Barbecue sauce is contentious in a way that few condiments are. Local pride is on the line. Sauce-wise, I’m mostly stateless and am just as happy with North Carolina-style vinegar sauce as I am with a Kansas City sauce made with tomatoes and molasses.
But when it comes to grilled chicken, nothing feels as perfect as the tang of a mustard-based South Carolina-style barbecue sauce.
This recipe pairs zesty, mustard-based barbecue sauce with grilled chicken. The resulting dish has a hint of sweetness and spice, and every bite is wonderfully smoky with an ideal balance of piquant flavors.
Keep in mind that grilling chicken slathered in sauce is a messy business. Be sure to begin with a clean grill grate and then scrub the hot grate with a wire brush after grilling, too.
When preparing your grill, create two zones of heat for hot and indirect heat cooking. First, sear the chicken over hot coals, and then smoke it over indirect heat until cooked through.
Grilled Chicken with South Carolina-Style BBQ Sauce Recipe
To save some prep time, the BBQ sauce can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for up to two weeks.
For the BBQ sauce:
- 1 cup prepared yellow mustard
- 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon bottled hot sauce, plus more to taste
For the chicken:
- 4 chicken thighs, bone-in with skin
- 4 drumsticks, bone-in with skin
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
1 Make barbecue sauce at least 30 minutes ahead of grilling: Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a 2-quart saucepan and set over medium-high heat on a back burner. Cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes or until mixture is very steamy. (The sauce can bubble and spit, so use caution. To avoid burns, stir the sauce constantly to distribute heat.)
Turn the heat to medium-low, and cook until sauce has thickened, 5 to 7 minutes more. When done, the sauce should be thick enough that a spoon will leave trails through the sauce when you stir. Set aside to cool.
Once cool, measure 3/4 cup into a small bowl for the chicken. Set aside remaining sauce for serving. (Prepared sauce can also be made ahead and kept refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.)
2 Twenty minutes before cooking, rub the chicken pieces on both sides with sea salt. Set in fridge while you prep grill.
3 Prepare a charcoal grill. When coals are gray and very hot, carefully move them to one side of the grill so that one side has hot, direct heat and the other side has indirect heat. (Alternatively, prepare a gas grill with two temperature zones for cooking.)
4 Brush chicken generously on both sides with 3/4 cups of prepare barbecue sauce.
5 Grill the chicken over high heat to sear: Place the chicken on the hot side of grill directly over coals, placing thighs skin-side down. After 2 to 3 minutes, flip chicken and grill another 2 to 3 minutes, or until chicken is nicely browned or even slightly blackened on both sides.
6 Finish cooking the chicken over indirect heat: Move the chicken over to side without coals to finish cooking over indirect heat. Brush once more with barbecue sauce. Cover the grill.
After 5 to 7 minutes, flip chicken. Cook another 12 to 15 minutes until chicken is a rich golden brown, cooked through, and reaches an internal temperature of at least 175°F when tested with a meat thermometer.
(I usually cook these thighs and drumsticks to a slightly higher internal temperature to be sure the meat is thoroughly cooked; the sauce and indirect heat keep the chicken from drying out.)
7 Serve immediately with extra barbecue sauce.
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