How Long to Grill Chicken – For Perfect Texture and Moisture

It is an agreeable fact among meat lovers that grilled chicken is one of the best meat servings. The smokiness and crustiness of the tender white meat is too savory to ignore. With the proper sauce and accompaniment, you have a perfect meal.

For many grilled chicken lovers, an accomplishment to achieve is grilling chicken perfectly. It may seem to be a straightforward affair, but it needs some skill to nail it.

How long does to grill chicken? It is a question many people have as they try to bypass the hurdles in cooking this meal. If you also want an answer to this query, then you are in the right place. We will take you through the entire chicken grilling process to give you a perfect idea of the grilling time.

How do you Grill Chicken?

Before looking at the time factor in preparing chicken, you should know how to prepare it. It is not always about placing the chicken pieces on the hot grill and waiting for them to get ready. That is like the final process.

You have to follow plenty of preceding steps if you have your sights on the best results. You may have to thaw it if it’s frozen, followed by marinating and application of rub. After that, you may now place the chicken on the grill, with your plate ready.

Back to the main question, what is the wait time for the chicken to be ready for the table? On average, it may take you 20-30-minutes, but it depends on many factors. Let us look at the variables that can affect the cooking time.

Grilling Temperature

When cooking any meat dishes, it is necessary to keep tabs on their internal temperature. The cooking temperature for poultry is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the meat is perfectly cooked and safe for eating.

To be sure of the cooking temperature, you can use an instant-read meat thermometer. It is an easy-to-use cooking thermometer that will give you accurate readings. Additionally, it is waterproof and durable, as such, you can use it either outdoors or indoors.

Can You Eat Rare Chicken?

Many people love indulging in rare meat due to its juiciness, which can be pretty savory. While it is alright to take some rare meats, the situation is different for poultry. Rare poultry means the cooking temperature was around 115-120 degrees Fahrenheit.

This temperature is very low for chicken and may expose you to bacteria, mostly salmonella. However,  with an experienced chef behind the grill, you can consume rare grilled chicken.

Downsides to Undercooked Chicken

While some may relish undercooked chicken, it comes with many downsides. First of all, there is the risk of exposure to diseases. As aforementioned, salmonella bacteria can get into your system and make you sick.

The meat may also be less tasty. Grilled chicken needs to be firm with the juices having a pink to colorless appearance. If not adequately grilled, it may have reddish juices, and the meat may be tough or mushy. This is not a taste many enjoy.

What of Overcooked Chicken?

At times, you may overdo the grilling, and get an overcooked meal. While it is safe to eat, it won’t be that accommodating to your palate. It will feel dry, mostly fibrous. At times it may get charred up, and the taste will be more like burnt wood.

You should always be keen when grilling chicken to prevent such an occurrence. You can dress it with barbecue sauce to prevent charring the skin. Optionally, the 2-zone cooking method can come to your aid. (We will focus on this method of cooking later on).

What to Know about Chicken Grilling Times?


As previously hinted, the chicken grilling time is roughly 20-30-minutes. Time is not constant as many factors come to play. Below are some of the things that will determine the duration of preparing chicken.

The Meat Cut

When talking of the meat cut, we refer to the chicken part where you get the meat. There are various chicken parts, each having distinct characteristics. Some are fatty, while others are bony. These features will influence how long it will take for the cut to be ready.

For instance, skinned boneless chicken breast will take around 10-15 minutes for either side to be ready. This duration is over medium heat, which is around 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check our guide and learn how to reverse sear chicken breasts

On the contrary, chicken breasts with the bone and skin intact will take twice the time. The skin is quite fatty, and it will absorb most of the heat.

The same applies to the thigh. Without the bone and skin, it may take roughly 15-minutes. Factor in twice the time if it has the bone and skin. Wings will take 20-25-minutes to be ready. In short, we can see that bone-in chicken with its skin intact takes longer to grill.

What about the grilling time for a whole chicken? When grilling whole chicken, it will take you around 90-minutes to 2 hours to grill. If you have a bigger grill, you can chop the chicken up and grill it in pieces. It will significantly take a shorter time to get done.


Size is a critical determinant of the duration it will take to grill chicken. Larger cuts will take more time than smaller cuts. For a fast cooking time, it is best if you cut the meat to decent sizes. For example, have the breast, thighs, and wings separate. This way, the average cooking time is 45-minutes.

It is a relatively shorter time than the 90-minutes you would take to grill the whole chicken.

