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how to make grilled chicken breasts interesting?

  • c

I'm having an impromptu, very casual BBQ this weekend, and I have a ton of chicken breasts I could use - is there anything I can do to make this interesting? A marinade or ...? I've just started cooking meat (esp. on the grill), and am kind of clueless in this regard...please help!

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  1. Make a marinade of whole-grain mustard, olive oil and thyme (preferably fresh). Marinate the breasts 2-3 hours. Grill (and be careful about overcooking, which will make the meat unpalatably dry). Slice on the diagonal and serve. If you plate with a side of salad, drizzle a bit of the vinaigrette on the chicken breasts.

    1. We're having chicken satays tomorrow night. If you google on satays you'll find a lot of good recipes for satay sauces and marinades. The sauce is what makes it special IMO, that and not overcooking the chicken.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cheryl_h

        Just what I was going to suggest - I had chicken satay last night for dinner. The peanut sauce is always a pleasant surprise for guests (just make sure no one has a peanut allergy).

        1. re: cheryl_h

          Yes, satay is the best! I made some last week for my parents, and even my mother, who will not touch anything out of the ordinary, gobbled it up.

          My satay marinade:

          1 cup lite coconut milk
          2 or 3 cloves chopped garlic
          1 tbsp red curry paste
          1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
          1 to 2 tbsp fish sauce
          1/4 cup chopped cilantro

          I served it up with a trio of dips - one peanut sauce, one sweet chilli sauce, and one mix of soy sauce/fish sauce/sambal oelek/sugar.

        2. Marinade in salt, olive oil, a little pepper, rosemary (or any other herb or mixture of herbs, dry or fresh). The salt helps to keep the chicken juicy, and the oil will also help keep the chicken from sticking on the grill. Simple and delicious.
          Usually, I half the breasts horizontally so that they are thinner pieces, cook more quickly and avoid drying out. Also usually I marinade over night.

          1. a quick note from the food safety police - stating the obvious perhaps, but you did say you're new to cooking meat - if you want to use some of the marinade as a sauce for the cooked chicken, set some aside before you put the chicken in to marinate. you don't want the cooked chicken to come in contact with marinade that has raw chicken juices in it. for the same reason you're supposed to be careful to put the cooked chicken on a clean plate to bring it from the grill to the table, not one that may have come in contact with the raw chicken. end of unsolicited advice-giving.

            2 Replies
            1. re: cookie monster

              Yes,but if you cook the marinade on the side - it's fine, right?

              1. re: cookie monster

                Thanks for the timely reminder about this! I made a recipe years back where the instructions were to reserve the marinade and cook it down to serve as a sauce. Even though I had to boil the marinade to get it to the desired consistency, the husband and I got major league sick and I will never ever do that again. Any time I marinate chicken, the marinade gets tossed.

              2. You can make an easy marinade with some soy sauce, a little sugar, ginger and black or white pepper.

                If you have a sweeter tooth, you can add a little hoisin OR more sugar and a little oyster sauce.

                3 Replies
                1. re: S_K

                  This would be my basic idea as well, but I'd add some lime juice for some acid, cilantro for an herbal note, smashed garlic and some ground coriander. I think it also needs a sweet balance, so I'd add honey, or hoisin as suggested, but be careful with the amount, as the sugar will cause overbrowning and potential burning if overused.

                  1. re: Aaron

                    You are right. I forgot to mention the garlic in the marinade. My family always puts in the garlic too.

                  2. re: S_K

                    Good suggestion. It can also be nice to replace the sugar with honey. And since cctc is fairly new to grilling, I'll add that it's important to be extra careful when grilling anything that's been marinated in or basted with a sweet sauce. Sugar caramelizes and burns very quickly, so to avoid serving a blackened mess, keep a close eye on the proceedings and the fire only moderately hot.

                  3. Easy!!!! Did this last week. I went to Trader Joe's and bought a container of their pesto-the fresh one in the fridge section. I put my skinless, boneless chicken breasts in a large plastic bag, then spooned in 1/2 the container of pesto and added 2 large chicken breasts, sealed the bag then "smooshed" around the pesto to make sure the chicken was well covered. Put into the fridge for 4 hours or so, maybe it was even overnight, can't remember. I just pulled the chicken out of the bag, put onto the BBQ w/ zucchini slices, tomatoes, peppers and some asparagus that were drizzled w/EVOO and S&P. Grilled it all up and yum what a dinner. The chicken was so tender and juicy. I also made organic brown jasmine rice, w cranberries as a side

                    1. I like cutlets, very thin - but I want them juicy. The key to this is turning ONLY ONCE in the pan. I season with salt, pepper, garlic, onion and a little sugar and place in a hot pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil (somtimes a dab of butter too). Cook for 2-4 minutes, turn, cook another 3 minutes or so and you're done.

                      Depending on what I'm making, I'll add other flavors (but the salt, pepper, garlic and teensy bit of sugar are always the base): cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, taragon, rosemary, thyme, lemon pepper, ginger....cinnamon and nutmeg are my favs, especially when pairing with pita, hummus and tahini.

                      1. thank everyone! Haven't decided which one to try, but it's good to have alot of options...

                        Actually, I am already really careful on the food safety issues, since they're what freaks me out about cooking meat.

                        1. I just threw a few in a baggie full of italian dressing. I'm gonna stuff them with Cotija cheese and black olives later and throw em on the grill. Not sure how this combination will turn out, but it's stuff I have in the fridge so I thought I'd give it a shot.

                          1. I'm surprised that no one has suggested brining the chicken.

                            I do this with b/s breasts, as well as bone-in. The only variable is what I feel like adding to the basic brine, as far as spices, herbs, etc.

                            You didn't say how many breasts you were making, so I can't advise on the brine, but a general guide is several tablespoons of Diamond brand kosher salt, water to cover the meat, whatever spices or flavors you want to add. I generally add onion powder, garlic powder and thyme. I dissolve the kosher salt in a little warm water, then add my herbs and spices. I add the meat, then water to cover. I'll do this in a ziplock so the entire contents is covered. I've brined for as brief as a few hours, to as long as two days (although some may disagree). When you are ready to grill, remove the breasts, rinse them briefly to remove excess salt, and you're ready to go.

                            If you are a newbie to grilling, this is a no-fail method to ensuring moist, flavorful chicken. 'Btw, I will baste them with whatever I feel like the last 10 minutes or so of cooking.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: hbgrrl

                              Yes--I brine all chicken--night and day difference.

                            2. On the brining front, you might consider a Thai-style brine including salt, sugar, ginger, garlic, and maybe even lemongrass. Then rub with oil, salt, pepper, ginger, garlic, scallion, and/or cilantro, grill, slice, and serve with a nam-cha style dipping sauce (lime, chile, fish sauce).

                              For a quick marinade, try no more than 30 minutes in nothing but lime juice, then rub with cumin, salt & pepper and serve with a fresh salsa or relish.


                              1. I'm probably too late here, but what the hell...

                                Lay the chicken breast flat on your cutting board and slice a pocket into the side with a sharp knife. Stuff a slice of good prosciutto and a small sprig of rosemary into the pocket. Marinade briefly (half an hour, maybe) in a paste of crushed garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and S&P. Grill.

                                The prosciutto gives off just enough fat to keep the breasts from drying out, and oooohh the flavor...