Grilling chicken is a perfect summer meal and this recipe grills in a total of 4 minutes! Moist, juicy lemon pepper chicken breast is perfect for a light main dish and meal prepping! An easy recipe with big flavor.
There are many things that make these juicy chicken breasts delicious. The lemon pepper seasoning. No marinating required. The short grilling time. The simple ingredients. Grill marks (they make everything more appetizing). This is a favorite way to grill chicken to get it done fast and keep it from drying out.
The lemon flavor makes them perfect on their own but great on cool crisp salads or pasta salads too. Or in wraps! And in meal prep meals. So many great ways to use this lemon chicken recipe. If you want an easy chicken recipe for summer grilling this is it.
What is chicken paillard?
"Paillard is a French term for a boneless piece of meat that has been pounded thin or butterflied. Pounding the meat has the dual benefit of tenderizing the meat and creating a thinner cut that cooks faster with less moisture loss." - Chef Thomas Keller.
It's a great method to make this Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken recipe which turns out juicy, with great flavor and is done cooking in 4 minutes total.
Unless you have a large very sharp knife butterflying the chicken breast can be difficult to do well. It's very easy to pound the chicken into a uniform thickness with a meat tenderizer, rolling pin or bottom of a cast iron skillet.
What makes this skinny?
- Chicken paillard is usually cooked in a pan with a good amount of butter or oil. We've moved it to the grill where it doesn't need much fat. Just enough to keep it moist and not sticking to the grill.
- Using lean boneless skinless chicken breasts. Pounding them extends the volume of the dish (you get more when it's pounded thinner)
- Only 1.5 tablespoonsof olive oil is used and you may not use it all.
Recipe Ingredients Notes
Boneless skinless chicken breasts. Choose 2 large (8-10 ounces each) boneless skinless chicken breasts. They will be pounded before grilling.
Fresh herbs. We've used fresh thyme and fresh rosemary for this recipe.
Fresh lemon juice. Freshly squeeze the juice from one large lemon. Using a hand held squeezer works great for this. The lemon juice will be divided with some brushed on during grilling and some after. Once an ingredient has come into contact with raw chicken it should not be used on cooked chicken so we separate the lemon juice (use a clean brush too).
Black pepper. Use freshly ground black pepper. For a stronger pepper flavor use coarse black pepper.
How to make Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken
Full recipe in recipe card at the end of this post.
STEP 1. Prepare the chicken
Place the boneless chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap (photo 3) and pound to ¼ inch thickness using a flat meat mallet or tenderizer or the bottom of a cast iron skillet (photo 4).
NOTE: if the breasts are really thick, you can butterfly them before pounding (photos 1-2 below). Using a large very sharp knife, slice through the breast middle horizontally leaving it connected on one side or cutting into two pieces.. Open the chicken breast and follow the pounding instructions above.
Remove from plastic wrap and pat dry with paper towels.
STEP 2. Prepare the seasonings
In a small bowl mix together the chopped herbs, salt and black pepper. Place half the lemon juice in a separate small bowl and the olive oil in a third small bowl. This makes it easy to quickly season the chicken on the grill. Reserve the remaining half lemon (or half of the lemon juice).
STEP 3. Preheat grill
Preheat the grill to high (450 degrees F). A gas grill or charcoal grill can be used. When at temperature brush grate well with a grill brush and oil the grill grates well with vegetable oil.
STEP 4. Grill
Brush each side of the chicken breasts with olive oil (photo 5) then season with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, chopped thyme and rosemary and brush on half of the lemon juice (you may not use it all) (photo 6).
Place the chicken breasts onto the prepared grill grates. Grill for 2 minutes with the lid down, flip over and grill an additional 2 minutes again with the lid down (cover grill) (photos 7-8).
Check the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F as measured with a meat thermometer (we recommend using an instant read food thermometer sot the chicken doesn't begin to cool which checking the temperature).
Remove from grill and allow to rest a 3 minutes. Squeeze on the remaining lemon juice and serve in whole pieces or slice on a cutting board.
Add some lemon zest. If you love lots of lemon flavor sprinkle some on just before serving. It's easiest to zest a lemon before juicing it too.
Add some garlic powder. If you want to change the flavors up to include some garlic too add a bit of garlic powder to the seasonings.
Use a plastic bag instead of plastic wrap. If you are out of plastic wrap use a gallon Ziploc bag for pounding the chicken. Put it inside the bag and pound the top layer of the bag.
Clean and oil the grill well. This is both hygienic but also ensures the chicken won't stick to the grill while cooking it. Wait until the grill is hot to do this.
Don't use the olive oil or lemon juice after the chicken is cooked. After the chicken is cooked discard any ingredients that were used for basting when the chicken was raw. This is why we reserved part of the lemon juice separately to use on the cooked chicken. If brushing it on use a clean brush.
Grill some lemon slices. These are beautiful when serving. Just add some to the grill at the end of cooking to get some grill marks.
How to store
Store leftover chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.