May is National BBQ Month and grilling season is officially here. This year, start the season off right by celebrating Georgia’s status as the Poultry Capital of the World.

Georgia produces more broiler chickens than any state in the nation. Poultry production accounts for over half of our state’s total agricultural output, and is a vital component of Georgia’s economy.

Not only is chicken good for the Peach State’s economy, it’s also good for you. Chicken provides the most nutrients of all meats, but with the least number of calories. A 3-ounce serving of skinless, roasted chicken breast contains just over 100 calories, yet provides over half the recommended daily amount of protein. Plus it can be prepared in numerous, tasty manners — including cooking it on your natural gas grill.

Chicken is cooked on a gas grill

Top tips for grilling chicken breasts

Knowing a few simple secrets can make you a master chicken griller. Use these basic techniques for preparing moist, tender chicken breasts on a gas grill:

  1. Thin it.

In grilling, the thickness of the meat, rather than the weight, determines the cooking time more than weight. A breast you plan to grill should be about 3/4 inch thick. To flatten: Seal a fully thawed breast in a 1-gallon plastic freezer bag. Then pound the meat with a mallet or the bottom of a heavy pan until the desired thickness is uniformly achieved.

  1. Soak in salt water.

Because it’s a dry heat method, grilling can dry out meat. To keep chicken moist, give it a salt-water bath, called brining. The salt will go into the meat, taking water with it. To brine: Combine 2 cups cold water with 1 tablespoon table salt. Submerge the chicken in the brine for 20 minutes to 1 hour. Rinse off the brine and pat dry with a paper towel before applying any seasonings. Remember: Never use a seasoning with salt if you have brined. Most commercial seasonings are heavy in salt, and if used with a brined chicken breast will be too salty for most tastes.

  1. Watch the cooking temperature.

Cooking chicken on high heat will dry the outside long before the inside is done or safe to eat. Shoot for a grill surface temperature of about 450 degrees. Ideally, you should check the temperature with a grill surface thermometer. If you don’t have one, then the medium setting is about 450 degrees on most gas grills.

  1. Grill with care.

Place chicken over direct heat and close the grill lid. Flip every five minutes. Most chicken that has been thinned to 3/4 inch and cooked at a 450 degree surface temperature of 450 degrees takes about 20-25 minutes to cook on a gas grill. Use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast to determine doneness at 165 degrees internal temperature. More will dry, and less is unsafe. For best results, allow the chicken to rest off of the heat for about 5 minutes before serving. If longer, tint lightly with foil to keep it warm and moist.

Grilled chicken sandwiches made with Georgia ingredients

Try a new recipe

Launch your summer grilling season with a new chicken recipe or two.

The National Chicken Council’s Chicken Roost offers this appetizer idea that’s ideal for any Georgia barbecue: Grilled Chicken and Peach Kabobs.

If you’re looking for a poultry alternative to the basic burger, try a Georgia Grown Chicken Bacon Burger. This recipe, featured at the 2019 Georgia National Fair, is available on the Georgia Grown website.