Pesto Grilled Chicken

This is an easy meal for casual entertaining.  When cooking on a barbecue, cooking times vary quite a bit and can be affected by the size or fattiness of your chicken.  An adjustable, instant-read thermometer is a must-have when cooking meat.  While the chicken is cooking over the direct heat on the grill, it’s an excellent time to roast your side dish over indirect heat.  

Serves 6.

Pesto Chicken

  • One 3 to 4 lb (1.3-1.8 kg) chicken cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 cup jar Genovese pesto or homemade pesto made with plenty of oil
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Veggies & Potatoes in Foil

  • sliced zucchini, pattypan squash, diced sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, quartered new potatoes, diced eggplant, cherry tomatoes, whole garlic cloves, quartered sweet onion, green & wax string beans
  • virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • additional pesto, optional


Using your fingers, loosen skin from meat on chicken and spread ¾ of the jar of pesto in between skin and meat. Season generously with salt and pepper and set aside.

Using two thicknesses of heavy foil, create a pouch large enough to hold your choice of veggies and potatoes.  Place them in the pouch.  Drizzle with oil, season with salt & pepper, and squeeze a little lemon juice over top.  Press the top edges of the foil together and roll several times to make a tight seal.  Fold the edges up and seal along with the top.

Preheat grill to medium-high, approx. 350°F (176°C), creating a direct area and an indirect area  If you’re using gas, leave one burner off.  If using charcoal, bank the coals into two zones. 

Place chicken skin side down over direct heat portion of the grill.  Place the foil veggie pouch over the indirect side.  Put the cover down.  Turn chicken once after about 15 mins and put cover back down for approximately 10 more mins.  Turn chicken skin side up again and baste with remaining pesto.  Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 170°F (76°C). Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil to rest a few minutes.  

Remove the foil packet to a platter and open top seam carefully as steam escapes.  Brush with additional pesto, if desired.  If the veggies are underdone, place open foil packet back on the grill to finish cooking.

Cut chicken breasts into diagonal slices for attractive presentation and arrange on a serving platter with other pieces and veggies surrounding.  

Suggestion: If you’re feeding fewer than 6 people, consider saving the chicken breasts to slice and serve cold over a salad of mixed greens the following day.


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