Summer is a wonderful food season isn’t it? Cookouts, potlucks, fresh watermelon, all sorts of popsicles and frozen desserts…it’s all great! And of course, it wouldn’t be summer without firing up the grill at least once or twice. If you want to branch out from burgers and hot dogs, but still want to keep it simple, try my recipe for easy balsamic marinated grilled chicken!
Why I Love This Easy Balsamic Marinated Grilled Chicken Recipe:
This recipe is awesome because there are only a handful of ingredients and a few steps. And because it uses chicken thighs instead of breasts, which have more fat (and flavor, in my opinion!) the meat comes out juicy and tender every time. The added fat will also help keep the meat from getting too tough if you happen to overcook it on the grill. So this recipe is very forgiving also!
My absolute favorite part of this recipe is the short marinating time. Only 30 minutes and the chicken comes out perfectly seasoned, with a deliciously tangy, sweet flavor. Honestly, 30 minutes is all you need! This means that even if you didn’t plan ahead, you are still all set to make this crowd-pleasing main course!
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Easy Balsamic Marinated Grilled Chicken Ingredients
You only need five ingredients to make this recipe for easy balsamic marinated grilled chicken: chicken thighs, balsamic vinegar, olive oil (I used extra virgin olive oil), honey, and salt. That’s it! Oh, and also some neutral oil like vegetable oil to rub on the grill so the chicken doesn’t stick. Would you count that as a sixth ingredient?
By the way, if you are noticing the interesting looking salt in the picture above, it’s called Real Salt. It’s unrefined, unprocessed sea salt mined in America. My mother-in-law gave some to me and I really love it!
How to Make Easy Balsamic Marinated Grilled Chicken
As I mentioned, this recipe is very simple and there are only a few basic steps.
Step One: Trim Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs usually come with a few bits of fat around the edges. If you take just a few minutes to trim these off, you will be rewarded with a better eating experience in my opinion, since you won’t have to navigate around any wiggly bits when you are ready to dive in to your freshly-grilled chicken. My favorite way to do this is with kitchen shears. It is just such an easier and more precise way to do it, and I highly recommend it!
Don’t worry about getting off every little bit of fat. Just snip off the larger pieces as you can see in this picture here:
As I mentioned in this post for Mango and White Chocolate Scones, my favorite kitchen shears are these ones from Wusthof. I’ve had them for years and they are still going strong! And they have saved me so much time doing kitchen tasks that tend to be a bit tedious like cutting herbs and dried fruit (and trimming chicken!).
Step Two: Marinate Chicken
This part is pretty easy! Just add your chicken to a gallon Ziploc bag and dump in the rest of your ingredients. Once everything is in, squeeze out most of the air from the bag and seal it. Then massage the bag to mix all the ingredients together. This also helps to make sure each crevice of the chicken is exposed to the marinade.
Once you’ve given everything a good mixing inside the bag, let the chicken marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes. You can go longer if you want to, but I wouldn’t go much past 8 hours. Otherwise the chicken may get a bit mushy from being exposed to the acid in the vinegar for too long. The longest I’ve let this chicken marinate was about six hours, and it was delicious but not significantly more flavorful than just going for 30 minutes.
Step Three: Prep For Grilling
That’s it, we are almost ready to dig into some delicious marinated chicken thighs! You have many options for doing the actual grilling. You can use a charcoal grill (see note at bottom of post) or gas outdoor grill of course. Or even a cast iron indoor grill pan if the weather is bad or you don’t have an outdoor grill. I actually used my favorite Lodge Reversible Grill/Griddle this time around. It’s convenient and also I didn’t feel like cleaning the outdoor grill. (Ok, mainly because of that second reason, please don’t judge me!)
This Lodge grill/griddle is great because it’s versatile; you can grill chicken on one side and make pancakes on the other! And it’s a nice, generous size to cook lots of food at once. (I probably could have fit all eight chicken thighs on there at one time but got overzealous and started putting chicken on the grill before I blotted all the pieces off, so I thought it would be best to slow my roll and just cook four at a time!)
For an indoor cast iron grill pan or outdoor gas grill, preheat on medium high heat for about ten minutes. When the grill is heating up, remove the chicken from the fridge and blot both sides of each piece with a paper towel to remove most of the moisture. When you are ready to cook, oil the grill with an oiled paper towel held in a pair of tongs. Use a neutral oil like vegetable oil or canola oil, which have a high smoke point.
Step Four: Get Cooking!
Place the blotted chicken on the grill, and grill on the first side for 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and grill for another 5 – 6 minutes. At this point you should take the chicken’s temperature with an instant read thermometer. If it’s reached 165 in the thickest part, you’re good to go! (If it’s close to 165, see more about that in the section below How Do I Know When My Chicken is Done?)
