Grilled chicken salads are a great way to fill up on lean protein while packing in delicious flavors and not packing on unwanted calories. One of the tricks to making the perfect salad is learning how to grill the perfect chicken breasts and that is what I am going to show you how to do today!
This grilled chicken breast technique requires just a little bit of knife work, followed by soaking in a delicious marinade and finished by a quick sear on a hot grill.
Ready to get started?
Start by Preparing the Breasts
If you just take a chicken breast and throw it on the grill then it is going to end up bland, tough and completely uninspiring.
The problem is that breasts are usually large pieces of meat that take a while to cook and they generally lack any meaningful flavor.
We are going to fix that!
Cut the Breast in Half Lengthwise
The first thing you need to do is to slice the breast in half lengthwise.
Cutting the breast in half lengthwise gives you the following benefits:
- The thinner meat will grill faster which makes it less likely to dry out and get tough.
- The thinner meat will be better able to soak up the flavors from the marinade than a thick piece of meat.
- The resulting slices are more “bite sized” and will be easier to eat on your salad.
It is a Win-Win-Win!
Here is a great video that shows you exactly how to slice the breasts.
Marinate the Chicken Breast
We want the grilled chicken to be full of flavor but low in calories so we are going to use a bright marinade to make this chicken POP!
Combine the following ingredients, mix well and transfer to a 1 gallon Ziploc bag.
Chicken Breast Marinade
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- 2 tbls soy sauce
- 2 tbls balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 clove crushed garlic
Place the chicken breasts in the Ziploc bag, press the bag to expel the air and then tightly seal. Place the bag in a secondary container in case it leaks.
Let the chicken marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or for an hour in the refrigerator.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.
Set Up Your Grill For Direct High Heat
You can use either a charcoal or gas grill for cooking the chicken but I like the flavor you get from charcoal a little better.
On the flip side, the thin breasts are going to cook quick so taking the time to get the charcoal ready may not seem like overkill and, honestly, a lot of charcoal will go to waste.
If you are using a gas grill, then set the burners to High and let the grill warm up for at least 15 minutes.
If you are using a charcoal grill, then light a full chimney of charcoal and spread it evenly across half the charcoal grate to create a hot searing zone.
Regardless of which type of grill you are using don’t bother to use any wood chips for smoke. I like smoked chicken for many meals but it just doesn’t go well with a salad.
Grill the Chicken Breasts
Place the chicken breasts on the grill directly over the high heat. The chicken will have some sugar in it from the marinade so I like to flip the breasts often to let the sugars brown but not scorch.
I let the chicken grill for two minutes and then flip. Grill another two minutes and flip, etc.
Depending upon how hot your grill is and how thin the breasts are it will take between 10-14 minutes for the breasts to finish cooking. The breasts are done when they reach an internal temperature of 165F as measured by a digital thermometer.
Slice the Breasts for Your Salad
When the chicken comes off the grill use a sharp knife to cut the breast meat into thin slices for use on your salad.
I have seen people cut the breasts into either cubes or rough chunks and never could understand why. I mean, as long as you are doing a little knife work you ought to make it look pretty, right?
You can add the sliced breast meat to any variety of salad. You could make a summer salad with fresh fruit as pictured above, a Classic Caesar or even a Greek salad with feta and avocado!
Whatever type of salad you decide to make, this grilled chicken breast is going to be a delicious topping!
If you want an even more flavorful recipe then check out this post for how to smoke boneless, skinless chicken breasts on a Traeger grill.
Grilled Chicken Breast for Salad
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast 1 large breast
- 1/3 cup Olive oil extra virgin
- 2 tbsp Fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- Slice the chicken breast in half lengthwise.
- Combine the marinade ingredients, mix well and place in a one gallon Ziploc bag.
- Place the chicken breasts into the Ziploc bag with the marinade.
- Let the chicken marinade for 30 minutes at room temperature or one hour in the refrigerator.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.
- Grill the chicken over High heat, flipping every 2 minutes.
- Grill the chicken for 10-14 minutes until an internal temperature of 165 is reached.
- Remove the chicken from the grill and slice into strips for use on your salad.