ºf, you should achieve a slight char on all sides without being burned.

Tenderloins

Chicken tenderloins are the equivalent of a pork or beef tenderloin, so if done right you can achieve a moist and tender finish. You will want a surface grill temp of approximately 450ºf, but tenders are better to be a little under this temp rather than over. On most gas grills, this will be a medium high setting.

If you’re using a charcoal grill, you can accomplish a good cook, but be sure to avoid cooking directly over the coals or you could quickly overcook.

How Long to Grill Chicken - Time and Temperature Guide

So, the question of how long to grill chicken tenders? On a medium heat, grill for four or five minutes and flip once. You should then give the other side a further four or five minutes. Avoid flipping multiple times as the tenders can easily break.

Factors that affect grilling time

Of course, these cook times are only guidelines. Although useful, there are some other factors when you’re considering how long does it take to grill chicken.

The weight and thickness of the piece of chicken will alter the cooking times. Therefore, the times we have discussed above are average recommendations. If your chicken breast is a little small or the thighs are thick, you will need to adjust the cook time by a few minutes. So, it is crucial that you keep an eye on your grill and have a meat thermometer on hand.

If you’re considering grilling frozen chicken, it is a good idea to thoroughly defrost beforehand. However, it is possible to grill chicken from frozen, provided it is uniformly and thinly cut. You will also need to add 50% to the cook time.

How long to cook chicken breast on a George Foreman grill

Of course, if you don’t have a propane grill and want to use a George Foreman grill, the above principles still apply.

Typically, the cook times can be cut in half using a George Foreman grill, but it will depend on the thickness and size of the chicken. Bear in mind that this type of grill cooks both sides simultaneously, hence the shorter cook times. However, you will need to preheat the grill for a minimum of five minutes with the lid closed before you start cooking. So, you will need to add this preheating time to your cooking time estimates.

Additionally, the manufacturer recommends only using skinless, boneless chicken breasts Trusted Source Easy & Delicious Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Recipe Easy and quick boneless skinless chicken breast recipe for your George Foreman Grill. Add your favorite seasonings and sauces for a delicious main course. foremangrillrecipes.com . You should also pound the chicken to approximately ¾” thick.

Why is it important to know how long to grill chicken?

How Long to Grill Chicken - Time and Temperature Guide

The reason why many novice grillers are wary about getting it right when it comes to how long should chicken cook on the grill. Even new cooks should be aware that you should never serve undercooked chicken, as it can potentially carry specific types of bacteria that can cause illness.

The bacteria of most concern for poultry are Salmonella and Campylobacter. These bacteria can cause serious illness, but are easily killed with normal cooking temperatures.  Therefore, it is vital that you grill your chicken to the minimum safe internal temperatures.

However, there is another reason why it is important to know the proper grill times and that is food enjoyment. While the cook temperatures for steaks and many other types of meat can vary according to preferences, no one enjoys undercooked chicken.

When it has not been sufficiently cooked, chicken is tasteless, mushy and completely unpalatable. So, even if there was no risk of food poisoning, no one would enjoy eating improperly grilled chicken.

Final thoughts

Grilling chicken is not only a popular favorite at backyard cookouts and outdoor parties, but it can also be a great ingredient to have in your refrigerator. After grilling, you can keep the chicken in your refrigerator for up to four days, so you’ll have delicious grilled chicken available for salads, sandwiches and other meal prep.

However, it is crucial that you grill your chicken properly to ensure that it is both delicious and safe. The last thing you want to do is give your guests food poisoning or a severe tummy upset. Fortunately, by familiarizing yourself with the typical grill times and relying on a meat thermometer, you can feel confident that you know how long to grill chicken.
As you gain grilling experience, you will be able to judge the size and weight of your chicken to determine the appropriate cook time. This will ensure that you can provide your family, friends and other BBQ guests with delicious, properly cooked chicken every time you grill.

References

1.
Meat, Poultry & Seafood from Food Safety for Moms to Be | FDA
Welcome to Safe Eats, your food-by-food guide to selecting, preparing, and handling foods safely throughout your pregnancy and beyond!
2.
Easy & Delicious Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Recipe
Easy and quick boneless skinless chicken breast recipe for your George Foreman Grill. Add your favorite seasonings and sauces for a delicious main course.
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