Easy to make BBQ chicken recipe seasoned with a bold dry rub, grilled, and brushed with barbecue sauce for a sticky and sweet coating. Perfect for your next cookout!
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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 potato salad, crisp corn on the cob, and fresh watermelon slices.
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 make it easy to grill, withstanding the longer cook time during the repeated turning and basting.
Alternatively, you can use bone-in or boneless chicken breast for a leaner protein option. The meat will cook quicker on the grill, so keep a close eye on doneness.
To add layers of flavor to the barbecued chicken, I apply a bold dry spice blend on the surface. 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.
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.
How to BBQ chicken
Like my classic grilled chicken recipe, I first apply a thin dry rub to flavor the meat and skin. The pieces sear over medium-high heat between 375 to 400ºF (191 to 204ºC) on both sides for 5 minutes. This temperature range will help brown and crisp the skin without overly charring the surface. The poultry gets cooked 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. If using a gas grill or charcoal set-up, it’s helpful to have a lower temperature indirect side. Transfer the meat to this area if the pieces are charring too quickly.
Check for doneness
Grab your instant-read meat thermometer for the most accurate results. For bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks, target an internal temperature between 165 to 170ºF (74 to 77) in the thickest part of the meat. This process will take about 25 to 30 minutes. Boneless thighs will take about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness. Wings take about 10 minutes per side.
For chicken breast, target between 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 between 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.
Serve this with
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.
Make sure to pre-heat 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, then do not move for several minutes to allow a crust to form and release the meat. Flip and cook until the desired doneness.
It depends on the part and if it’s bone-in or boneless. Per side; breasts about 5 to 8 minutes, drumsticks about 8 to 12 minutes, legs about 10 to 15 minutes, thighs about 10 to 15 minutes, and wings about 8 to 12 minutes. Add more time for bone-in pieces.
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 cook time. It’s best to sear the meat first, so it cooks almost halfway through, then add the bbq sauce in several coats, turning and brushing until the meat thoroughly cooks. The constant flipping will reduce the contact time of the sugars with the hot grill.
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Grilled BBQ Chicken
- 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 carefully grease the cooking grates with the 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), 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.
- Servings: About 10 pieces, varies 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 this dry-rub recipe instead before grilling.
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