Barbecued Chicken on the Grill

Along with hot dogs and hamburgers, barbecued chicken is about as classic as it gets when it comes time for grilling. But chicken takes longer to cook than either hot dogs or hamburgers, and loves lower cooking temperatures, so it’s easy to mess up, either under-cooking, over-charring, or both. The trick to good barbecued chicken? Patience. Done right, it will take at least an hour, and even up to 2 hours. Remember that barbecue is slow and low, grilling is hot and fast. You can grill a chicken breast, but chicken thighs, legs or wings are far better barbecued.

The key here is to moderate your heat, however you can. Either set the coals of the grill all on one side so you have a cool spot, put the chicken on the top rack of the grill, farther away from the heat, or, if you have a gas grill, just turn the heat to low. Slow and steady makes the best BBQ chicken.

The following is more of a “how-to” than a recipe. We recommend using your favorite barbecue sauce; we have several homemade barbecue sauce recipes which would work beautifully with chicken.

Do you have a favorite barbecued chicken recipe? Or tip you would like to share? Please let us know about it in the comments.

barbecued-chicken-b.jpg

 

Follow on Pinterest

Barbecued Chicken on the Grill Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6.

Note that chicken thighs and legs will hold up better to long, slow heat than will breasts which can more easily dry out. If you barbecue breasts, keep them on the coolest part of the grill. This recipe assumes fairly large chicken pieces (like the main pieces from a 4 to 5 pound whole chicken). If you are working with smaller chicken pieces, they may require a shorter cooking time. If you are cooking wings, they too may be done before the other larger pieces. A note about the skin. Even if you do not plan on eating the chicken skin, it's best to barbecue it with it on. The skin will protect the chicken pieces from drying out.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds of your favorite chicken parts (legs, thighs, wings, breasts), skin-on
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce, store-bought or homemade

Method

1 Coat the chicken pieces with vegetable oil and sprinkle salt over them on all sides. Prepare your grill for high, direct heat. If you are using charcoal or wood, make sure there is a cool side to the grill where there are fewer coals.

2 Lay the chicken pieces skin side down on the hottest side of the grill in order to sear the skin side well. Grill for 5-10 minutes, depending on how hot the grill is (you do not want the chicken to burn). Once you have a good sear on one side, move the chicken pieces to the cooler side of the grill, or, if you are using a gas grill, lower the heat to medium low. Cover the grill and cook undisturbed for 20-30 minutes.

3 Turn the chicken pieces over and baste them with with your favorite barbecue sauce. Cover the grill again and allow to cook for another 15-20 minutes. Repeat, turning the chicken pieces over, basting them with sauce, covering, and cooking for another 15-30 minutes. The timing will depend on your grill set-up and how big and cold your chicken pieces are to start with.

4 By now the chicken should be cooked through. You can check with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken piece. Look for 165°F for breasts and 170°F for thighs. Or insert the tip of a knife into the middle of the thickest piece, the juices should run clear. If the chicken isn't done, turn the pieces over and continue to cook at a low temperature. If you want can finish with a sear on the hot side of the grill. To do this, put the pieces, skin side down, on the hot side of the grill. Allow them to sear and blacken slightly for a minute or two.

5 Paint with more barbecue sauce and serve.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Follow on Pinterest

Links:

Peach-Whiskey Barbecued Chicken - from The Pioneer Woman
Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken - from The Hungry Mouse
Pulled BBQ Chicken Panini - from Panini Happy
Barbecued Pheasant - from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Barbecued Chicken on the Grill on Simply Recipes

49 Comments

  1. Midwestern Mary

    Your chicken looks a little burnt. Chicken on the bone should always be cooked with indirect method. For a gas grill, that means leaving some of the burners off and placing the chicken above those. On a charcoal grill, it means piling the coals to the sides and keeping the chicken in the middle. Cooking the chicken over direct heat can result in flareups, which leave a greasy taste. Also, the barbecue sauce should only be on the last fifteen minutes or so, since the sugar will burn onto the skin.

    I thought the BBQ sauce would be an issue too, but because the temp in the grill is low, lower than 265°F the point at which the sugar would start to burn, it’s fine. It just bakes onto the skin. The chicken in the photo, with the exception of one bone end which we weren’t going to eat anyway, is not burnt, by the way. It may have a couple of sear marks, that was intentional. ~Elise

    • dan

      Honey, that chicken is burned! My family would not touch that. I think most people would agree that if they were served this chicken at a restaurant, they would send it back. FYI, blackened meat is a carcinogen.

