Most cuts of chicken are tender to begin with. The best
way to keep them that way is to avoid overcooking. Chicken
breasts in particular have short muscle fibers and little
fat or connective tissue, so they cook surprisingly quickly.
If they're left on the grill beyond the point where they're
done, their muscle fibers shrink and toughen, which makes
the meat dry and stringy.
So how do you know when chicken is done to perfection?
Any meat may be done sooner than your recipe suggests,
so checking for doneness is the key. Make a small slit
with a paring knife into the thickest part of the meat.
With chicken breasts, we usually turn them over and check
on the underside so the slit doesn't show when it's served.
If the juices run clear and the meat has lost its translucent
appearance, the chicken is cooked. Remove it from the
heat just as it reaches this point. Better still, use
a meat thermometer to take away the guesswork-- when chicken
reaches 180° F (82° C), it's cooked.
When grilling, keep the heat relatively low and you may
be surprised at how evenly and how quickly pieces of chicken
cook. A grilling basket is a great aid when grilling small
pieces such as breasts, thighs, or legs. Brush lightly
with a little olive oil to keep the meat from drying and
to aid in browning. Use some branches of fresh herbs if
you have them and you'd like a little embellishment.