Chicken is easily the most searched for ingredient on New York Times Cooking, and it stands to reason: It’s economical, it’s widely available, it’s better for the climate than other meats. And it’s endlessly adaptable, a blank canvas for all sorts of preparations and vibrant, delicious seasonings. In the cold weather months, that means cozy soups, braises and burnished roasts. But in the summer, grilling becomes the method of choice, as it gets you out of a hot kitchen, and adds a layer of fire-kissed flavor and texture to the otherwise mild-mannered meat. You can always salt the dickens out of chicken, grill it well and get tasty results, but if you’re looking for something a bit more exciting, here are 13 of our favorite grilled chicken recipes that will keep you busy and full through September.
J. Kenji López-Alt has a clever trick for keeping grilled chicken breasts tender: He slathers them with mayonnaise, then lets them marinate up to 24 hours before grilling. In this recipe, Kenji mixes the mayo with a little chimichurri, but you can flavor it with almost anything. Pesto, salsa verde, bottled barbecue sauce, jarred Thai curry paste, teriyaki sauce or mole work equally well.
This salty-spicy-sweet recipe from Sam Sifton is a reader and staff favorite. Boneless chicken thighs rest in a combination of sesame oil, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and black pepper. Then, while grilled, they’re basted with a mixture of soy, ginger and brown sugar, creating a shiny, impossibly delicious lacquer. Make a double batch of the Sriracha cashews for snacking later.
This lively recipe from Ali Slagle was one of our most popular recipes of 2020 and was inspired by Kenji’s mayo chicken (above). She added ginger and lime zest to the mayonnaise for a light and bright flavor that you’ll want to make again and again. (For those without a grill, she offers stovetop instructions.)
Recipe: Ginger-Lime Chicken
When you’re in the mood for something truly special, try Gabrielle Hamilton’s recipe for jerk chicken, which she adapted from Shaun Lewis, a Jamaican cook she worked with during her time as a summer camp chef. Don’t be put off by the long ingredient list: The finished dish delivers “a quietly thrilling, savory warmth that kind of spreads across the chest and remains there without ever ferociously igniting.”
Huli huli, which means “turn” in Hawaiian, refers to how this teriyaki-like chicken dish is traditionally prepared: sandwiched between two grill grates, then flipped halfway through cooking. In 1955, Ernest Morgado, a Honolulu businessman, served a group of farmers this chicken, which is marinated in a sauce of ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, ginger and garlic. It was such a hit that he decided to market it. This version is adapted from “Aloha Kitchen: Recipes from Hawai‘i” by Alana Kysar, and it works beautifully with boneless or bone-in chicken.
Recipe: Huli Huli Chicken
“Wow! I made this for my first post-pandemic dinner party,” wrote one reader. “All were delighted!” In this Iranian recipe from Naz Deravian, boneless chicken pieces are marinated in a heady mix of saffron, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, onion, salt and pepper, threaded on a skewer, then grilled alongside skewers of tomatoes and peaches. Served on a lovely platter, it’s a work of art.
Marinating chicken before grilling can add loads of flavor, but, if you don’t have the time or didn’t plan ahead, you can still make a great grilled chicken dish. Ali Slagle actually prefers not marinating, but grilling, then seasoning enthusiastically after, a technique she employs in this recipe. Grill the chicken, toss with olives and olive brine, lemon zest and juice, fresh parsley and chile, and let it rest for 5 to 30 minutes before serving.
Grilling a whole chicken may not be something you’ve ever considered, but Melissa Clark is a fan. “You get the incredibly succulent meat and brittle-crisp, burnished skin of a roast chicken, combined with the deep smoky flavor of the grill,” she wrote. To make it, splay the chicken to ensure even cooking, then use your grill like an outdoor oven and cook it in a skillet on the grates. (The skillet helps to distribute the heat and catches the juices, so they don’t burn in the fire.) Use those schmaltzy juices to cook spinach that you’ll pile on top of ricotta toasts.
Sam Sifton’s recipe yields perfectly burnished barbecue chicken with a sticky sweet sauce, thanks to a basting technique he picked up from the chef and outdoor cooking maven Adam Perry Lang, who thins out his sauce with water, then bastes the chicken over and over. This allows it to reduce and intensify rather than seize up and burn as a thicker sauce might. One more thing: Be sure to move and flip the pieces fairly frequently to keep them from burning.
Recipe: Barbecued Chicken
In this recipe, Melissa Clark marinates boneless chicken thighs in a zesty marinade of za’atar, yogurt, garlic, lemon zest, cilantro, oregano, salt and black pepper before grilling them until charred with crisp edges. Yes, you can use boneless chicken breasts in place of the thighs, but keep an eye on them; the yogurt will help keep them moist, but they’ll still cook faster than the dark meat.
Anchovy-marinated chicken and romaine lettuce are grilled in this backyard version of the classic salad from Florence Fabricant. Grilling the lettuce might seem like an odd choice, but it’s a brilliant trick that leaves the green leaves charred and crisp, and the insides tender and barely sweet while maintaining the lettuce’s signature crunch.
“Simple to prepare. Outstanding results.” “This recipe is easy peasy, and totally delish!” “Perfect in every way!” This old-school recipe from Pierre Franey first ran in The Times more than 30 years ago, but it’s still a reader favorite. Marinate boneless breasts in a combination of turmeric, rosemary, garlic, lime juice and olive oil, grill (or broil), then brush them with melted butter. (Keep in mind that when this recipe was developed, boneless chicken breasts weren’t nearly as enormous as most are today, so adjust your grilling time accordingly.)
Yakitori is Japanese skewered and grilled chicken that can use approximately 30 different chicken parts, from momo, or chicken thigh, to nankotsu, or chicken cartilage. In this recipe, Melissa Clark calls for marinating chicken thighs, gizzards and livers in a savory-sweet sauce of ginger, sake, mirin, soy sauce, garlic and a touch of brown sugar, then grilling or broiling and scattering with chopped scallions. Serve it alongside something fresh and green.