Barbecued Chicken on the Grill

Game DayBBQGrillChicken

Slow barbecued chicken on the grill, slathered with your favorite barbecue sauce.

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.

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?


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.

Barbecued Chicken on the Grill

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 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 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.


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


1 Salt and oil chicken pieces: Coat the chicken pieces with vegetable 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, move the chicken pieces 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, which you test by using 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 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.

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 Barbecued Chicken on the Grill on Simply Recipes. Thank you!


If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!


How to Grill Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts - here on Simply Recipes

Peach-Whiskey Barbecued Chicken - from The Pioneer Woman

Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken - from The Hungry Mouse

Barbecued Chicken on the Grill

47 Comments / Reviews

No ImageBarbecued Chicken on the Grill

Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Bob

    DO NOT put on high on a gas grill for the first 5-10 minutes. If you have oiled the chicken, you will have a fire on your hands. Recommend only oiling the grill gently and with sauce on the chicken just put the grill on MEDIUM for the first 5-10 minutes. Live and learn.

  • Lynn

    Great recipe!! I make my own BBQ sauce-with habanero peppers. There are abundant in my garden now so I use them any way I can.

  • Bebe

    This is an excellent “recipe” and particularly its addressing the techniques – grilling and barbecuing – which are too often used interchangeably. It also addresses the current situation where most of the chickens sold – either whole or in pieces – are quite large.

    Years ago a dear friend, whom I miss, showed me her way to do chicken breasts in the broiler part of her oven. It required more than the shallow broiler that slides in under a large main oven as it called for the pan with the chicken to be 9 inches or so below the broiler flame or electric element. It has served me well for decades, with both gas and electric broilers. Slooooow cooking. Multiple turnings. And a must: An instant read thermometer.

  • Autumn

    I’ve only been cooking about 4 years now… I’m a single female… and I tried your recipe…. I’ve been told I make the BEST BBQ CHICKEN anyone’s ever had at least 4 times!!!! Thank you soooo much!

  • Bernadette

    This is more of a recipe than cooking style. I soak my chicken in beer for about 1/2 hour. Drain. Then cover with lemon pepper and granulated garlic. Then i cover with bbq sauce. Brush with bbq sauce once while cooking and viola! It is perfect for a quick lakeside or beachside bbq!

View More
Barbecued Chicken on the GrillBarbecued Chicken on the Grill