The Heat Factor

Heat is another factor that will determine how long the meat will take to cook. The common assumption is that high heat will grill chicken fast. On the contrary, if it is high, it will result in burnt skin and top layers while the interior will be raw.

Medium heat to medium-high is the ideal temperature range for barbecue chicken. This heat range is from 350-450 degrees Fahrenheit.

You may also opt for medium-low heat, which is around 300 degrees Fahrenheit. While it may take a longer time, it ensures even the doneness of the meat.

The 2-Zone Grilling Method


If you have bone-in chicken cuts or large pieces, the 2-zone grilling method is a suitable option. It involves setting up your grill into two cooking zones. There are a hot cooking spot and a cold cooking zone.

You will start by placing the meat cut in the cold zone, which has moderate to low heat. Here, it will cook for some time until the interior cooks fine. You can use a Bluetooth meat thermometer to check on the internal temperature.

If the reading is 165 degrees Fahrenheit, you can transfer the chicken to the hot zone. Three to five minutes in the hot zone is enough, as you want to give it a good crust. This grilling method prevents the chicken from burning. It is ideal for reheating chicken.

Also, check the best way to reheat chicken wings so they remain crispy and full of flavor.

How to Reduce Grilling Time?

The grilling time for chicken is quite long. It can be quite frustrating if the outcome does not meet your expectations. The good news is that there are ways to reduce this duration. Let us have a peek at some of them.

  • Boiling Chicken before Grilling

Boiling chicken before grilling is a shortcut you may consider. Actually, you do not boil the chicken; it is more of poaching it. It makes it tender, hence, grilling will be hassle-free.

Many grilling enthusiasts are against boiling before grilling as the meat may lose its flavor. The hack is to dip the chicken into boiling water for around 3-5-minutes before removing it. This way, it won’t lose much of its savor.

A trick to try out is to use a little water, which will steam it rather than boiling it. You can add some spices to the water, like garlic, ginger, chili, and vinegar. The spices will give the poultry cut some relish.

Later on, you can add some olive oil, coriander, mayo, and plain yogurt for its dressing. Optionally, you can fry some onions and coriander in a pan. Add some starch and bring the stock to create a gravy that will accompany the grilled chicken.

  • Thaw Frozen Chicken

If you have frozen chicken, you should thaw it before bringing it to the grill. Typically, you need around 24 hours in thawing time for the best results, where you let it rest in the fridge. If you want fast thawing, a warm bath can do the trick.

Put the poultry cut in a tightly sealed plastic bath and dip it in a water bath. In 30-45-minutes, the chicken cuts will be ready for the cooker.

Can you grill frozen chicken? Yes, you can, but it will take a longer time to be ready. There is also the issue of uncooked spots, which is common with poultry dishes.

  • Skinning and Deboning Chicken

Meat with skin and bones has a large surface area. This translates to a longer grilling time. To avoid this, spare some time to remove the skin and bones. Do not discard the bones and skin. Boil these parts, maybe with spices, to make chicken stock.

Chicken stock comes in handy in many recipes like soups and stews.

Does Marinating Reduce Grilling Time?


Marinating refers to soaking chicken in an acidic solution or one with enzymes. Some of the ingredients to use include vinegar, garlic, and salt. Pineapple juice and papaya extracts will tenderize meat.

While marinating makes chicken softer, it hardly reduces the grilling time. On the brighter side, boiling the marinade will give you braising liquid. Add some vinegar and preferred spices to this liquid as it boils. The braising liquid can be used as an ingredient for stews.

Traditionally, you have to prepare your own marinade. But, did you know you can buy ready-to-use marinade? Chiavetta’s Buffalo barbecue marinade is one of them. It has no MSG and it saves you from the hassles of preparing the marinade. You shake it to use it.

Closing Remark

Getting perfectly grilled chicken requires a lot of finesse and time. Time is one of the factors that needs attention while cooking chicken. We learned that the grilling time is around 20-30 minutes, however this might vary greatly based on a variety of circumstances.

For instance, larger meat cuts will take a longer time. A whole chicken will grill for 90-120-minutes. In contrast, individual pieces take around 45-minutes to cook.

If the poultry has skin and bones, it will take a considerably long time on the grill. With this knowledge, you can handle the grill like a pro when cooking chicken. You might consider boiling before grilling if you want a faster session.

Related: Chicken Injection Recipes And Tips

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