How To Tell When Grilled Chicken Is Fully Done

When cooking chicken on the grill, you want to serve your family and any guests a delicious meal.

What you don’t want to serve them is overcooked chicken, or worse, raw chicken with harmful bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. 

Let me explain how you can tell when grilled chicken is fully done.

Chicken breasts grilling on top of a grill with fire.
Photo by mpessaris

Whether you’re cooking chicken breasts or the whole bird, knowing how to tell when grilled chicken is done will ensure it’s perfectly cooked every time.

The Best Way To Determine Whether Grilled Chicken Is Cooked Through

The surefire way to know your chicken is fully done, according to food safety experts, is to see if the internal temperature is at 165 degrees F.

The easiest way to do this is with an instant-read thermometer.

You’ll want to insert this into the thickest part of the chicken to get the best reading. 

Additionally, the juices should run clear, and you should see no pink in the meat. 

Two chicken breasts on a brown plate with salad and tomatoes.
Photo by timolina

How To Make Perfect Grilled Chicken

When grilling chicken, always have your food thermometer handy, as it’s the most reliable way.

You can’t simply go by the golden brown color on the outside. For tender and juicy chicken on the inside, it’s important to follow a few steps.

Pat dry chicken with paper towels, and then you can use a dry rub or marinade you love.

Once you have it seasoned, you will want to preheat your grill to medium-high heat for the temperature of the grill on a gas grill.

For a charcoal grill or when using boneless and skinless cuts of chicken, you should keep the heat lower. 

In general, chicken needs to be cooked for five to seven minutes per side on the grill or until it gets to 165 degrees F.

Flipping it on occasion keeps it from sticking to the grill grates. 

A digital thermometer that is gray.
Photo by byggarn79

Other Signs Grilled Chicken Is Done

In addition to using a food thermometer to confirm it is fully cooked through, you’ll also know your chicken is done when the flesh is firm to the touch. It shouldn’t be pink, either.

But honestly, you do not want to risk eating undercooked chicken.

A digital meat thermometer is a great investment for your kitchen tool stash. The good news is that you can use it for any meat to have complete peace of mind that the food you serve is fully cooked.

When you cut into your chicken, you should see clear juices run out. If the juices appear pink, put them back on the grill. 

What Factors Can Impact Whether Or Not Grilled Chicken Is Done?

With grilled chicken, you will need to consider cooking time relative to the cut of chicken you’re using on the grill. 

Chicken breasts will take about five to seven minutes per side. Meanwhile, chicken thighs and chicken drumsticks will need to cook for longer, about 15 to 20 minutes total.

Whereas, chicken wings have a cook time of about 18 to 25 minutes total for this cooking method.

Cooking chicken drumsticks on the grill. There is fire underneath the chicken.
Photo by aruba2000

Your grill needs to be hot enough to get a nice char on the chicken too. Plus, a grill that’s not hot enough will mean it takes longer to cook your chosen chicken cuts.

A great option is to sear the chicken on both sides and then move it to the cooler part of your grill. You can then let it finish cooking by way of indirect heat. 

Grilled Chicken Tips

When trying to get perfectly grilled chicken that is done on the inside, you should follow these tips for grilling success!

Thaw It First

Thawing your chicken first will allow it to cook evenly. If you have it in the fridge, let it sit out for about 20 minutes before grilling, too.

Get the Grill Ready

Prepare your grill by preheating it to medium-high heat. You’ll want to oil the grill grates to keep the chicken from sticking.

Don’t Touch

Once you throw your chicken onto the grill, leave it alone until it’s time to flip it. 

Check the Temperature

While you certainly can make grilled chicken without a probe thermometer, it is always best to use one. Then you will know without a shadow of a doubt that the chicken is at a safe temperature to serve to everyone. 

Photo of grilled chicken breast on top of diced vegetables. There is a bowl of salad in the distance.
Photo by photovincek

How Long Does Grilled Chicken Take?

Cooking times can and do vary, and the grill you use will play a role as well. But you also have to think about the size and thickness of the chicken.

When using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, the average grilling time is five minutes per side. That means they should be completely done in 10 minutes total.

Any cuts of chicken that are bone-in will always take longer.

So, if you have bone-in chicken thighs or chicken drumsticks, you should plan on cooking for 10 to 12 minutes per side, or roughly 20 to 22 minutes total. 

Can you grill a whole chicken on the grill? Yes, you can!

If you’re going for the whole bird, it needs to be cooked for at least 20 to 30 minutes. To check the thickest part with your thermometer, stick it in the breast, which is the thickest part of the meat.

whole chicken on a cutting board. There are spices sitting next to the chicken in small bowls.

To check it without a thermometer, you should pull it off the grill and onto a plate. Make a small puncture hole in your chicken and press down onto it.

Watch for the juices to run off and make sure they’re clear. If they’re pink color or red, it’s not done and needs to go back on the grill right away.

After cooking longer, you can also poke the chicken with a fork. You should feel firmness, but it shouldn’t be hard like a rock.

Again, that meat thermometer is an essential tool every home cook and grill master should have. When you get that 165 degrees F reading, you can let your chicken rest for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Once you get a handle on cooking chicken on the grill, you can try different recipes using lemon juice, barbecue sauce, and other flavors.

Make sure you plan on plenty of sides to go along too. Cool and refreshing coleslaw, potato salad, and fruit salad will all be a nice way to beat the heat when you crank up your grill!

Delicious Sides To Serve With Chicken

So, now that you know how to tell when grilled chicken is done, you can get to grilling!

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