How Long to Grill Chicken on Charcoal: Ultimate Guide & Tips

Discover the perfect duration for grilling chicken on a charcoal grill to achieve juicy, tender, and flavorful results every time.

Summer is here, and it’s time to fire up the grill! Grilling chicken on a charcoal grill is a classic way to enjoy juicy and flavorful meat. However, getting the timing right can be tricky.

Overcook it, and you’ll end up with dry and tough chicken. Undercook it, and you risk foodborne illness.

So how long should you grill your chicken on a charcoal grill? In this article, we’ll explore some tips for grilling perfect chicken every time. Get ready to impress your friends and family with your grilling skills!

Choosing the Right Chicken Cut

how long to grill chicken on charcoal ultimate guide amp tips

Choosing the right chicken cut is crucial for achieving perfect results when grilling on a charcoal grill. Different cuts have different cooking times and require different preparation methods.

For example, bone-in chicken takes longer to cook than boneless chicken, while skin-on chicken requires more attention during grilling to prevent flare-ups.

When selecting your cut of meat, consider what you plan to do with it after it’s cooked. If you’re making sandwiches or salads, boneless breasts are an excellent choice because they’re easy to slice and serve.

On the other hand, if you want something more substantial that can stand alone as a main dish at dinner time or BBQ party – go for drumsticks or thighs.

Preparing the Chicken

Begin by washing the chicken thoroughly under cold running water and patting it dry with paper towels. Next, remove any excess fat or skin from the meat using a sharp knife or kitchen shears.

If you’re working with bone-in cuts of chicken, such as thighs or drumsticks, consider trimming away some of the excess skin around the bone to help them cook more evenly on the grill.

For marinated chicken recipes, make sure that each piece is coated evenly in marinade before placing them on a plate and covering them tightly with plastic wrap. Allow at least 30 minutes for smaller pieces like wings and up to 24 hours for larger cuts like whole chickens.

Dry-rubbed recipes require less preparation time but still need attention before grilling. Rub each piece generously with your chosen spice blend until they are well-coated all over then let sit at room temperature for about an hour so that flavors can penetrate into meat fibers better during cooking process.

Safe Handling Practices

Raw chicken can contain harmful bacteria like salmonella and campylobacter that can cause food poisoning if not handled correctly. Here are some tips for safe handling:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling raw chicken.
  • Use separate cutting boards, utensils, and plates for raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Store the chicken in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Thaw frozen chicken in the refrigerator or microwave instead of leaving it at room temperature where bacteria can grow rapidly.

Lighting the Charcoal Grill

The first step is to remove the cooking grate and clean out any ash or debris from previous use. Next, place a layer of charcoal briquettes in the bottom of your grill and add lighter fluid according to package instructions.

Once you’ve added lighter fluid, wait a few minutes before lighting the coals with long matches or a fire starter. Be sure not to stand too close when lighting as flames can shoot up quickly.

After all coals are lit, let them burn for about 10-15 minutes until they turn grayish-white in color before spreading them evenly across the bottom of your grill using tongs or a specialized tool.

Remember that safety should always come first when handling hot coals and flammable liquids like lighter fluid.

Setting the Grill Temperature

The ideal temperature for cooking chicken on a charcoal grill is between 350°F and 450°F. However, this can vary depending on the cut of meat and whether you’re using direct or indirect heat.

To achieve this temperature range, use a chimney starter to light your charcoal instead of lighter fluid. This method is safer and more efficient as it eliminates any chemical taste that may affect your food’s flavor.

Once lit, spread out the coals evenly across one side of the grill for indirect heat or directly under where you’ll place your chicken if using direct heat.

Use an oven thermometer to monitor temperatures throughout cooking time since most built-in thermometers are not accurate enough. Adjusting airflow by opening/closing vents will help regulate temperatures too high/low respectively.

Direct Vs Indirect Heat

Direct heat works best for thin cuts of chicken that cook quickly, such as boneless breasts or thighs. Indirect heat is ideal for thicker cuts like whole chickens or bone-in pieces because it allows them to cook through without burning on the outside.

When grilling chicken on a charcoal grill, you can use both direct and indirect methods to achieve perfectly cooked meat with crispy skin and juicy flesh. For example, start by searing your marinated chicken over high direct heat to get those beautiful grill marks before moving it to an area of lower temperature where it can finish cooking slowly without charring.

Using a combination of both methods will give you more control over how your chicken cooks and help prevent flare-ups caused by dripping fat hitting hot coals.

Grilling Marinated Chicken

A marinade typically consists of an acidic ingredient, such as vinegar or citrus juice, along with oil and seasonings. The acid helps tenderize the chicken while also infusing it with flavor.

To marinate your chicken for grilling on a charcoal grill, start by choosing your preferred marinade recipe. You can find many recipes online or create your own using ingredients you have on hand.

