Grilled BBQ Chicken

5 from 4 votes
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This easy grilled BBQ chicken recipe is seasoned with a bold dry rub, grilled, and brushed with barbecue sauce for a sticky and sweet coating. Perfect for your next cookout!

Pieces of grilled BBQ chicken on a metal pan.

Recipe Science

  • A dry spice mix of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika adds a concentrated flavor that won’t burn during grilling.
  • Coating chicken with olive oil enhances fat-soluble flavors in spices and creates a protective layer that prevents burning.
  • To prevent burning, sear chicken halfway through cooking before adding barbecue sauce, reducing sugar’s contact time with the grill.

Why It Works 

Barbecued chicken is a summertime staple, but it can be tricky to master. I’ll show you the proper method to achieving perfect grill marks on juicy pieces of meat without burning the surface. It’s all about timing and heat management.

The key is first searing the dry, seasoned poultry to kickstart browning. Frequently turning and basting with your favorite BBQ sauce creates a delicious sticky coating while limiting overly charred areas. This recipe goes well with a generous scoop of American potato salad, crisp corn on the cob, and fresh watermelon salad.

Ingredients You’ll Need

BBQ chicken recipe ingredients portioned out and labeled.
  • Chicken: I recommend bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces. If you enjoy dark meat, chicken thighs, and drumsticks have more flavor and insulation to prevent drying out. Thighs are easy to grill, withstanding the longer cook time during repeated turning and basting. 
  • Seasoning: The mixture consists of kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika. The dried spices are concentrated in flavor, and the alliums won’t burn compared to using fresh minced garlic or onions, which is ideal for the initial hot sear on the grill. 
  • Oil: I like to rub some olive oil on both sides of the chicken to release the fat-soluble flavors in the spices. The fat also acts as a protective layer to the meat to prevent burning.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

This grilled BBQ chicken recipe is easy to customize! Try these tasty options:

  • Grilling Chicken Breasts: For a leaner protein option, use bone-in or boneless chicken breasts. The meat will cook quicker on the grill, so keep a close eye on doneness.
  • Make it Spicy: To the seasoning mix, add cayenne pepper, chipotle, or mild chili powder.
  • Dried Herbs: Add thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, rosemary, or Italian seasonings.
  • Add Sweetness: Add a small amount of brown sugar or granulated sugar to the seasoning mix. Keep a close eye during grilling; the sugars will char if the temperature rises above 350 degrees.

How to Make Grilled BBQ Chicken

Several types of seasonings poured into a small bowl.

Step 1: Season the Chicken

In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. I use a similar mix for my grilled chicken recipe.

Raw chicken thighs and drumsticks on a plate with seasonings spread over the surface.

Apply the dry spice blend to the surface of the chicken to add layers of flavor. Then, coat the pieces with olive oil.

Step 2: Preheat the Grill

Heat the barbecue over medium-high heat between 375 and 400ºF (191 to 204ºC). This temperature range will help brown and crisp the skin without overly charring the surface. Clean the grates, then grease with oil to prevent sticking.

Pro Tip: If using a gas grill or charcoal set-up, it’s helpful to have a lower-temperature indirect side to transfer the meat if the pieces are charring too quickly.

Brushing barbecue sauce over a piece of chicken on the grill.

Step 3: Grill the Chicken

Grill the chicken pieces on both sides for 5 minutes, cooking about 50% through. After the first flip, it’s safe to baste the chicken using my homemade barbecue sauce. Turn and baste every 2 to 3 minutes to prevent the sweetened sauce from burning. Some of the moisture will evaporate, creating a concentrated, sticky coating. The process takes about 30 minutes.

Grab your instant-read thermometer for the most accurate results when checking for the doneness of grilled chicken.

  • Chicken Thighs, Drumsticks, and Wings: Target an internal temperature between 165 to 170ºF (74 to 77ºC). This process will take about 25 to 30 minutes for bone-in pieces and about 15 minutes for boneless thighs. Wings take about 10 minutes per side.
  • Chicken Breast: Target 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºF). This cut of meat is much leaner and will dry out if left on the grill too long. The cooking time is 3 to 8 minutes per side, depending on if sliced or pounded thin. Bone-in breasts are more insulated, requiring more time on the grill. Check every few minutes for doneness.
Pieces of grilled barbecue chicken on a white serving platter.

