If I show up at a barbecue and don't trust the chef, I steer clear of any chicken I see—more often than not it's going to be mediocre. But grilled chicken doesn't have to be stringy and flavorless—use the right technique and it'll be perfectly juicy and still have shatteringly crispy skin. And, of course, it will taste great. To show you how it's done, we've rounded up 18 of our favorite grilled chicken recipes, from a simple spatchcocked bird to Thai-style satay to homemade chicken sausages with roasted garlic and feta.
Grilled Butterflied Chicken
Spatchcocking works just as well for grilling as it does for roasting—I never cook a whole bird any other way. To cook the chicken right use a two-step process, starting with the chicken skin-side up on the cooler side of the grill before finishing it over the coals to crisp up the skin.
The Best Barbecue Chicken
Bigger birds aren't well-suited to conventional grilling because it's hard to cook them through evenly. Barbecue is the way to go for large roasting chickens—the low-and-slow technique cooks them gently and imbues them with tons of smoke. For extra flavor we like to brush the chicken with barbecue sauce toward the end of cooking.
Thai-Style Grilled Chicken (Gai Yang)
Without question, the best grilled chicken I've ever had was on a little island in the Gulf of Thailand. In a country full of wonderful grilled meat, the chicken stands out. The secret is marinating the meat with fish sauce and sugar, which helps create an intense, caramelized crust on the grill.
Thai-Style Chicken Satay With Peanut-Tamarind Dipping Sauce
In American Thai restaurants, satay is the grilled chicken dish you're most likely to find on the menu. Our version is marinated with coriander, white pepper, palm sugar, garlic, ginger, shallot, turmeric, lemongrass, and a handful of other ingredients and served with a tamarind-peanut dipping sauce.
Japanese Chicken Skewers With Scallion (Negima Yakitori)
The average yakitori joint will serve dozens of cuts of chicken, but at home it's easiest to stick with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which are good for grilling because they're harder to overcook than breasts. These skewers are super easy—just alternate the chicken with big pieces of scallion, grill, and glaze with teriyaki sauce. If you want a riff on the same theme, you could also try grilling up some skewers with nanbansu, a sweet-sour sauce that can pull double duty as a dip and a marinade.
Grilled Chicken and Peach Saltimbocca Skewers
If you've got your skewers and chicken out already, you could also give this combination of chicken, sage, prosciutto, and peach a try. The meat and fruit take a brief bath in a white wine marinade, which adds flavor even as it helps the chicken retain its moisture on the grill, and that same marinade gets reduced and served alongside as a dipping sauce.
Planked Chicken Quarters With Lemon and Herb
If you're not going to cook with wood, then next best option is to cook on wood. Here we cook chicken on wood planks set onto the grates of the grill to give them a little bit of wood flavor. We use a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh herbs to both marinate and baste the chicken to keep it moist.
The marinade for Jamaican jerk chicken is pretty straightforward—allspice, thyme, and Scotch bonnet peppers will get you that classic jerk flavor, and habaneros make fine replacements for the Scotch bonnets. Unfortunately, true jerk chicken is smoked over hard-to-find pimento wood. The good news? Using bay leaves instead works remarkably well.
Grilled Chicken With Za'atar
Moving from the Caribbean to the Middle East, this recipe seasons grilled chicken with the earthy spice blend za'atar. I grew up eating the store-bought version of this mix of sesame seeds, sumac, and other herbs, but our homemade version is worth a little extra effort.
Greek-Style Grilled Chicken With Oregano, Garlic, Lemon, and Olive Oil
Sprinkling chicken with lemon juice as it grills is a typical Greek technique that sounds great until you realize that the juice keeps the skin from crisping up until long after the meat overcooks. To get the same flavors without sacrificing the quality of the chicken, we make a lemon-heavy vinaigrette and use it as a marinade and sauce.
Peruvian-Style Grilled Chicken With Green Sauce
The chicken itself in this recipe is nothing too special—just a spatchcocked bird rubbed with salt, cumin, paprika, pepper, garlic, vinegar, and oil before grilling. The real magic of Peruvian grilled chicken is in the spicy-yet-cooling green sauce, which is made with a mayo and sour cream base and flavored with jalapeños, cilantro, and aji amarillo pepper paste. Make extra, because your guests are going to want to put it on everything. If you're feeding a crowd, or if you just feel like eating sandwiches instead, we've got you covered.
The Best Juicy Grilled Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts tend to be bland and dry, but that doesn't keep them from being one of the most popular cuts of meat in America. If you're going to give chicken breasts space on the grill come Memorial Day, treat them right by pounding them to a uniform thickness, brining them, and using an instant-read thermometer to avoid overcooking them.
Tandoor-Style Grilled Chickens or Cornish Hens
Tandoori chicken is cooked at a high temperature, which leads to a risk of the meat drying out. Our solution? Just replace the chicken with smaller, faster-cooking Cornish game hens. Our tandoor-style marinade is made with yogurt, paprika, cumin, turmeric, and other spices—if you want that vibrant red color you find in restaurants you're going to have to add achiote powder or food coloring.
Grilled Spicy Chicken Wings With Soy and Fish Sauce
Despite the name, these chicken wings don't taste like seafood—the fish sauce is there to add extra savoriness to the meat. It's joined in the marinade by Asian ingredients like Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and as many dried red chili peppers as you can handle. A two-zone grill gets the wings juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside.
Grilled Hoisin-Glazed Chicken Wings
If you want your grilled chicken wings to be extra crispy, sprinkle them with baking powder and salt and rest them overnight in the refrigerator. This both dries out the surface of the wings and raises the pH, which improves browning. Once you have perfectly cooked wings you can sauce them however you want—here we go with a soy sauce, honey, and hoisin glaze.
Grilled Cajun Chicken Wings
If you're going to do the air-drying step of preparing chicken wings you can also add seasonings to the mix—for these Cajun-inspired wings we mix paprika, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, cayenne, and more in with the salt and baking powder. After grilling we toss the wings in a Buffalo-style sauce that replaces the Frank's with Louisiana-style hot sauce.
Roasted Garlic and Feta Chicken Sausage
These sausages, made with juicy chicken thigh meat, sweet roasted garlic, and tangy feta cheese, are a fun variation on the hot dogs or brats you might expect to find on the grill come Memorial Day. We also add shallots, oregano, vinegar, and lemon juice, but in moderate quantities so as not to cover up the flavor of the chicken.
Buffalo Chicken Sausages
Mixing ground chicken with Buffalo sauce is a recipe for disaster—all that butter makes for sausages prone to exploding on the grill. We get around this by using Frank's Buffalo Wings Sauce, which is made with "Natural Butter Type Flavor." The sauce is a little on the bland side, so we add extra Frank's and cayenne pepper to give it more of an edge.