Knowing when your chicken is done – and I’m talking moist, juicy, finger-licking-goodness done, not dry-as-boot-leather done – is easy if you follow three handy little tips.
Tip 1: Go easy on the breast. By its nature, breast meat is very mild and delicate in flavor. The last thing you want to do is cook fast, hot, and long over high heat – driving all the moisture and flavor out and leaving behind little more than a tasteless, rubbery mass…
Grill with just a pinch of patience – over direct, medium heat for about 10 minutes – and you’ll be rewarded with juicy, succulent chicken breasts.
And, if you want to plate up breasts that are even more flavorful try grilling free range chicken. The exercise they’re able to get from the ability to wander and run around in or outdoors results in the firmer, more tasteful meat.
Tip 2: When it comes dark meat forget common sense and logic – with dark meat longer and hotter actually means more tender and delectable. So legs, wings, and thighs actually taste even better when cooked using a low, slow method and allowed to reach a higher internal temperature – with 180° F being most popular with many chef and barbecue aficionados.
Tip 3: Don’t forget that whole chicken is a little slow on brakes. Its internal temperature will rise by another 5 – 10 degrees while resting. So, any time you toss an entire bird on the grill – such as with beer can chicken – be sure to take that into account when checking your temperature for doneness.
Alright, with those three tips in mind, here are the internal temperatures to grill you chicken to and the approximate times that’ll get you there:
- Grill chicken breasts until their internal temp reaches 165° F.
- Grill chicken legs, wings, or thighs until their internal temp reaches 180° F.
|Cut||Weight||Approximate Grilling Time|
|Breast, boneless||6 - 8 ounces||8 - 12 minutes over direct medium heat|
|Breast, bone-in||10 - 12 ounces||30 - 40 minutes over indirect medium heat|
|Leg, bone-in||--||30 - 40 minutes over indirect medium heat|
|Thigh, bone-in||--||30 - 40 minutes over indirect medium heat|
|Thigh, boneless||4 ounces||8 - 10 minutes over direct high heat|
|Wing||2 - 3 ounces||18 - 20 minutes over direct medium heat|
|Whole chicken||3 1/2 - 4 1/2 lbs||1 1/2 - 2 hours over indirect medium heat|
Charcoal Temperature, Time, and Appearance
|Heat/Temperature||Typical Time for Coals to Reach Heat||Appearance|
|High (450° - 650° F)||5-10 minutes||Glowing very bright orange|
|Medium-high (400° F)||10-15 minutes||Glowing bright orange with a touch of ash around edges|
|Medium (325° - 350° F)||15-25 minutes||Glowing orange with a light layer of ash|
|Medium-low (300° F)||25-30 minutes||Pale orange with a moderate layer of ash|
|Low (225° - 250° F)||30-40 minutes||Faint orange with thick layer of ash|