Never slice into a dry chicken breast or battle with an overcooked chicken thigh. This complete guide for how long to grill chicken (and which grilling method to use) will help you achieve juicy, tender, and flavorful results with any cut of chicken.
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Ever struggled with how long to grill chicken? Been there, scorched that! It's tempting to overcook chicken just to be safe since eating it below the government-recommended safe internal temperature of 165°F can put you and cookout guests at real risk for foodborne illness. (By the way, chicken is the number one cause of foodborne illnesses in America, so it's vital to be vigilant!) But, just like an avocado seems to have about a 30-minute window of perfect ripeness (you check it and it's under-ripe for days, then all of a sudden it's past its prime), perfectly grilled chicken can be challenging to nail. If you don't quite know how long to grill chicken breasts or how long to grill chicken thighs (or legs, wings, or a whole chicken, for that matter), it can be tough to determine when to remove the chicken from the grill.

Check out our complete guide for how to grill chicken, then use our go-to guide for how long to grill chicken so you can serve the juiciest meat ever. 

Test Kitchen Tip: All chicken is safe at 165°F. But not all pieces (especially the dark pieces with bone) are as palatable at 165°F. Our Test Kitchen recommends cooking above the USDA-recommended 165°F mark for certain pieces of chicken for the most tender and juicy results. Refer to the list below for the best safe temperature for your specific chicken recipe.

A Quick Guide to Grilling Chicken

Before we get into how long to grill your chicken, use this primer to prep the chicken and your grill.

  • Begin with refrigerated raw poultry. If frozen, allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight in a rimmed tray or container such as a baking pan ($11, Target) preferably with a lid.
  • If desired, remove skin from the poultry.
  • Use the list below to determine if direct or indirect grilling is best for your cut of chicken.
  • For a charcoal grill ($74, Walmart), place poultry on grill rack, bone side up (if it includes a bone), directly over medium coals. (Here's how to control the temperature of your charcoal grill.) Grill, uncovered, for the time given or until the proper temperature is reached, turning once halfway through grilling. 
  • For a gas grill ($199, Amazon), preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place poultry on grill rack, bone side down (if it includes a bone), over medium heat. Cover and grill for the time given below in our how long to grill chicken instructions below. 
  • Test for doneness using a meat thermometer. For the most accurate, quick results, we recommend using an instant-read thermometer ($20, Amazon). The thermometer should register 165°F to 175°F, depending on the cut you're cooking. If desired, during the last 5 to 10 minutes of grilling, brush with a sauce, such as this fan-favorite balsamic-barbecue sauce.
  • Remove the chicken from the grill and tent with foil. Allow the meat to rest about 5 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.
Get Our Best Grilled Chicken Recipes

How Long to Grill Each Cut of Chicken

You won't grill chicken breasts the same way as chicken legs, so there's not one neat and tidy answer for how long to grill chicken that applies across the board. Use these guidelines for each different cut.

How Long to Grill Chicken Breast

We know this is likely the cut of chicken stashed away at all times in your freezer, so let's start here.

  • Parts and Pieces: Chicken breast half, skinless and boneless
  • Weight: 6 to 8 ounces
  • Grilling Type: Direct
  • Grilling Time: 15 to 18 minutes
  • Doneness: 165°F

How Long to Grill Chicken Thighs

This cut of dark meat is growing in popularity, so be sure you know how to grill it right. Try more of our healthy chicken thigh recipes, too.

  • Parts and Pieces: Chicken thigh, skinless and boneless
  • Weight: 4 to 5 ounces
  • Grilling Type: Direct
  • Grilling Time: 12 to 15 minutes
  • Doneness: 170°F

How Long to Grill Legs, Breast Halves, and Other Meaty Chicken Pieces

Bone-in and larger pieces of meat fare better with indirect grilling.

  • Parts and Pieces: Meaty chicken pieces (bone-in breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks)
  • Weight: 2½ to 3 pounds total
  • Grilling Type: Indirect
  • Grilling Time: 35 to 45 minutes
  • Doneness: 170°F for breast halves, 175°F for thighs and leg drumsticks

How Long to Grill Chicken Whole

Perhaps the most obvious case for indirect grilling is a whole chicken. Place on the grill breast-side up and follow these timing directions.

  • Parts and Pieces: Chicken, whole
  • Weight: 2½ to 3 pounds total
  • Grilling Type: Indirect
  • Grilling Time: 60 to 75 minutes (add 15 to 30 minutes per pound, if above 3 pounds. So a 4½- to 5-pound bird should grill 1¾ to 2 hours)
  • Doneness: 170°F

Now that you're well-versed in how long to grill chicken, all that's left to do is stock up on these essential grilling tools, select your next crowd-pleasing chicken recipe, and fire up the grill. Oh yes, and then enjoy the juicy barbecue fare that will rival anything you'd order at a restaurant.


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