Fragrant emerald mint growing outside my kitchen door beckoned with the freshness of spring and warmer weather to come. More than just a pretty leaf to decorate desserts, mint adds lovely, refreshing flavor when used in savory dishes.
By making a quick, easy vinaigrette with fresh squeezed lemon juice and chopped mint leaves, you have both a marinade and a sauce to finish the chicken before serving.
Prep and Pound
Start with boneless, skinless chicken breasts and trim off the little tenderloin (if there is one). Place chicken breasts two at a time, smooth side up, in a heavy-duty plastic zip bag. Pound the thicker end to make the chicken breasts more even in thickness.
When pounding the chicken, pound firmly but not so hard that you tear the meat. Use a smooth sided meat pounder or a small, heavy flat-bottomed fry pan. If you don’t have a meat pounder, they are inexpensive and worthwhile kitchen tool to add to your collection.
Marinate the Chicken
Whisk together your vinaigrette and add half to the plastic zip bag with the chicken to marinate for a few hours in the refrigerator. Save the rest of the vinaigrette to use as a sauce for the grilled chicken breasts when serving.
Before grilling, allow the chicken breasts to sit at room temperature for 45-60 minutes to take the chill off.
Time to Grill
Heat up your grill (we use gas) on high for about 10 minutes, then clean the grates with a stiff grill brush. Turn the heat down to medium. Next, with tongs and a wad of folded paper towels dipped in a little oil and brush the grill grates to help prevent sticking. Drain the chicken and discard the marinade from the bag. Place chicken breasts on the grill, smooth side down first.
Restaurant Trick for Perfect Grill Marks
To get restaurant-worthy grill marks, think 10:00 and 2:00 like the positions on the face of a clock. Start chicken breasts with one end pointed at 10 and allow the marks to develop, then move to 2 and you’ll get perfect grill marks. After a few minutes when the chicken is golden, turn the chicken breasts over and complete grilling on the other side.
Test for Doneness
The most accurate way to test for doneness is with a digital thermometer, another must-have kitchen tool. For food safety, chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees (74 C). I pull mine off the grill at 160 degrees and cover with foil for a few minutes while the temperature rises a few degrees.
With a little practice you will know when they are done by touch. They will be firm but still have a little give to them. As soon as you pull them from the grill, brush with fresh vinaigrette and serve with more at the table as a sauce.
For a refreshing warm weather dinner, use the chicken to top a salad. I like to add cubes of sweet watermelon, crumbles of tangy feta cheese and finish with my lemon mint vinaigrette. Another idea, grill halved small zucchini with your chicken and dress them both with the vinaigrette.
With summer around the corner it’s becoming barbecue season. Time to get outside, enjoy warmer days and the pleasures outdoor cooking.
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Tips for great grilled chicken breasts, from Fine Cooking and Grill Master Steve Raichlen
Grilled Lemon Mint Chicken Breast
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts 680 – 900 grams, 1 1/2 – 2 total, preferably organic
- 2/3 cup olive oil 160ml
- zest of one lemon use a microplane zester
- 2/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice 160ml
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1 large garlic clove or use a garlic press, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add mint, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Place chicken breasts in a heavy duty zip style plastic bag smooth side up. Using a meat pounder, pound the thicker end of the chicken breasts to make them more even in thickness. When pounding the chicken, pound firmly but not so hard that you tear the meat. Pour half of the marinade into the zip bag, about 3/4 of a cup, and seal the bag pressing the air out. Refrigerate for several hours, turning the bag over occasionally.
- 45 minutes before grilling, remove chicken from the refrigerator and allow to stand at room temperature to get the chill off. Drain off marinade and discard. Place on a plastic film covered quarter sheet pan to transport to the grill.
- Grill chicken until done. Using a digital thermometer to test for temperature, pull chicken off the grill at 160 degrees. Brush with fresh vinaigrette for added flavor. With a little practice you will know when they are done by touch. They will be firm but still have a little give to them.
- Cover chicken with foil to keep warm. The temperature will rise to the food-safe temperature of 165 in a few minutes before serving. Serve with reserved vinaigrette as a sauce or salad dressing.
- Tip – Whenever I put raw chicken or meat in the refrigerator I place the bag on a quarter sized rimmed baking sheet. In case of a leak the rimmed sheet catches any leakage. That small step will save you cleaning up a messy refrigerator. They are an amazingly useful tool.
- See notes below for grilling tips.
- Tips to Grill Chicken Breasts
- For a gas grill, heat grill on high for about 10 minutes then clean the grates with a stiff grill brush. Turn the heat down to medium. Brush the grill grates with tongs and a wad of folded paper towels dipped in a little grapeseed or canola oil to help prevent sticking. Place chicken breasts on the grill, smooth side down first.
- Tips for Perfect Grill Marks
- To get restaurant-worthy grill marks, think 10:00 and 2:00 like the positions on the face of a clock. Start chicken breasts with one end pointed at 10 and allow the marks to develop, then move to 2 and you’ll get perfect grill marks. After a few minutes when the chicken is golden, turn the chicken breasts over and complete grilling on the other side.