Grilling is often associated with charcoal and smoky flavor, but it's also a method of cooking by direct heat. You can convert a grill recipe to the oven by using the broiler. Prepare the chicken for optimal moistness for the best grilled chicken in the oven.
Marinating or brining your chicken, followed by "grilling" in the broiler, brings out the natural juiciness in chicken — making for the perfect healthy meal.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Chicken is a nutrient-rich lean protein, but cooking lean meat with the high temperature of grilling or broiling can result in a dry, tough piece of poultry. You can solve the problem by using a marinade or brining solution before making grilled chicken in the oven.
Utah State University Cooperative Extension recommends marinating or brining the chicken for at least two hours or up to 24 hours, keeping it in the refrigerator the entire time. Don't use a metal container; instead, go with self-sealing bags or plastic or glass containers.
Removing the skin allows the chicken to get the most benefit from a marinade or brine. It also makes for a healthier meal because the skin contains fat and calories. For example, a 3-ounce chicken breast with the skin has 6 grams more fat and 44 extra calories compared to a piece without skin, according to USDA FoodData Central. So when you're making grilled chicken breast in the oven, go for the leaner option.
Removing the skin is also safer, because it can burn or catch on fire when cooked close to the heat. If you leave the skin on, pierce it several times with a fork.
Marinate or Brine Your Chicken
Michigan State University Extension points out that marinades consist of three basic ingredients: oil; an acid such as vinegar, lemon juice, wine or yogurt; and spices, herbs or other seasonings.
As a general guideline, use about three parts of oil to one part acid. The acid breaks down protein, which tenderizes the chicken and lets more of the oil get into the meat. Then the oil keeps it moist during grilling, so it's the best way to cook chicken breast in the oven.
A brining solution accomplishes the same thing, but it's a mixture of 3 tablespoons of salt for every quart of water. You can also add a sweetener or seasonings. As salt from the brine gets into the meat, it breaks down protein, which allows water to get in for moistness.
The finished product will contain extra oil or salt absorbed from the marinade or brine. The exact amount varies, however, depending on how long the chicken is in the liquid and the amount of ingredients used. Soak the chicken for the minimum time of two hours to limit absorption, especially if you're watching salt intake.
Grill Chicken in the Oven
You can grill — or broil — chicken using a traditional broiler pan, an oven-safe grill pan or a cast-iron skillet. Replicate the heat of the grill by preheating the oven to its highest temperature. Put the pan inside the oven during preheating so it gets hot like the rack of a grill.
After the oven has warmed up, turn on the broiler, carefully remove the hot pan and put the chicken on the pan. Make sure the oven rack is as close to the broiler as possible, and put the chicken on the rack in the oven. Leave the oven door open slightly to prevent the broiler from turning off.
Safe Cooking Tips
If your pieces of chicken are thick, you may need to lower the rack one notch to be sure they cook to the proper internal temperature — 165 degrees Fahrenheit — before the outside burns. Thick pieces may take about 10 minutes to cook, while small pieces will be ready in half the time.
When make grilled chicken in an oven, you'll get better results if you butterfly the chicken. First cut down both sides of the backbone and remove the bone. Then open the chicken to expose the inside cavity and use a knife to cut out the breast bone, which is the best way to cook chicken breast in the oven. Then you can lay the chicken flat on the pan.
- Utah State University Cooperative Extension: "Marinating Meat Safely"
- The Kitchn: Kitchen Basics: "How to Use Your Broiler"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Breast, Meat and Skin, Raw"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken, Broiler or Fryers, Breast, Skinless, Boneless, Meat Only, Raw"
- Michigan State University Extension: "To Marinate or Not to Marinate?"