People enjoying a picnic with healthy food and olive oil.

Grilled Chicken vs Fried Chicken: What’s the Difference?

Welcome to the ultimate chicken showdown: grilled chicken vs fried chicken! It’s that time of year – time for BBQs, picnics, and backyard parties. And often you’ll see these two faves make an appearance on the table.

So maybe you’re wondering, which one is the better option? Let’s explore the flavors, nutritional differences, and health considerations of these two summertime foods. Get ready to sink your teeth into the subject. 😆

Whether you’re a die-hard grilling enthusiast or find comfort in the crispy delights of fried chicken, we’ll unravel the secrets together. You’ll learn to make an informed choice that satisfies both your taste buds and health goals. 

So, grab a seat at the table as we settle the age-old question: to grill or to fry? Let’s dig in and discover the true chicken champion together!

Grilled Chicken: The Lean and Nutritious Option

As a Registered Dietitian, I have to tout the fantastic nutritional benefits of grilled chicken. Grilled chicken goes beyond its mouthwatering taste. It offers a range of health-boosting perks that make it an ideal choice for everyone. 

Whether you prefer white meat or dark meat, grilled chicken can be prepared in numerous different ways to please a variety of tastes.  

Let’s uncover the nutritional advantages that set grilled chicken apart.

Lean Protein Powerhouse 

Grilled chicken is a fantastic source of lean protein with about 35 grams of protein in a 5 oz serving. It also delivers the essential amino acids our bodies need for muscle growth, repair, and overall functioning. 

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or simply aiming for a healthy lifestyle, grilled chicken provides the protein punch without the excess fat or calories.

Low in Fat 

With about 5 grams of fat per 5 oz serving, grilled chicken triumphs over its fried counterparts. Grilling is the better option for avoiding unhealthy fats. This makes it an excellent option if you’re watching your fat intake but still relish a flavorful and satisfying meal.

Essential Nutrients 

Grilled chicken not only serves up protein but also offers essential vitamins and minerals that are part of a healthy diet. It’s loaded with nutrients like vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin, phosphorus, and selenium.

Heart-Healthy Choice 

Opting for grilled chicken is a smart move for your heart’s well-being. Grilling is the better choice for long-term health. Regularly choosing grilled vs fried chicken means a lower risk of high blood pressure, weight gain, and heart disease. 

Weight Management Support 

Grilled chicken is a go-to option for you if you are watching your weight (and who isn’t?). Its high protein and lower fat content work together to promote satiety, helping you feel fuller for longer periods. 

Versatile and Flavorful 

Grilled chicken is a canvas for culinary creativity. It pairs perfectly with an array of herbs, spices, and marinades, allowing you to explore endless flavor profiles. 

From zesty citrus marinades to aromatic herb rubs, you can infuse grilled chicken with tantalizing tastes, keeping your meals exciting and delicious.

chicken on the grill

How to Marinate Chicken for Grilling

Unlock the full potential of your grilled chicken with a variety of seasoning and marinating techniques that will make your taste buds sing. Here are some sensational ways to infuse your chicken with incredible flavor:

Classic Marinade 

Combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and aromatic herbs like rosemary or thyme for a simple yet flavorful marinade. Let your chicken soak in this tangy blend to infuse it with irresistible aromas.

Asian-inspired Glaze 

Create a mouthwatering glaze by blending soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, and a touch of sesame oil. The resulting combination will give your chicken a delectable sweet and savory Asian twist.

Spicy Cajun Rub 

Spice things up with a fiery Cajun rub made from paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Massage this blend onto your chicken for a burst of zesty flavor.

Mediterranean Herb Blend 

Transport your taste buds to the Mediterranean by mixing dried herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, and a hint of crushed red pepper flakes. Sprinkle this fragrant blend liberally on your chicken for a taste of the sun-kissed region.

Citrus Zest Infusion 

Grate the zest of oranges, lemons, and limes and combine it with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. This citrus-infused marinade will lend your chicken a refreshing and vibrant tang.

