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Why Chicken Breast Can Be Such A Difficult Meat To Grill

chicken breast on grill
chicken breast on grill - Grandriver/Getty Images

Grilling is a great American pastime, something many of us can get terrific enjoyment out of even when winter hits. But while grilling can make for fantastic meals rich in beautiful wood smoke flavor, sometimes it can go wrong. There are certain proteins you really never want to grill at all: Brisket is notoriously a disaster due to its overabundance of connective tissue, flaky fish just falls apart, and silken tofu disintegrates. But what about chicken breast?

It doesn't have a great grilling reputation, so let's start with that. Most people who've gone in blind trying to grill a chicken breast have found that it's a recipe for disaster, with the chicken coming out dry and overcooked despite it not even being on the grill that long. The reason it's so hard to manage is simple: Chicken breast is lean, with very little fat to act as a soft landing for any mistakes a pit master might make.

Read more: The Unexpected Meat You Need To Avoid Grilling At All Costs

Fattier Cuts Are Easier To Grill

chicken breast in tongs on fiery grill
chicken breast in tongs on fiery grill - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Meats that grill the best generally have higher fat content. Think about steaks: Ribeyes, T-bones, and New York strips are all considered highly desirable cuts for grilling, and the same applies to poultry with things like chicken thighs. Chicken breast, though, is naturally extremely lean. That doesn't mean you can't make a great meal out of it. But it does mean you must be careful how you cook it, and high direct heat is generally not the best way to handle it.

An important thing to remember that's related to this is that more fat does not always equal better grilling; bacon is often not a great grilling meat because it's almost nothing but fat, and it needs exposure to consistent direct heat. When you're looking specifically to render fat (duck is another good example here), a grill isn't generally the best place for it. But if you're dealing with a cut that can hold together and where fat isn't the primary component, that's when you're looking at a great grilling meat.

There Are Ways To Make Grilling Chicken Breast Work

raw chicken breasts brining with herbs
raw chicken breasts brining with herbs - Cavan-Images/Shutterstock

That doesn't mean it can't be done; an experienced chef can grill a chicken breast perfectly well. But that lack of fat means there's little room for error; it's just more difficult to make it work. Instead, you have to go into it with a purpose and a knowledge of a couple of tricks that work.

Turning chicken breasts into chicken cutlets by pounding them thin and then hitting them with high heat works, as they'll cook evenly, with the short cooking time serving to keep them from drying out. You can also brine them in saltwater, which has the effect of moistening them, especially as the liquid the salt has absorbed dissolves and gets reabsorbed back into the meat (the only drawback here is the excess moisture means you're not going to get nearly as good of a sear).

Whichever method you use, have a plan in mind. You can grill chicken breast perfectly well, you just need to be careful how you go about it.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.