Step 4: Serve the BBQ chicken

Cover the chicken with foil to keep warm. Rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I grill the chicken if I use a chicken marinade instead?

If using a wet chicken marinade, preheat the grill over medium-high heat, about 400 to 450ºF (204 to 232ºC). You need a higher temperature to evaporate the moisture from the meat for searing. Cook both sides for 5 minutes, then flip every few minutes until fully cooked.

How do you keep chicken from sticking to the grill?

Preheat the grill—about 15 minutes for a gas grill and 30 minutes for a charcoal grill. Clean and oil the grill grates before adding the chicken to prevent sticking. Place the chicken on the grill, lightly pressing, and do not move for several minutes to allow a crust to form and release the meat. Flip the chicken and cook until the desired doneness.

Do you put BBQ sauce on the chicken before grilling?

I don’t recommend marinating the chicken in barbecue sauce or adding it to the raw pieces before grilling. The thick, sugary sauce will burn over the extended cooking time. It’s best to sear the meat first so it cooks almost halfway through, then add the barbecue sauce in several coats, turning and brushing until the meat thoroughly cooks. The constant flipping will reduce the sugars’ contact time with the hot grill.

How long do you barbecue chicken on the grill?

It depends on the part and whether it’s bone-in or boneless. Per side, breasts take about 5 to 8 minutes, drumsticks take about 8 to 12 minutes, legs take about 10 to 15 minutes, thighs take about 10 to 15 minutes, and wings take about 8 to 12 minutes. Add more time for bone-in pieces.

Serve This With

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Grilled BBQ Chicken

Easy to make BBQ chicken recipe seasoned with a bold dry rub, grilled, and brushed with barbecue sauce for a sticky and sweet coating.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Servings 10 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American


  • 4 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks, bone-in, skin on
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika, sweet or smoked
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the grill
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce


  • Season the Chicken – In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Season both sides of each chicken with about ¼ teaspoon. Drizzle about a ½ teaspoon of olive oil on both sides, rubbing onto the surface to evenly coat.
  • Preheat the Grill – Preheat the grill over medium-high heat between 375 to 400ºF (191 to 204ºC). Clean and grease the cooking grates with oil. Keep one burner off for indirect heat cooking.
  • Grill the Chicken – Place the meat skin-side down on the grill. Close the lid and cook for 5 minutes. Flip and baste with the barbecue sauce. Cook covered for about 5 minutes. Repeat flipping and basting every 2 to 3 minutes.
    All of the sauce may not be used. Cook until the internal temperature reaches about 165 to 170ºF (74 to 77ºC) on a meat thermometer, about 25 to 30 minutes. If browning occurs too quickly, move the chicken to the indirect heat side of the grill to finish.
  • To Serve – Cover the chicken with foil to keep warm. Rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Video

YouTube video


  • Servings: About 10 pieces, varying by brand
  • Storing: Store chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheating: Cover and microwave on high heat in 15 to 30-second increments until hot.
  • Grilling Chicken Breasts: Cook each side for about 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness, until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). Bone-in will need more time.
  • Grilling Wings: Cook each side for 5 minutes, then baste. Turn and flip every 2 to 3 minutes until it reaches 165ºF (74ºC), about 20 minutes.
  • Using a Dry Rub: If you prefer just a dry seasoning on the chicken, use the dry rub on my grilled chicken recipe instead.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 10 servings
Calories 328kcal (16%)Carbohydrates 6g (2%)Protein 23g (46%)Fat 23g (35%)Saturated Fat 6g (30%)Polyunsaturated Fat 4gMonounsaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 0.1gCholesterol 93mg (31%)Sodium 699mg (29%)Potassium 273mg (8%)Fiber 0.2g (1%)Sugar 5g (6%)Vitamin A 255IU (5%)Vitamin C 2mg (2%)Calcium 20mg (2%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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