Breasts, thighs, wings — here's how to grill chicken of all kinds.

By Melanie Fincher
Updated March 12, 2020
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Get your grilling skills up to snuff before grill season. For the grilling novice, chicken is a great place to start because it's not as finicky as steak, but still provides a satisfying result. Whether you're grilling chicken breasts, thighs, or wings, we'll walk you step-by-step through grilling chicken so you can be a backyard hero this grills season. 

Marinated Grilled Chicken II
Credit: Dianne

Grilling Times at a Glance

These grilling times are based on a minimal internal temperature of 165 degrees F, as recommended by the USDA.

  • Boneless chicken breasts: 7 to 8 minutes per side
  • Bone-in chicken breasts: 15 minutes per side
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs: 5 to 6 minutes per side 
  • Bone-in chicken thighs: 8 to 10 minutes per side 
  • Chicken wings: 25 minutes total, flipping occasionally 

Grilling Temperatures

Many grills come with a built-in temperature gauge so you can see how hot it is with the cover closed, or you can buy a grill thermometer. Some folks swear by the hand-held method: counting how many seconds you can hold your hand about 6 inches over the grill.

  • High Heat: 3 seconds or 500 degrees F (260 degrees C)
  • Medium High Heat: 5 seconds or 400 degrees F (205 degrees C)
  • Medium Heat: 7 seconds or 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)
  • Medium Low Heat: 10 seconds or 325 degrees F (165 degrees C)
  • Low Heat: 12 seconds or 300 degrees F (150 degrees C)

How to Grill Chicken Breasts

This simple marinade comes from Denise Boyd's Marinated Grill Chicken II recipe. Here you'll learn step-by-step how to grill chicken breasts, whether boneless or bone-in. 

How Long to Grill Chicken Breasts 

According to the USDA, all poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Using an instant-read meat thermometer is really the only accurate way to gauge your chicken's doneness. But in the case that you don't have a thermometer, cut into the chicken and ensure that the juices run clear. Here are the estimated grilling times for chicken breasts, based on an internal temp of 165 degrees F. 

  • Boneless chicken breasts: 7 to 8 minutes per side
  • Bone-in chicken breasts: 15 minutes per side

Here's What You'll Need:

  • 4 chicken breast halves (boneless or bone-in)
  • 1 16 oz. bottle Italian-style salad dressing
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning 
  • Salt to taste 
  • Wax paper 
  • Meat tenderizer or rolling pin
  • Paper towels
  • Shallow bowl
  • Grill (charcoal or gas will work)
  • Cooking oil
  • Tongs
  • Optional: Meat thermometer 

Instructions: 

  1. Pound chicken. The key to a great grilled chicken breast is in the prep. Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of wax paper. Use the flat side of a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound the meat. Don't completely destroy it, but do flatten it slightly so that it cooks more evenly.  
  2. Marinate. For this tutorial, we're going to be using a simple marinade based on Denise Boyd's Marinated Grill Chicken II recipe, but you can use any chicken marinade you'd like. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel, and place in a shallow bowl. Pour the salad dressing over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours. Once you're done marinating, remove chicken from the fridge and season with lemon pepper and salt to taste. Allow the chicken to sit out for 15 to 30 minutes so that it starts to come to room temperature. 
  3. Prep grill. Go ahead and start grill prep while your chicken is finishing up marinating. Dampen a paper towel with cooking oil and use a pair of tongs to run it over a clean grill rack, coating the rack with oil. Heat the grill on medium-high heat. 
  4. Grill. Place the chicken on the grill and cover. Cook for seven to eight minutes per side (15 minutes per side if bone-in), or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. 
  5. Let it rest. Don't carve your chicken just yet! Remove it from the grill and cover it with foil. Let it rest for five to 10 minutes, so that the juices have time to distribute throughout the meat. Otherwise, they'll end up all over your cutting board or plate. 
  6. Serve. Now you're ready to serve your chicken! Cut it up for use in salads, pasta dishes, or tacos. Or serve it whole with one of these favorite sides for grilled chicken