Teriyaki Magic 

Whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and a splash of rice vinegar to create a tantalizing teriyaki marinade. Let your chicken bathe in this sweet and savory concoction for an explosion of Japanese-inspired flavors.

Herb Butter Basting 

Indulge in the richness of herb-infused butter by combining softened butter with aromatic herbs like parsley, basil, or chives. Use this luscious butter to baste your chicken while it grills, adding a layer of decadent flavor.

Remember to allow enough time for your chicken to marinate and absorb all those delightful flavors. 

Whether you’re hosting a gathering or simply treating yourself, these sensational seasoning and marinating techniques will take your grilled chicken to new heights of deliciousness. Prepare to amaze your taste buds and enjoy the incredible flavors that await!

Plate of grilled chicken breast and veggies

Tips for Achieving Juicy and Flavorful Grilled Chicken

Indulge in the secrets to achieving succulent and flavorful grilled chicken that will tantalize your taste buds. Elevate your grilling game with these essential tips:

Select the Perfect Cut 

Opt for bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces like thighs or drumsticks. The bone and skin help retain moisture during grilling, resulting in juicier chicken.

Brine for Moisture 

Prior to grilling, brine your chicken in a solution of water, salt, and optional herbs or spices. This simple step adds tenderness and enhances the natural flavors.

Preheat and Oil the Grill 

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat before adding the chicken. Greasing the grates with oil prevents sticking and imparts beautiful grill marks.

Master Indirect Heat 

For larger cuts, use a two-zone grill setup. Sear the chicken over high heat, then move it to a medium-heat area for gentle, indirect cooking, ensuring even doneness.

Monitor Internal Temperature 

To ensure perfectly cooked chicken, use a meat thermometer. Aim for an internal temperature of 165°F to achieve a tender and safe result.

Baste and Glaze 

Add extra flavor and moisture by basting the chicken with your favorite sauces, marinades, or glazes during the final moments of grilling. Be mindful of sweet sauces that can burn easily.

Rest and Relax 

Allow the grilled chicken to rest for 5 or 10 minutes before serving. This vital step helps the juices redistribute, resulting in a moist and delectable final product.

Embrace Seasoning Adventures 

Get adventurous with your seasonings! Experiment with spice blends, marinades, and herbs to create unique flavor profiles that cater to your palate.

Complementary Accompaniments 

Pair your grilled chicken with vibrant grilled vegetables or light, refreshing salads. These sides enhance the overall experience and complement the flavors of the chicken.

Savor the Moment 

Enjoy your grilled chicken while it’s hot and succulent. Gather your loved ones, bask in the wonderful aromas, and relish every mouthwatering bite.

With these insider tips, you’re equipped to create grilled chicken that boasts irresistible tenderness and flavor. Prepare to impress yourself and your guests with a feast that celebrates the art of grilling. Happy cooking!

Grilling Safety Tips

Grilling and other methods of cooking at high temperatures can cause the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs and PAHs are harmful substances that are linked to an increased risk of some types of cancer (1). 

Marinating chicken in acidic ingredients, such as lemon juice or vinegar, before grilling can help reduce the formation of HCAs. The acid in the marinade acts as a barrier between the meat and the high heat of the grill, preventing the formation of HCAs (2).

Lowering the cooking temperature on your grill can also help reduce the formation of HCAs. Experiment with lower temperatures and longer cooking times to get the taste you crave while minimizing the risk of HCA formation (2).

Other ways to reduce your exposure include (1):

  • Use a microwave oven to partially cook your chicken. This will reduce the amount of time the meat is exposed to high heat, which will help to reduce HCA formation.
  • Continuously turn the meat over while cooking on the grill. This will help to cook the meat evenly and prevent the formation of HCAs.
  • Remove any charred or blackened portions of meat. Charring and blackening are signs that HCAs and PAHs have formed.
  • Don’t use gravy made from meat drippings. Gravy made from meat drippings can contain high levels of HCAs and PAHs.
Woman enjoying fried chicken

Fried Chicken: The Delicious Comfort Food You Crave

When it comes to comfort foods, few dishes can rival the universal appeal of fried chicken. Its golden, crispy exterior and succulent, tender meat have captured the hearts and taste buds of food enthusiasts around the world.

