The Biggest Mistake You're Making When Grilling Chicken

Undercooked chicken is no joke. Leave too much pink and you could risk foodborne illness and cross contamination caused by bacteria like salmonella, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overcooked chicken, therefore, is always better than undercooked chicken, but no one likes to eat a dry piece of meat either. Unfortunately, that's something that can easily happen on the grill.

If your method of grilling chicken involves cranking up the heat, plopping the meat on the flames, and walking away, you might want to reevaluate your approach, because there's actually a right and a wrong way to go about it. As Bon Appétit notes, grills don't tend to heat that evenly, so you'll want to carefully monitor your chicken as you cook it. If you're not moving it around and flipping it every so often, you could easily end up with overcooked chicken, or chicken that's burnt in some spots and undercooked in others. For the best results, Bon Appétit recommends sticking to a temperature of medium low on a charcoal grill and medium on a gas grill.

How you should be checking if your chicken is done

Grilling chicken at the right temperature setting is important, but if you leave it on too long, it'll still turn out overcooked. So just how long is too long then?

Eat This, Not That shares that the juices are the best indicator. Contrary to popular belief, chicken does not have to be grilled until it's parched of any liquid. Obviously you don't want there to be bloody chicken juice dripping off the bone, but Wes Whitsell, the executive chef of Manuela, told the publication that there still should be some traces of moisture when you take it off the grill. An easy way to retain that moisture is by weighing it down with something as simple as a brick-wrapped in aluminum foil. Pressing the chicken into the grill allows the skin to crisp up nicely while the inside meat remains juicy.

You can check the juiciness at any point by piercing the chicken with a knife, Smoker Grill Girl states. When the liquid that comes out is clear rather than pink, take it off the grill. At that point, Chef Whitsell recommends letting the chicken rest first. Then, when you slice it, you'll see the juices drip out and that's how you know it's perfectly cooked.