Once you’ve made the marinade, place it in a large resealable plastic bag along with the chicken pieces. Seal the bag tightly and massage it gently to ensure that all parts of each piece are coated evenly in marinade.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to several hours) before grilling so that flavors can penetrate into every part of each piece of meat.

When ready to grill marinated chicken on charcoal grill remove from refrigerator about 20-30 minutes prior cooking time allowing them come back down closer room temperature which will help cook more evenly throughout. Grill over direct heat until cooked through according internal temperature guidelines (165°F).

Grilling Dry-Rubbed Chicken

A dry rub is a mixture of herbs, spices, and other seasonings that you apply directly onto the meat before grilling. The dry rub forms a crust on the outside of the chicken as it cooks, creating an explosion of flavors in every bite.

To prepare your dry-rubbed chicken for grilling, start by patting it down with paper towels to remove any excess moisture. Then generously coat both sides with your chosen spice blend or seasoning mix.

When grilling dry-rubbed chicken on charcoal grill using direct heat method (placing food directly over hot coals), be sure not to let it cook for too long without flipping or rotating it regularly. This will help prevent burning and ensure even cooking throughout.

Grilling Bone-In Chicken

Cooking bone-in chicken on a charcoal grill can be challenging as the bones can slow down the cooking process. To ensure that your bone-in chicken cooks evenly and thoroughly, you need to follow some essential tips.

Firstly, make sure that you choose pieces of similar size so they cook at an even rate. Secondly, prepare your grill by lighting up the charcoal and letting it burn until it turns white-hot before placing your chicken on top of it.

When grilling bone-in chicken over direct heat, start with high heat for about 5 minutes per side to sear in juices then reduce heat or move them over indirect heat until fully cooked through (165°F internal temperature). This will help prevent burning while ensuring that each piece is cooked all way through.

Grilling Boneless Chicken

To grill boneless chicken, start by preparing the meat. You can marinate it in your favorite sauce or season it with a dry rub to add flavor.

When you’re ready to grill, preheat your charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Brush the grates with oil or use non-stick cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Place the boneless chicken on the hot grill and cook for 5-6 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked through. Use tongs instead of a fork when flipping so that you don’t pierce the meat and lose its juices.

To check if your boneless chicken is done, insert an instant-read thermometer into its thickest part without touching any bones; It should read 165°F (74°C). If not yet done, continue cooking until reaching this temperature before removing from heat.

Once finished cooking remove from heat onto serving platter then let rest for at least five minutes before slicing into pieces as desired.

How Long to Cook Chicken On Charcoal Grill?

How long should you cook your chicken on a charcoal grill? The answer depends on several factors, including the cut of meat, its thickness, and whether it has bones or not.

As a general rule of thumb for boneless chicken breasts or thighs that are about 1 inch thick: Grill each side for 6-8 minutes over direct heat until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C). For bone-in pieces like drumsticks or wings: Grill them over indirect heat for around 30-35 minutes before moving them to direct heat.

Then continue grilling while flipping every few minutes until they reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F (75°C).

It’s important to note that these times are just guidelines; always use a meat thermometer to ensure that your chicken is cooked thoroughly and safely. Remember also that different cuts may require different cooking times – so be sure to adjust accordingly.

Internal Temperature Guidelines

The USDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to kill any harmful bacteria and prevent foodborne illness.

To check the temperature, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat without touching bone or fat. If you’re grilling bone-in chicken, make sure not to touch the bone with your thermometer as this can give you an inaccurate reading.

It’s essential not only for safety reasons but also for achieving juicy and tender results that you let your grilled chicken rest after removing it from heat. This allows time for juices inside each piece of meat redistribute evenly throughout before serving.

Flipping and Rotating Chicken

Flipping helps ensure even cooking on both sides of the chicken, while rotating prevents hot spots from forming on the grill.

To flip your chicken, use tongs or a spatula to gently lift each piece off the grill. Be careful not to pierce or tear the skin as this can cause juices to escape and dry out your meat.

Once you’ve flipped all pieces over, continue grilling until they’re cooked through.

Rotating is also crucial when cooking larger cuts of chicken like whole chickens or bone-in thighs. To do this effectively, move them around every 10-15 minutes so that they cook evenly without burning in one spot.

Basting During Grilling

Basting involves brushing or spooning a liquid mixture over the chicken as it cooks on the grill. This can be done with a variety of ingredients, such as barbecue sauce, marinade, butter, oil or even beer.

To baste your chicken while grilling on charcoal grill:

  1. Wait until about halfway through cooking time before starting to baste.
  2. Use a silicone brush or long-handled spoon for applying liquids.
  3. Brush lightly so that you don’t knock off any seasoning from the meat surface.
  4. Avoid adding too much sugar-based sauces early in grilling because they tend to burn quickly due to high heat.

Remember that every time you open up your grill lid during cooking process will cause temperature fluctuations and increase cook times slightly; therefore try not opening up too often just for basting purposes only.