What if you’ve already cooked your chicken on the second side and it’s not close to 165 but is getting too dark? Just flip the chicken again and cook for another 2 minutes and then test again. Because the size and thickness of the chicken thighs will vary, you will likely need to remove some from the grill earlier than others. This is another reason why using the thermometer to test for doneness is so helpful!
How Do I Know When My Chicken is Done?
Chicken is safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. If you want to, you could actually pull your chicken off the grill when it’s a few degrees shy of 165 degrees, since the temperature will continue to rise as it rests off the heat. This is called carryover cooking. Doing this will ensure your chicken isn’t overcooked and will be at its most tender and juicy.
How Much Carryover Cooking Will Occur?
Since I’m kind of conservative about these things and giving someone food poisoning is my one of my worst fears, I personally wouldn’t pull the food off the heat until it reaches at least 162 degrees. And I would most definitely take the temperature again (in the thickest part) after five minutes to make sure it reached 165.
However, I don’t think there is a precise answer to how many degrees of carryover there will be in each situation. This will depend on the size of the meat, the temperature of the grill, even the temperature outside if you are grilling outdoors. If you do pull your chicken a few degrees shy of 165 degrees, I would just be sure to check the temperature again in a few minutes after you take it off the grill to make sure it reaches 165.
This Seems Like A Lot to Consider: Do I Have to Worry About This?
If this all seems like too much for you, I get it! I just feel like I would be a bad food blogger if I didn’t talk about this on a grilling post. In my opinion it’s also ok to just pull the chicken at 165! You will still have a deliciously tender and juicy final product if you are right at 165 or even slightly above. This is because chicken thighs are inherently more moist than chicken breasts. Either way, using a thermometer to gauge when your chicken is done is the best method; this will help you determine which pieces to pull early and which to keep on the grill for another minute or two, since each chicken thigh will vary in size and thickness.
Don’t Forget to Take a Rest!
Also, let your chicken rest for about 5 minutes before eating. This applies even if you aren’t worrying about carryover cooking to reach the 165 degrees. This ensures your chicken will retain all its delicious juices when you cut into it.
Making Easy Balsamic Marinated Grilled Chicken Using a Charcoal Grill
While of course you are able to use a charcoal grill to make this recipe, I only own a gas grill currently. So, I don’t feel qualified to provide instructions on the best way to cook this recipe using a charcoal grill. Through some research on this topic I see that there are different methods for heating the coals and for regulating the temperature that may change the instructions slightly.
Although, if you own a charcoal grill I bet you are quite adept at using it and could grill a mean chicken thigh. If you end up using this recipe with a charcoal grill, please let me know how it turned out!Print
Chicken thighs are marinated in a simple balsamic vinegar, honey and olive oil marinade. A quick 30 minute marinade is all you need for deliciously tangy and slightly sweet chicken that’s tender and juicy.
- 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. honey
- neutral oil (vegetable, canola, etc.) to coat the grill
1. Trim any excess fat off the chicken thighs.
2. Place chicken thighs, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey and salt inside a gallon zip top bag (see note 1). Remove air from the bag and seal. Massage the bag to incorporate the marinade ingredients and ensure all surfaces of the chicken are coated. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes or more (see note 2).
3. When you are about ready to cook, preheat the grill on medium high heat for ten minutes. While the grill is heating, remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and pat both sides with paper towels. Right before grilling, wipe the grill grates with a paper towel soaked in neutral oil (hold the paper towel using tongs).
4. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and grill for another 5 – 6 minutes, or until the temperature of each thigh (taken at the thickest part) reaches 165 or within a few degrees of 165. (See discussion in blog post How Do I Know When My Chicken is Done? for more information on carryover cooking.)
5. If the chicken still needs more time but is getting too dark, flip the chicken again and cook for another 2 minutes, or until it reaches the proper temperature.
6. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes and serve. (If you pulled your chicken thighs from the grill before they reached 165, take the temperature of the thighs again at the thickest part to make sure they reached 165 degrees.)
- If you don’t want to use a zip top bag, place the vinegar, olive oil, honey and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the chicken and stir to evenly coat the chicken in the marinade. Cover the bowl with tin foil or plastic wrap and place in the fridge to marinate.
- Marinating for 30 minutes is all you need for well flavored chicken, but if you want you can marinate longer, up to 8 hours.
Keywords: grilled chicken, grilled chicken thighs, marinated chicken thighs, balsamic marinated chicken thighs, balsamic chicken