Barbecued Chicken on the Grill

Game DayBBQGrillChicken

BBQ Chicken cooked slowly on the grill, slathered with your favorite barbecue sauce - does it get any better? This is the best recipe for making perfect BBQ chicken for all your summer gatherings and cook outs.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Along with hot dogs and hamburgers, barbecued chicken is about as classic as it gets when it comes time for grilling.

The Trick to Good Grilled BBQ Chicken

But chicken takes longer to cook than either hot dogs or hamburgers and loves lower cooking temperatures, so it’s easy to mess up by under-cooking, over-charring, or both. The trick to good BBQ Chicken?

Patience.

How long to grill chicken - a how-to guide for grilled BBQ chicken

How Long to Grill Chicken

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.

A How-To for Grilling 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 BBQ chicken recipe? Or tip you would like to share? Please let us know about it in the comments.

More Ways to Cook Chicken on the Grill

Updated May 27, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.

Barbecued Chicken on the Grill Recipe

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

Chicken thighs and legs will hold up better to long, slow cooking than will breasts which can more easily dry out. If you barbecue breasts, keep them on the coolest part of the grill (or follow this method).

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 still 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
  • Extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce, store-bought or homemade

Method

1 Oil and salt chicken pieces: Coat the chicken pieces with oil and sprinkle salt over them on all sides.

2 Prepare grill: Prepare one side of 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 few to no coals.

3 Sear chicken on hot side of grill, move to cool side: 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, turn the chicken pieces over and move them to the cooler side of the grill.

If you are using a gas grill, maintain the flame on only one side of the grill, and move the chicken pieces to the cooler side, not directly over the flame. Reduce the temp to low or medium low (between 250°F and 275°F, no more than 300°F).

Cover the grill and cook undisturbed for 20-30 minutes.

4 Turn over and baste with barbecue sauce: 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 10-30 minutes.

NOTE that timing will depend on your grill set-up, the size of your chicken pieces, and how cold your chicken pieces are to start with! If you are grilling smaller pieces of chicken on a charcoal grill, they may be done much earlier. The goal is to maintain a low enough grill temp so that the chicken cooks "low and slow".

5 Finish with a sear or remove from heat when done: The chicken is done when the internal temperature of the chicken pieces are 160°F for breasts and 170°F for thighs, when tested with a meat thermometer.

Or if you insert the tip of a knife into the middle of the thickest piece and the juices should run clear, the chicken is done.

If the chicken isn't done, turn the pieces over and continue to cook at a low temperature.

If you want, you 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.

6 Paint with more barbecue sauce to serve.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

64 Comments / Reviews

No ImageBarbecued Chicken on the Grill

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Alane

    My experience wasn’t so tasty. Chicken was dried out and burnt….

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (2)
  2. DJ

    Just amazingly wonderful. We brined the breasts as suggested. Altogether we grilled for an hour and all pieces, thighs, breasts and wings were delicious. It’s a bit of work with the grilling but so worth it!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Judy

    Turned out perfectly. Crispy skin and juicy chicken what more could you ask for!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Phil

    Hi, I have tried a good number of your recipes and most have been great. I look forward to the bbq chicken with the lemon cheese cake. I have a question. You started out by stating your first cook out and indicated San Jose. Your bio at the end states you live in Sacramento…

    Show Replies (1)
  5. chris

    while this is less a recipe and more a method, it’s a tried and true one that will yield good results as long as you have the ability to control the heat on your grill, whether it’s gas or charcoal. if you know how to control the temperature and can keep it under 300 degrees consistently, and cook your chicken on indirect heat, the worst you can do is dry out your meat. this is why you need to check your grill every 15-20 minutes, turning your chicken every time.

    the only thing i would add is that, rather than simply seasoning the chicken with salt, i use various spice mixtures depending on the flavor i’m looking for. for example, yesterday i made jerk chicken using the same method. an extra layer of flavor under the sauce can be a good thing as long as you don’t over-salt. also, i usually use some soaked wood chips to add some smoke. hickory, apple, cherry, for example.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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