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Grilling Chicken Skin Side Up or Down?

When grilling bone-in, skin-on chicken the most common question asked is whether or not to grill the skin side down first or not.

The thing to remember is that you want crispy skin on your grilled chicken, not rubbery skin.

Following the steps below is going to show you how and why you should always cook your chicken skin side down.

Spatchcock chicken on a rustic background.

What does chicken skin side down mean?

Chicken, skin side down means grilling the chicken with the skin down on the grates. This allows the skin to crisp and creates a tastier flavor in your dish.

The skin also ensures that the meat does not overcook and dry out as the fats from the skin drip into the chicken as it cooks and keeps the chicken moist.

When grilling chicken what side do you put down first?

When grilling chicken, there are a few things to keep in mind. One of the most important factors is whether to put the skin side down or up first.

If you want crispy, nicely browned skin, you want to put the chicken skin side down on the grill over direct, medium-high heat.

Grill for at least 10 minutes before turning it over to the other side.

Avoid moving the chicken around too much in the first few minutes of cooking – this will help ensure that your chicken cooks evenly and doesn’t stick to the grill.

Try my Spatchcock chicken recipe and enjoy the crispy, robust flavored chicken!

How do you get crispy skin on grilled chicken?

There are a few key methods to getting crispy skin on grilled chicken.

The first thing is to cook it skin-side down for the majority of the cooking time, and then flip it over so that the skin is facing up. This will help ensure that the skin gets crispy.

Another key method is to salt your chicken generously before grilling. This will help season the chicken and also help to make the skin crispy.

This process is called brining your meat. Brining chicken is a process that involves liberally salting your meat and letting it sit for at least a few hours before cooking.

The brine helps to infuse the chicken with flavor, keeps the meat moist, and crisps the skin when you grill it.

Knowing how to tell when chicken is done cooking is a key factor in grilling. Check out my post on how long to grill chicken thighs to help you out!


In the end, when grilling any kind of chicken with the skin on, you want to grill it by placing the skin side down on the grill to start.

Allowing the chicken time to cook with the skin side down will result in juicy tender chicken and crispy delicious skin.

Adding salt to your chicken is going to enhance the crispness of your skin as well. The longer you allow your chicken to brine the better it will taste and the crispier it will get.

If you cook the skin side up then you are going to end up with rubbery skin which is not going to be so pleasant.

Learn more about what is the difference between grilling and barbecuing chicken.


How do you keep chicken moist on the grill?

Using brine on your chicken before you grill it will help to lock in the moisture. Allow your chicken to brine for at least 30 minutes and soak up the salt and you will be able to grill your chicken without drying it out.

How long should I grill chicken on each side?

Chicken breast should be grilled for about 5 minutes on each side, totaling about 10 minutes. Different cuts of meats will vary in how long they take to grill.

Should I put oil on my chicken before grilling?

Yes, you should always lightly coat your chicken before grilling it. It will help prevent your chicken from sticking to the grates and also help in keeping your chicken moist.

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