Preventing Sticking

Not only does this make it difficult to flip and rotate, but it also ruins the presentation of your dish. To prevent sticking, start by preheating your grill for at least 10-15 minutes before adding any food.

This will help create a non-stick surface on the grates.

Next, brush some oil onto both sides of each piece of chicken using a silicone brush or paper towel dipped in oil. Be sure not to use too much oil as this can cause flare-ups and smoke.

Another trick is to avoid moving or flipping your chicken too soon after placing it on the grill. If you try to move or flip before a crust has formed on one side, you risk tearing off pieces and leaving them stuck behind.

Lastly, invest in good quality cooking spray designed specifically for high heat cooking like grilling which helps keep food from sticking while imparting flavor without burning off quickly.

Avoiding Flare-Ups

When fat drips onto the hot coals, it can cause flames to shoot up and scorch your chicken. Not only does this ruin the flavor, but it also increases the risk of undercooked meat.

To avoid flare-ups, start by trimming excess fat from your chicken before grilling. You should also use a drip pan or foil to catch any drippings and prevent them from hitting the coals directly.

Another tip is to keep an eye on your grill temperature and adjust as needed. If you notice that flames are starting to rise too high, move your chicken away from direct heat until they die down.

Consider using indirect heat for cooking thicker cuts of meat like bone-in breasts or whole chickens. This method involves placing charcoal on one side of the grill while leaving space for food on another side without direct heat underneath it.

Checking for Doneness

Undercooked chicken can cause food poisoning, while overcooked chicken will be dry and tough. The best way to determine doneness is by using a meat thermometer.

Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat without touching any bones or gristle.

For boneless cuts like breasts or thighs, aim for an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). For bone-in cuts like drumsticks and wings, aim for 170°F (77°C) in their thickest part.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer on hand, there are other ways to check if your chicken is done cooking:

  • Cut into one piece: If juices run clear with no pink color inside when cut near its center.
  • Check texture: Poke with a fork; fully cooked poultry should feel firm but not hard.
  • Wiggle leg joints: They should move freely once fully cooked.

Remember that resting time also plays an important role in achieving juicy and tender results.

Resting the Chicken

Resting the meat for a few minutes before serving can make all the difference. Resting allows the juices inside to redistribute throughout the meat and settle down, resulting in juicier and more flavorful chicken.

To rest your grilled chicken on a charcoal grill, remove it from heat using tongs or spatula and place it on a clean plate or cutting board. Tent loosely with foil paper or cover with an inverted bowl if you prefer not to use foil paper.

Letting boneless cuts of chicken rest for about 5-10 minutes will do while larger cuts like whole chickens should be rested for at least 15-20 minutes before carving into them.

Cooking Times for Different Cuts

The thickness and bone structure of the cut can affect how long it takes to cook through. For example, bone-in chicken will take longer than boneless chicken because bones conduct heat more slowly than meat.

Chicken breasts are one of the most popular cuts for grilling but can be tricky to cook correctly. They should be cooked over medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes per side or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Thighs and drumsticks take slightly longer at around 10-12 minutes per side.

If you’re grilling a whole bird, you’ll need to adjust your cooking time accordingly. A small whole chicken weighing around three pounds will take approximately an hour and fifteen minutes over indirect heat with occasional turning until its internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).

It’s essential always to use a meat thermometer when checking if your grilled chicken is done properly as this ensures that there is no risk of foodborne illness from undercooked poultry.

Best Side Dishes for Grilled Chicken

The right side dish can complement and enhance the flavors of your grilled chicken, making for a well-rounded meal that everyone will enjoy.

Some classic options include corn on the cob, potato salad, coleslaw or baked beans. These dishes are easy to prepare and pair well with grilled chicken.

For something more adventurous try roasted vegetables like zucchini or bell peppers seasoned with herbs such as rosemary or thyme.

If you’re looking for lighter sides that won’t weigh down your meal consider serving up some fresh greens like arugula salad topped with cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Grilled vegetables such as eggplant slices drizzled in olive oil also make great accompaniments.

Whatever you choose remember that simplicity is key when it comes to side dishes for grilled chicken – let the flavor of your perfectly cooked meat shine through!


How long do you cook chicken on a charcoal grill?

Cook chicken on a charcoal grill for 15 to 18 minutes, turning once halfway through, until it reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer and juices run clear.

What is the ideal temperature for grilling chicken on a charcoal grill?

The ideal temperature for grilling chicken on a charcoal grill is around 350°F (175°C).

How can you ensure even cooking of chicken on a charcoal grill?

To ensure even cooking of chicken on a charcoal grill, maintain a consistent temperature, turn the chicken pieces frequently, and move them around on the grill if needed.

Are there any specific techniques to marinate and prepare chicken for charcoal grilling?

One technique to marinate and prepare chicken for charcoal grilling is to soak it in a mixture of spices, herbs, and liquids for a few hours before grilling, allowing flavors to penetrate the meat and enhance its taste.