Crispy Texture 

The first bite into a perfectly fried piece of chicken reveals a satisfying crunch that awakens your senses. The delicate balance between the crispy outer coating and the juicy meat within creates an addictive textural contrast that is hard to resist.

Rich Flavor 

Fried chicken possesses a flavor profile that is both indulgent and comforting. The seasoned breading, infused with aromatic herbs and spices, imparts a mouthwatering taste experience that lingers on the palate and leaves you craving more.


Fried chicken is remarkably versatile. From classic Southern-style buttermilk fried chicken to spicy Korean fried chicken or even the famous Japanese karaage, there’s a fried chicken variation to suit every culinary preference and cultural tradition.

Nostalgic Comfort 

Fried chicken has a remarkable ability to evoke a sense of nostalgia and comfort. It’s the quintessential dish for family gatherings, picnics, and casual get-togethers, reminding us of cherished memories and a warm sense of togetherness.

Social Sharing 

Fried chicken is a social food that brings people together. Whether enjoyed at a backyard barbecue, shared at a potluck, or savored at a bustling restaurant, the act of indulging in fried chicken becomes a shared experience fostering connections.

Craving Satisfaction 

There’s something deeply satisfying about giving in to the occasional fried chicken craving. It’s a guilty pleasure that provides an escape from the mundane and rewards our taste buds with a moment of pure culinary bliss.

Global Popularity 

Fried chicken’s global popularity is a testament to its widespread appeal. 

From Southern comfort food in the United States to Korean fried chicken joints in bustling Asian cities, fried chicken has become an integral part of various culinary cultures, transcending borders and captivating diverse palates.

While we acknowledge that fried chicken may not be the healthiest option due to its cooking method, occasional indulgence can be part of a balanced lifestyle. It’s a reminder that food is not solely about nourishment but also about enjoyment and the celebration of flavors.

So, whether it’s a bucket of crispy chicken wings, a plate of crunchy drumsticks, or a deliciously seasoned chicken sandwich, fried chicken continues to captivate us with its irresistible allure. 

plate of fried chicken

Tips for Fried Chicken

You may already have your own favorite recipe, but here are some general tips for amazing fried chicken.

Soak in Buttermilk 

Before frying, soak the chicken pieces in buttermilk to tenderize. This step enhances the chicken’s tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Let the chicken soak for at least one hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

Dredge with Care 

To create that coveted crispy coating, use a two-step dredging process. First, coat the chicken in seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Then dip it in beaten eggs to help the flour adhere better. Finally, give it another coating of seasoned flour for extra crunch.

Optimal Oil Temperature 

Maintaining the right oil temperature is crucial for achieving crispy fried chicken. Heat your cooking oil to around 375°F before adding the chicken. This ensures that the chicken cooks evenly and forms a golden crust without becoming greasy.

Fry in Batches 

Avoid overcrowding the frying pan or deep fryer, as it can cause the chicken to cook unevenly and lose its crispiness. Fry the chicken in batches, allowing enough space for the pieces to move freely and brown evenly.

Drain Excess Oil 

After frying, place the cooked chicken on a wire rack or paper towels to drain any excess oil. This step helps maintain the crispness of the coating while preventing the chicken from becoming greasy.

Rest Before Serving 

Allow fried chicken to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. This helps the juices redistribute, resulting in a more flavorful meal. Plus, you won’t burn your mouth!

Season to Perfection 

While the traditional approach involves a simple salt and pepper seasoning, don’t be afraid to experiment with various herbs and spices. Create a custom blend that suits your taste preferences and adds an extra layer of flavor to your fried chicken.

