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Is grilled chicken better than fried chicken?

Grilled and fried chicken are two of the most popular ways to prepare chicken. Both cooking methods result in delicious, flavorful chicken, but they are quite different in terms of nutrition and health effects. This article compares grilled and fried chicken to determine which method produces the healthier, better-tasting chicken.

Nutritional Differences

Grilled and fried chicken differ significantly in their calorie, fat, and nutrient content:

Nutrition Facts Grilled Chicken Breast (100g) Fried Chicken Breast (100g)
Calories 165 253
Total Fat 3.3g 15.4g
Saturated Fat 1g 3.9g
Cholesterol 85mg 89mg
Sodium 74mg 486mg
Protein 31g 27g

As shown, grilled chicken is significantly lower in calories, fat, and sodium compared to fried chicken. Frying chicken adds a significant amount of oil, boosting the calorie and fat content. Grilled chicken retains more protein as well. The lower calorie, fat, and sodium levels make grilled chicken the healthier choice.

Health Benefits of Grilled Chicken

The lower fat and sodium in grilled chicken provides many health advantages:

– Grilled chicken is lower in saturated fat and trans fat, which are linked to increased cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake.

– Grilled chicken is lower in sodium, which can help reduce high blood pressure. Excess sodium intake is linked to hypertension.

– The increased protein and lower fat and calories in grilled chicken help with weight loss and muscle growth. Protein is more satiating as well.

– Grilled chicken contains no toxins that can form from frying chicken in oil at high temperatures. These compounds may increase cancer risk.

Overall, grilled chicken provides a lean, low-calorie source of protein without excess fat, sodium, and calories. This makes it one of the healthiest high protein foods.

Potential Drawbacks of Fried Chicken

While delicious, regularly consuming fried chicken has some potential health risks:

– The high fat and calorie content of fried chicken can lead to weight gain and obesity over time. Obesity increases disease risk.

– Frying forms hydrogenated oils and trans fats, which increase inflammation and heart disease risk.

– Carcinogens like acrylamide and heterocyclic amines are created in high-temperature frying oil. These compounds may increase cancer risk.

– The high sodium content of fried chicken can increase blood pressure. Many fast food fried chicken meals exceed the daily limit for sodium.

– Fried chicken often contains additives like MSG, preservatives, and stabilizers that may have negative health effects.

Consuming fried chicken occasionally likely poses little risk. However, regular and frequent consumption could potentially increase the long-term risk of chronic diseases. Moderation is key.

Taste and Texture Differences

In addition to health effects, grilled and fried chicken differ in taste and texture:

– Grilled chicken has a smoky, charred flavor from the grill, while fried chicken is crispy and absorbs flavor from frying oil.

– Fried chicken develops a crispy, crunchy outer coating, while grilled chicken has a tender, juicy texture.

– Spices and seasonings come through more strongly in grilled chicken, versus the flavor of the fried coating.

– Grilled chicken retains more natural chicken flavor, while frying can make chicken greasy.

– Grilled chicken has grill marks that add visual appeal, while fried chicken has a uniform golden-brown exterior.

Taste and texture preference ultimately comes down to individual opinion. Some people love the crispy crunch of fried chicken, while others prefer the smoky char flavor of grilled chicken.

Cost Differences

Grilled chicken costs significantly less than fried chicken from restaurants and fast food chains:

– A grilled chicken sandwich or wrap costs about $5-$8 at most restaurants, closer to $10-12 for a full meal with sides.

– A fried chicken sandwich or meal costs around $8-$12 at a fast food chain. Buckets of fried chicken can cost $15-$30.

– Grilled chicken costs about $4 per pound when bought raw from a grocery store. Frying chicken at home still requires purchasing cooking oil.

– Grilled chicken is quicker and easier to make at home, with minimal ingredients needed beyond seasonings.

The convenience of fried chicken comes at a premium cost. Grilling chicken at home provides large cost savings while still delivering delicious flavor.

Grilling Tips

Follow these tips for exceptionally juicy, flavorful grilled chicken:

– Use bone-in chicken legs, thighs, or breasts for more moisture and flavor. Bone-in cuts stay juicier.

– Brine the chicken for 30 minutes before grilling to keep it extra moist and tender.

– Coat the chicken with a dry seasoning rub for added flavor. Try lemon pepper, garlic herb, jerk, or Cajun styles.

– Grill the chicken over direct medium heat. Avoid grilling over high heat, which can dry out the exterior.

– Flip the chicken frequently, about every 5 minutes. Frequent flipping prevents charring and helps the chicken cook evenly.

– Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. This allows juices to redistribute through the meat.

– Target an internal temperature of 165°F. Chicken cooked to 165°F is safe to eat while remaining juicy.

Healthier Frying Methods

While deep frying creates the crispiest fried chicken, there are healthier frying methods to reduce fat and calories:

– Pan frying uses less oil than deep frying. Use just 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat.

– Baking chicken after coating in breadcrumbs or batter makes “oven fried” chicken with less oil.

– Try air frying coated chicken. Air fryers use rapid air circulation to mimic fried texture with little oil.

– Coating chicken in cornflake crumbs or panko breadcrumbs creates crunch with less oil than batter.

– Replace half the white flour in batter with healthier almond or coconut flour.

– Use olive, avocado, or coconut oil for frying instead of vegetable, soybean, or canola oil. They have more monounsaturated fats.

While not as healthy as grilled chicken, these modifications make fried chicken somewhat better for you.


Grilled chicken is definitively the healthier choice compared to fried chicken. It is significantly lower in calories, fat, and sodium, while being higher in protein. Grilled chicken provides the benefits of a lean, low-calorie protein source without the risks that come with fried foods. However, fried chicken is lower cost and offers a uniquely crispy, crunchy texture and flavor that some people prefer. Those who enjoy fried chicken can make small tweaks to reduce the amount of oil used for a less unhealthy version. Overall, choosing grilled chicken more often provides big benefits for long-term health.