How to Grill Chicken Thighs 

Chicken thighs offer more flavor — often for less money than their white-meat counterparts. These steps are based off of these simple, Balsamic Grilled Chicken Thighs from Allrecipes Allstar Soup Loving Nicole

grilled chicken thighs on grill
Credit: Jason Donnelly/Meredith

How Long to Grill Chicken Thighs

As with all types of chicken, the USDA recommends it is cooked to an internal temperature of  165 degrees F. The best way to gauge this is by using a meat thermometer. Here are estimated grilling times for chicken thighs, based on a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. 

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs: 5 to 6 minutes per side 
  • Bone-in chicken thighs: 8 to 10 minutes per side 

Here's What You'll Need:

  • Small bowl 
  • Whisk 
  • ¾ cup balsamic vinegar 
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic 
  • ½ teaspoon dried tarragon
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Paper towels
  • Gallon-sized plastic bag 
  • 1 ½ pounds chicken thighs (boneless or bone-in)
  • Grill (charcoal or gas)
  • Cooking oil 
  • Tongs

Instructions: 

  1. Marinate: In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, olive oil, garlic, tarragon, and thyme together. Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels and place in a gallon-sized plastic bag. Add vinegar mixture to the bag and turn to coat. Seal the bag and let marinate in the fridge for eight hours, or overnight. 
  2. Prep grill: Remove the chicken from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. While the chicken is coming to room temperature, prep your grill. Dampen a paper towel with cooking oil and use a pair of tongs to rub the dampened towel over clean grill grates. Heat the grill to medium-high heat.
  3. Grill: Remove the chicken from the bag and discard the marinade. Place the chicken on the grill and cover. Cook for five to six minutes per side (eight to 10 minutes per side if bone-in), or until the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 165 degrees F.
  4. Let it rest: Transfer chicken to a plate and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. 
  5. Serve: Serve over rice or with some grilled vegetables

How to Grill Chicken Wings

No tailgate would be complete without this essential gameday favorite: Chicken wings are easy to grill and so customizable. Learn from recipe creator PartyFil-Grillmaster's Grill Master Chicken Wings: "I grill them up before a party and keep them hot in a low oven."

chicken wings with glaze on grill rack
Credit: Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

How Long to Grill Chicken Wings

Like thighs and breasts, the USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Using an instant-read thermometer is the best way to know when your chicken wings are done, but you can use this estimated cooking time as a guide:

  • Whole chicken wings: 25 minutes total, flipping occasionally 

Here's What You'll Need:

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup Italian-style salad dressing
  • 3 pounds chicken wings
  • Gallon-sized plastic bag
  • Paper towel
  • Cooking oil
  • Tongs
  • Grill (charcoal or gas)

Optional Sauce: 

  • Small saucepan
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • ¼ cup hot pepper sauce (such as Frank's RedHot®) or to taste
  • Large bowl

Instructions: 

  1. Prep and marinate: If the wings aren't already cut at the joint, go ahead and do so and discarp the tips. Combine ½ cup soy sauce, Italian dressing, and wings in a large plastic bag. Seal and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. 
  2. Prep grill: Remove the chicken from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. While the chicken is coming to room temperature, prep your grill. Dampen a paper towel with cooking oil and use a pair of tongs to rub the dampened towel over clean grill grates. Heat the grill to medium heat. 
  3. Optional sauce: In a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in 1 teaspoon soy sauce and the hot pepper sauce. Set aside. 
  4. Grill: Remove chicken wings from marinade and pat dry. Place the wings on the grill and cover. Cook for about 25 minutes, flipping every five minutes. Temp a few of the wings and once several have reached 165 degrees F, remove them from the grill. 
  5. Serve: Place the wings in a large bowl and toss with the butter sauce. Serve with fresh vegetables and homemade veggie dip

Related: Browse our entire collection of BBQ & Grilled Chicken Recipes