Salt and Pepper Grilled Chicken

Perfect grill marks, rich amber color and full of barbecue smoke flavor. This grilled chicken recipe will become your go-to meal at home or at the campground. Simple ingredients, easy technique, and did I mention rich smoky flavor?

Essentially, there are two problems or stumbling blocks with grilled chicken. Over cooking it makes the chicken look like Santa left a piece of coal on your grill. If you undercook your chicken it will be as pink as a ballerinas slipper. How do you achieve the rich grilled flavor, golden skin, perfect grill marks and guarantee it’s cooked properly? Follow theses steps and I promise it will take your grilled chicken to a whole new level of delicious flavor.

Where To Start

Using bone in chicken offers multiple benefits, structure to help keep the chicken from curling up when it’s seared. Flavor, when you cook with bone in proteins there is a slight transfer of its rich flavor components during the grill time. Finally protection, using the bones as armor against the hot grill gives the chicken a chance to cook rather than burn and become dried out.

By leaving the skin on it not only helps your grilled chicken look incredible it adds delicious flavor. Beautiful dark grill marks develop when the hot grill sears and melts the fat of the chicken skin. As that fat melts from the heat, droplets hit the hot coals and release smoke, so you are basting and flavoring all at the same time.

Seasoning, simple is best here, however it’s all in the application and technique. You will master the dry brine and air-drying method with this recipe. Chicken has a fair amount of water in its skin and meat, by using salt you help pull a bit of that water to the skin which mixes with the salt. Then it’s naturally pulled back into the meat where that salty solution flavors chicken from the inside out.

The air-drying method is nothing new to chefs, but it is a newer method for home cooks. Traditionally, we season a piece of chicken, place it on a platter, cover it with plastic wrap then rest it for a few hours in the refrigerator. Air-drying uses that technique, however, the plastic wrap is eliminated. The chicken skin will release its moisture from the salting then the excess water is evaporated causing the to skin to dry a bit. Meaning the fat gets concentrated, resulting in a larger release of it while cooking and the skin crisps perfectly.

Switch It Up

Salt and pepper is the ultimate grilled chicken seasoning, competition barbecue cooks have been using it for years and winning with it too. Remember grilled chicken needs to taste like grilled chicken. The main flavor of this recipe is the smoke from the barbecue. Hard wood and lump charcoal fires help produce the richest flavor with grilled chicken. Gas grills need the addition of soaked wood chips to develop a smoky flavor. Below are a few suggestions you can add to the recipes seasoning mix if you feel the need to change it up a bit.

Red Chili Flake

Dried Rosemary

Granulated Garlic

Lemon Pepper

Infused Salts

Keep it simple, follow the recipes directions and your friends and family will love your perfectly seasoned salt and pepper grilled chicken.

Salt and Pepper Grilled Chicken
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  • 4-6 bone in, skin on chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • Ground black pepper


  1. Trim excess skin from the chicken breasts then place the chicken on a baking sheet. Sprinkle two teaspoons of salt over both sides of the chicken. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator, uncovered for 12-24 hours.
  2. Light a full chimney of hard wood charcoal, or briquettes. When the coals are ready, carefully pour the hot charcoal along one side of the bbq. If you are using a gas grill light all burners on high and preheat for 15 minutes. Place grill over hot coals and allow to heat for 5 minutes. Clean the grill with a bbq brush then dip a folded paper towel in cooking oil and oil the entire grate using long-handled tongs. For the gas grill, turn all but one flame off. You will create the two zone cooking method this way.
  3. Remove chicken from the refrigerator, pat dry with paper towels, brush with oil and sprinkle with pepper to your liking.
  4. Place the chicken on the cool side of the grill, cover with the grill lid and cook for 30 minutes, keep the grill temperature at 350 degrees.
  5. After 30 minutes, place the chicken breasts on the hot side of the grate, directly above the coals. Sear all the chicken pieces for three minutes per side, turning and cook the other side for three minutes, check the internal temperature, you are looking for 165 degrees. If not at temperature continue to cook three minutes a side until temperature is reached.
  6. Remove chicken from the grill, place on a platter and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before eating.

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