    • bbqmaster

      @ Dan, what’s wrong with a little carcinogen…ease up bruh live a little. lol

  2. Paula

    I know that this will probably be the most unpopular comment of the year, but when I’m pressed for time, I par-boil the chicken.
    Low and slow is best, but I have par-boiled and finished on the grill with good results. I also throw an oniou and some seasoning into the par-boil water so that the flavor gets into the chicken and I have stock to use for whatever when I take the chicken out.

    • Tiffany

      Actually that sounds like an interesting alternative… how long do you par-boil, or do you go by a temperature reading instead.

    • bbqmaster

      @ Paula, when Im having a big turn out @ home, I useally par boil with an onion/ garlic/ cilantro and let it sit over night. Makes for a great chicken stock too.

  3. Dorothy

    Another option to assure complete cooking is to poach the chicken pieces until nearly done, then finish them on the grill. We often marinate and poach in Aloha sauce, which gives the meat a lovely flavor.

    That’s a great way to grill chicken. ~Elise

  4. John

    I like to caramelize onions, then cook in some red wine vinegar, then add my basic store bought sauce and simmer for a hybrid sauce. Bake at 300 then broil to finish. No grill required and a ton of wonderful flavor. I always use a bone in chicken for extra flavor.

  5. Judith

    Unfortunately, I am not able to grill outside. However, I have a cast-iron grill surface which fits over two burners on my stove. Can I use this low slow method to grill chicken indoors without making too much smoke?
    Thanks, Judith

    No, not really. You won’t be able to get even enough low heat on the stovetop. You could just put them in the oven at about 250°F, after searing them on the stovetop. ~Elise

  6. Susan

    We grill seasoned chicken pieces on a gas grill, turning them a couple of times, on greased foil for most of the cooking. It takes about 35-40 minutes on and off of med heat. The last 10 minutes the sauce is applied and it’s cooked until the sauce becomes thick, like a glaze. The chicken is done, with or without the sauce, when you can see the bone on the base of the drumstick. We also cut the breast halves into 2 pieces, crosswise, so that all the chicken is about the same size and density. We put it on the rack over direct heat only to get a little of the grill marks..maybe 2 minutes.

    We like our sauce a little sweet and lemony on chicken and pork ribs. It’s a quick and simple combo of ketchup or chili sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, onion powder, hot sauce and a quick glug of chicken stock. We sometimes heat it on the stove to meld the flavors more. We baste on the chicken right before it’s done. And sometimes we don’t use sauce at all!

  7. Paula

    Elise, is poaching and par-boiling the same? I know that sounds like a dumb question but I really don’t know the difference. Also, I don’t think that your chicken looks burnt. I think it looks delicious! (Bobby Flay “throw down” delicious!) You always have the best food photos on the web:D

    Hi Paula – poaching and parboiling are almost the same, with poaching you just simmer until cooked all the way through. With parboiling, you only partially cook the meat. ~Elise

  8. Allen Wright

    Back in the days when I was a father of teenaged sons and I needed large quantities of food fast, I found that a quick trip to the microwave oven on a bacon cooker would get the chicken hot and cook out some of the water so I could finish on the charcoal grill in about 30 minutes. I don’t remember the time and with all of the different powers of microwave out now it’s hard to set rules.

  9. VG

    Drumsticks are my favorite part. Risk is that the meat closer to the bone may not get enough heat and remain uncooked with the rubbery feel. I usually put several gashes with knife, especially parallel to the bone. That way they cook better and the BBQ sauce gets in.

  10. Dave

    My favorite barbecued chicken is thighs done low ‘n’ slow to give them that rich, smoky flavor and bite-through skin.

    At least 2 hours before cooking, I dust the thighs with barbecue rub, lay them out in a single layer on a sheet pan, and let them sit uncovered in the fridge. This step seasons the thighs and also helps to dry out the skin a bit to keep it crispy.

    I set the grill up for a raised indirect cook at 250° using apple wood for smoke and cook the thighs for 90 to 120 minutes, flipping every 30 minutes or so.

    When the thighs are done I give them a coat or two of barbecue sauce and let them cook for another 10 minutes or so the let the sauce set.

    Beautiful. Thank you Dave! ~Elise

  11. Chad

    I’m always in a hurry when I grill. Chicken gets precooked in the oven prior to frying and grilling. Brine, buttermilk, or marinade before cooking. John (previous post) I Like your suggestion about carmelizing the onions. I added them to last months tomato pie recipe and have been addicted to them since then. Chad

  12. GaryCA

    I always microwave my chicken before I BBQ it. Depending on the thickness of the pieces, I microwave the chicken in a glass baking dish for about 5 minutes, turn them over and do another 5 minutes. Microwave cooks from inside out, so this way you avoid having your guests bite into a piece of chicken and finding the inside red and not cooked. Then I BBQ as normal except of course it takes way less time. Also the microwave leaves the chicken nice and moist!