By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to preparing delectably crispy and flavorful fried chicken that will impress family and friends alike. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and get ready to savor the ultimate fried chicken experience.

Pro-tip: Remember, safety is paramount when frying chicken. Always exercise caution when working with hot oil, and make certain that the chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F to ensure it is fully cooked.

chicken frying in a pan
Chef frying chicken wings in pan / cooking fried chicken wings concept

Healthy Fried Chicken Variations

While traditional fried chicken may not be the most healthy alternative, there are ways to make healthier options without compromising on flavor. Here are some tips for creating a healthier rendition of fried chicken:

Choose Lean Cuts 

Opt for skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of using chicken with the skin on. While that crispy skin is delicious, removing it significantly reduces the fat content and cuts down on calories.

Oven “Fried” Method 

Instead of deep-frying, try the oven “fried” method. Coat the chicken in a mixture of whole wheat breadcrumbs or panko crumbs, along with herbs and spices. 

Place the coated chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven until crispy and cooked through. This cooking process significantly reduces the amount of oil you need while still delivering a satisfying crunch.

Air Fryer Option 

Consider using an air fryer, which requires minimal or no oil to achieve a crispy texture. Coat the chicken with a light coating of olive oil or use a cooking spray, then air fry it until golden brown and cooked through. 

Similar to oven “fried”, by using this technique, you can substantially decrease the quantity of oil you use while still achieving the delightful crispiness that characterizes fried chicken.

Flavorful Seasonings 

Enhance the flavor of your healthy fried chicken with herbs, spices, and seasonings. Experiment with combinations like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, or dried herbs to add a burst of flavor without relying solely on excessive amounts of salt or fat.

Serve with Healthy Sides 

Complete your meal with nutritious side dishes like a fresh salad, steamed vegetables, or whole grain options like quinoa or brown rice. These additions add fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your meal while balancing out the indulgence of the chicken.

Remember, even with healthier alternatives, moderation is key. While these variations reduce the fat content and calories, it’s still important to be mindful of portion sizes and overall dietary balance. 

By making these adjustments, you can enjoy a healthier version of fried chicken while satisfying your cravings and maintaining a balanced approach to your overall diet.

Summary: Grilled Chicken vs Fried Chicken

The battle between grilled chicken and fried chicken comes down to more than just taste. 

Grilled chicken takes the lead in terms of nutrition, offering a leaner and healthier protein option. With lower fat and calorie content, it aligns well with weight management goals and provides essential nutrients without sacrificing flavor.

Fried chicken, on the other hand, tantalizes our taste buds with its crispy coating and juicy meat. 

However, the frying process adds extra fat and calories, making it a less nutritious choice. It’s important to enjoy fried chicken in moderation and be mindful of portion sizes to maintain a balanced diet.

When deciding between the two, consider your health objectives and dietary preferences. Grilled chicken offers a guilt-free protein source that can be seasoned and marinated in various ways to create delicious meals. It’s a versatile option that pairs well with a range of flavors.

While fried chicken may be a delightful indulgence on occasion, it’s crucial to be mindful of how it fits into your overall eating plan. Opt for lighter coating options, remove the skin, or explore alternative cooking methods like baking or air frying to reduce the fat content.

Ultimately, striking a balance is key. Incorporate grilled chicken into your regular meal rotation for its nutritional benefits, and save fried chicken for special treats. By making conscious choices and embracing moderation, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

The Vitality Dietitians logo, written in script

Health Hacks

Nutrition Newbie
Looking for a healthier alternative to fast food restaurants? Try making a version of your favorite chicken recipes at home using the oven “fried” method above.

Health Enthusiast
Already a master of the open flame? Remember the importance of a good marinade and lower heat to reduce risk of HCAs.

Wellness Guru
Looking for a lot of nutritional value out of your lean protein source? Herb it up!
Make a rub with ground basil, rosemary, sage, thyme or other herbs known for their health-promoting benefits.


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