Classic Barbecued Chicken

Mains, Recipes

Happy Labor Day, one of our favorite occasions to fire up the grill and invite all of our friends over for a casual barbecue! When preparing skin-on poultry, we’re big fans of dry brining it help make the skin crisp. The technique works especially well with barbecued chicken, which tends to develop rubbery skin from the moisture in the barbecue sauce. We also brown the chicken at the end of cooking to make sure the exterior doesn’t burn before the meat is cooked through to the center.


Classic Barbecued Chicken




For the chicken:

  • 4 lb. (2 kg) bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, thighs and drumsticks
  • 1 Tbs. coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbs. peanut or other vegetable oil
  • 4 large handfuls wood chips or chunks

For the barbecue sauce:

  • 2 cups (16 oz./500 g) tomato ketchup
  • 3 Tbs. dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. yellow mustard
  • 2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper



1. Place a large wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Trim any excess fat from the chicken parts, then coat them evenly all over with the salt and pepper. Place the chicken parts, skin side up, on the rack on the pan. Refrigerate uncovered for 2 days.


2. Meanwhile, make the barbecue sauce, in a saucepan over high heat, combine all of the barbecue sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Use immediately, or let cool, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 month. (If the sauce has been refrigerated, reheat over low heat before using. Always brush warm sauce onto meats as they are cooking, since using cold sauce lowers the meat temperature slightly and slows down the cooking.)


3. Prepare a medium-hot fire for indirect grilling in a grill. If using charcoal, wrap the wood chips in 2 perforated aluminum foil packets and place one packet on the hot coals, or place 2 handfuls of wood chunks directly on the coals. If using a gas grill, wrap the chips in 2 perforated foil packets, and put one packet directly over one of the gas burners under the cooking grate. Or if your grill has a smoker box, use it.


4. Coat the chicken all over with the oil and let stand at room temperature until the grill is ready and smoky. Brush the grill grate and coat with oil. Put the chicken parts on the grate away from the fire, cover the grill and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh away from bone registers 165°F (74°C) or into a breast away from bone registers 155°F (68°C), 30 to 40 minutes. If your grill has a temperature gauge, it should stay between 325° and 350°F (160° to 180°C). When the wood stops smoking, about halfway through the cooking, add the remaining foil packet of chips or handfuls of chunks. During the last 10 minutes, move the chicken directly over the fire to crisp and brown the skin (you can leave off the lid). During the last 2 to 3 minutes, brush the chicken parts all over with half of the barbecue sauce, briefly browning each side and taking care not to let the sauce burn. Transfer the chicken to a platter and serve with the remaining barbecue sauce. Serves 4.




Grill School Bookcover


For this recipe and other secrets on how to make fabulous food
on the grill, check out our essential guide to cooking on fire,
Grill School, by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim.









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