    • Aaron

      >> Microwave cooks from inside out

      Hadn’t seen that one for awhile. I used to use that as an example of how people can hold onto a myth despite their own contradictory experiences. Microwaves don’t heat from the inside out, and that is why your food is still cold in the middle if you don’t microwave it long enough. I guess I can go back to using this as an example.

      But, with all that said, the point is still valid. Microwaving is a great way to save some time at the grill; similar to parboiling.

  13. Mike

    Brining. A very good cook I know says: add water to a container, then add a raw egg, and add salt till the egg floats.

  14. merd

    Love the skin char in your pics there, Elise. That’s the way I like them too!! I used a “Platte River Rub” from Savory Spice Shop just lightly shaken over both sides of a whole chicken I quartered up last week. My next door neighbor told me a couple days later that he was drooling from the mix of the rub and oak wood smoke.

    To S. Peterson: the title is “Barbecued” as opposed to BBQ. I know, I know… my friends and I have had these lengthy discussions over several whiskeys (which we soak our hickory, maple, and oak wood chips in when we are smoking butts and briskets – technically also barbequing). So what’s the difference? Does it matter? To some – it absolutely does. To me, BBQ = gettogether which translates directly into reason to drink a beer while you’re cooking.

    There are so many variations of the word and it’s meaning. Everyone seems to have a different perspective (check out Wikipedia for examples). Grilling does not equal barbeque and barbeque sauce does not make it technically barbeque either. Heck, when I was a kid, barbecue to me was shredded beef with a sloppy joe kind of bbq sauce in it. However – in this case, grilling chicken and adding BBQ sauce is “Barbecued Chicken on the Grill”. With this type of bbq, this is the right way to do it. If you add sauce to the raw meat, you end up making my dad’s specialty from my childhood when he and his buddy got together. It’s called “Filet of Raven”. Quite tasty once you get past the 1/4″ of blackened carbon coating. ;) I’m pretty sure that dad and his friend only tasted beer though… which again, makes it BBQ.

    Hi Merd, well said. Had to laugh about the sloppy-joe sandwich. This is my grandmother’s BBQ beef sandwich, in which the beef is braised, of all things. It never comes close to a grill. ~Elise

  15. Angie

    I have to say, that chicken looks beautiful! Love the method, hate all the semantics. I’m pretty sure cooking over fire is about as low-tech/imprecise/subject to opinion as it comes. Those who are arguing over whether or not this constitutes barbecue are missing out on the art of the process. To quote Wikipedia: “The origins of both the activity of barbecue cooking and the word itself are somewhat obscure…[barabicu] translates as “sacred fire pit.”” If anthropologists aren’t even sure of the origin of the technique or the word, why are we waving our long-handled tools and mitted hands in the air over authenticity? Hope everyone enjoys their sacred fire pit this weekend!

    • Tiffany

      Finally, the voice of reason. Life is full of things to contemplate and debate… a simple pleasure should be kept simple. Those whom feel it necessary to criticize every detail of ones post most likely are exhaustive to know.

  16. Maria Grazia

    I used to BBQ for hours ( long time ago) then I tried the microwave, and I never turned back.:-) I precook ribs, chickens etc etc (with some of the marinade I will be using) as to make sure that the inside is cooked and then I put the meat on the grill… they taste good and you will have time to enjoy your Family or friends.
    BTW I enjoy your page and recipes,keep up the good job, ciao, buona giornata.

  17. Nancy Long

    Brings back memories of my parents bbq chicken. My mother made her own sauce (I have a list of the ingredients somewhere) and would cook the chicken in the sauce in a roasting pan in a very slow oven. When it was done, my father would put it on the grill to sear. It will get black marks because of the tomatoes in the sauce. It was fall off the bone yummy.

  18. tommy2rs

    If you want to skip the mess of brining yet have the same results just use non-iodized salt. I use kosher salt. Rub the chicken with your favorite flavors, say lemon and garlic, though it could be any combo or single ingredient. Then pack it in salt. I do mean pack, literally cover it until it looks like a snowdrift. Let it sit in the fridge (in a bag, tub or whatever) until you see the fluids being drawn out. Then wash off the salt, pat dry and you’re good to go. The salt pulls the flavors in along with it.

    The method also works just as well with beef, pork and game meats that you don’t want to put in water.

    Last but not least, try grilling a split down the middle turkey. It’s my go to for the 4th of July these days.

  19. Claudi

    Yum and not burnt at all

  20. KariVery

    Boy does that look yummy! My dad would always brine the chicken pieces in a bowl in the fridge over night before grilling, and his grilling method was just like the technique you have above. The brine would keep the chicken nice and moist. And, if the chicken has been frozen, the brine adds flavor back to the meat. I know what we’re having for dinner on Labor Day!

