Grilled Chicken Breast. In theory, it sounds really good…especially when I am trying to eat a little healthier or I want an alternative to a hamburger. However, when I’m out, so oftentimes I find myself disappointed by a grilled chicken breast. It is usually for one of two reasons…or in the worst-case scenario, two of two reasons.
First, my biggest complaint is when a grilled chicken breast is tasteless. Even when cooked perfectly, an unseasoned or unmarinated chicken breast is rather blah, boring and uninspiring. My second complaint, as eluded to the previous sentence, is when a grilled chicken breast is overcooked. Dry, tough…no thank you.
Sometimes, a grilled chicken breast is both tasteless and overcooked. Pass the potato salad, please.
The thing is, it is so easy to avoid both of the above problems and make a super-flavorful and perfectly cooked chicken breast every time. With a little practice, you’ll have it down to a science in no time.
How to Season A Chicken Breast
A chicken breast is very lean, which means it doesn’t have a lot of fat. This is great when you’re trying to eat a bit healthier. Truth be told, though, fat is what usually gives a piece of meat some extra flavor. So, when cooking a lean piece of meat, if you don’t season it, you’ll end up with lackluster results. You need to season it properly.
First, that means salt. Salt is a natural flavor enhancer and will help to bring out the great flavor in the meat. I used to be so worried about over-salting meat and so that meant, more often than not, I never used enough salt. So, I would get a less-than-flavorful result. I have since learned to properly salt meat…and it usually means adding a bit more than you might instinctively think.
It makes sense, we will generally salt meat the same way that we might salt a finished dish. So, to use more goes against instinct. With a little practice and experimenting with a little more salt, you’ll see that a little more than you think goes a long way. As an added bonus, you won’t be adding any additional salt to the cooked chicken because it won’t need it.
In this sandwich, we’re using our homemade Tiny Kitchen Shallot Vinaigrette. It is a great vinaigrette made from olive oil, balsamic vinegar, shallots, salt and pepper. It doesn’t have a ton of salt in it, so in this recipe, I am choosing to salt and pepper the chicken breast first before adding the Shallot Vinaigrette. That way, I ensure that we’re going to enhance the flavor of the meat perfectly.
The shallot vinaigrette will add some sweetness from the shallots and bit of tang from the balsamic vinegar. So good!
The bottom line is that it is a recipe for a great sandwich that you can make right on the grill.
How to Perfectly Cook a Chicken Breast
We have been so inundated with all the terrible things that can happen when you undercook chicken that most of the time, we overcook chicken. Womp. Womp.
Yes, the USDA recommends an internal temperature of 165°F. That doesn’t mean you need to cook it to 165°F before you take it off. If you do, you will have effectively cooked something as tasty as a hockey puck…and just as juicy.
Let Your Chicken Breast Rest
Keep in mind that the internal temperature will continue to rise after you take it off the grill…usually from 5 to 8 degrees…sometimes more. That means, if you take it off somewhere around 157°F – 160°F, you’re gonna be good! It will continue to cook and will ultimately hit 165°F no problem.
But practice this a couple of time using a meat thermometer and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
Flatten your Chicken Breast to the Same Thickness
Another great trick for not overcooking a grilled chicken breast is to flatten it to the same thickness. If you don’t, you’ll have to continue to cook the chicken breast so the thick part eventually hits 165°F and, by that time, the rest of the chicken breast is as dry as the Mojave Desert.
So, throw the chicken breast into a Ziploc bag or between a couple of sheets of plastic wrap and pound it to the same thickness using the flat side of a meat tenderizer. If you don’t have a meat tenderizer, you can use something else like a rolling pin or anything like that. You don’t have to hit it that hard. Just continue to flatten it until it is all about 1/2 inch thick.
The Perfect Grilling Sandwich
Once you have mastered the perfectly grilled chicken breast, you are ready to build this amazingly tasty sandwich…beginning with some grilled sourdough bread and some Pesto. This helps make the sandwich really stand out.
Topped with Provolone cheese, sundried and some arugula, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Finish it off with some Balsamic Glaze and serve it open-faced and you have yourself one amazing sandwich that you can make right on the grill. Your friends will thank you!
Let me know what you think!
Sourdough Grilled Chicken Sandwich
SO WHAT YOU'RE GONNA NEED IS:
Marinate the Chicken
- Season both sides of Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast with Salt and Pepper. Transfer to a Ziploc Bag. Do Not Seal.
- With the flat side of a Meat Tenderizer, starting with the thicker end of the Chicken Breast, flatten the Chicken Breast until it is consistently 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick (Note: you don’t have to hit it too hard, but enough so that you can control the thickness.)
- Once flattened, add Shallot Vinaigrette and seal the Bag. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes.
Prepare the Bread
- Cutting at a bias, cut slices about 1/2 inch thick.
- Season both of the Bread slices with Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper.
- Rub slices on the cutting board to thoroughly and evenly coat with the Olive Oil.
- Drizzle a little olive oil in a hot Cast Iron Grill Pan and place the Bread in the Pan. (Note: if using a BBQ Grill, do NOT drizzle with olive oil)
- Toast the Bread until you get really nice grill marks on both sides. (Note: Time will vary depending on the temperature of the grill, so keep an eye on it)
- Once toasted, remove from Grill.
Cook the Chicken
- Drizzle a little more olive oil in the Grill Pan and place the Marinated Chicken Breast on the Grill.
- Cook the Chicken Breast until it turns opaque around the edges. Flip the Chicken Breast and grill on the other side until cooked through and the juices run clear.
- Place a slice of Cheese on Chicken Breast, remove from the grill and let sit for about 5 minutes. (Note: letting it sit will let the juices redistribute and help to keep it moist)
Build the Sandwich
- Place some Pesto on the one of the Toasted Bread.
- Place Chicken Breast on top of the Pesto (Note: you may need to cut the Chicken Breast to fit the size of the bread)
- Top with Sundried Tomatoes and Arugula. Drizzle with Balsamic Glace and serve open-faced.