    Great idea to brine the chicken first. It will help to retain moisture during the long cooking. The ratio I usually follow is 1/4 cup of Kosher salt to 1 quart of water. ~Elise

  21. dam spahn

    Watch out! Oiling the skin and tossing onto high head can cause flareups. Maybe just a few minutes on high to sear the skin, and then cut the heat way down.

  22. Carleton

    That is some delicious looking chicken! Yeah, that’s the grilled chicken I love.

  23. John V

    How do you keep the grill from flare-ups from the veg. oil you put on the chicken thighs?

  24. Bobbi

    I turned to the internet to find out the best way to barbecue chicken, and this is great! I am going to try it today. I enjoy the direct and concise directions and your polite answers to everyone who has their own way of doing things, too. I will let you know how it comes out.

    • Bobbi

      I made it, and it was delicious! Thank you for the easy and tasty recipe.

  25. Cynthia McGinnis

    That chicken looks perfect to me! That’s what barbeque chicken should look like in my opinion. I won’t even buy barbeque chicken anymore because it’s always light & the skin is soggy or too soft! Yuck. But this chicken looks awesome!

  26. Tom

    Instead of moving chicken to the cool side of the grill or turning the burner to low, I move the chicken to a grilling plank (properly soaked) and place the plank over med/hi heat for 15-20 minutes or until done –>indirect and smokes! After a couple of bastings with BBQ sauce, I remove the plank and place chicken briefly (just a minute or so) to allow the sauce slightly caramelize leaving great grill marks.

  27. Amber

    Elise, what are your thoughts on using boneless skinless breasts? It’s all I have, and I really want BBQ chicken tonight lol!

  28. Sandra

    That chicken looks so good!! Thanks for the tips, about to use it this weekend on our new weber.

  29. Kate

    I just want to say that I tried this recipe pretty much exactly as instructed and it turned out perfect. My personal best…. and I have screwed up more than a few attempts at barbequing chicken. I just did thighs. Took left overs to work and co-workers loved them too.

    • Jonas

      Personal fail. Cooking time gas grill says 90 mins, mine were way overdone at one hour on LOW. The power of a Weber Genesis? Disappointed to have charcoal made out of expensive best quality ingredients, will need to adjust method radically or seek a better recipe for my gas equipment. Carbonized making skin and sauce inedible. But I’ll try again.

  30. Jonas

    FOLLOW UP – using my Weber Genesis 2000 gas grill
    – after initial searing, can turn OFF all but the FRONT burner, which is left on HIGH. All the chicken is on the back two-thords of the grill, indirect heat.
    – this one burner maintained a perfect 325º C ‘Medium Low’ indirect grilling temp for the remainder of the slow cook / baste and turn cycles.
    – > SUCCESS – perfectly done in the recommended time, could even go a bit longer with thighs. Would even try skin-on breasts for those who prefer.

    A few other thoughts:
    – could use larger (full-grown) pieces of chicken for better yield since you will want to keep the front of the grill empty (which reduces overall grill space.)
    – problem of sticking / tearing skin – go easy, don’t touch the skin directly! Try to ‘roll’ the pieces over more than grasp too firmly, the tongs tear them easily.

    This was fun to learn, thanks!

  31. Karen haight

    We tried this ia for a BBQ and the chicken was extremely burnt! How embarrassing for us

    • Jonas

      Hello Karen – did the same thing as you first time! The trick is Low to Medium heat ie. no more than 300º to 325º (thermometer means more than the gas dial settings.)

  32. Sam

    The cook time is way too long. My chicken was very dry.

  33. Chris

    I agree, This cook time is tooo long and even on low my chicken thighs hit 170 in 30 minutes, after doing 5 minutes to seer the skin. Good thing I live by my meat thermometer.

    • Elise

      Hi Chris, the timing all depends on your grill and the size and starting temperature of the chicken thighs. I always recommend using a meat thermometer!

    • Jonas

      My 3-burner Weber has a great thermometer in the lid and will only maintain a low 300-325ºC if I turn off TWO of the burners once it’s heated up. That’s only about 12-13,000 BTU ! (Webers are very efficient with gas, YMMV.) The recipe says medium-low, 300-325 range is medium-low and any higher it will cook too fast & not allow caramelizing of the sauce.

      So the recipe is not technically wrong although many people not watching the grill temp may tend to dry out and burn their chicken.

Post a comment

Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for waiting. First time commenting? Please review the Comment Policy.

Some HTML is OK. URLs are automatically converted to links. Line breaks are automatically converted to paragraphs. The following HTML tags are allowed: a, abbr, acronym, b, blockquote, cite, code, del, em, i, q, strike, strong