Grilled Chicken with South Carolina-Style BBQ Sauce

To save some prep time, the BBQ sauce can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for up to two weeks.

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6


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.

Grilled BBQ Chicken

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.

Grilled BBQ Chicken

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.)

Grilled BBQ Chicken 2016-07-20-GrilledBBQChicken-14

7 Serve immediately with extra barbecue sauce.

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  • George G

    Thank you Elizabeth Stark your recipe works. Um Um good.

  • gerardo valenzuela

    Mmmm… Muy bueno.

  • Jeremy

    Great recipe! one of my favorites!

  • Cheryl A.

    I made this recipe in the oven last night. I was worried that it wouldn’t brown for some reason and thought I would have to run it under the broiler but after an hour of cooking it was a beautiful brown color. It was very delicious. Thanks so much for sharing!! I would definitely make it again – such great flavor… Cheryl A.

  • Mary

    For those who don’t want so much char, you can cook the spice rubbed chicken but add the sauce near the end of cooking time. The sugars in the BBQ sauce will caramelize without burning.

    • deana sardi

      thank you. This is what I did also; used it as a mop sauce. Very good ingredients, as I had thighs and legs and had marinated them in dry seasoning with olive oil. the idea is to cook the meat on the grill which can be tricky when still on bone and get a nice char at the end.

  • Raia

    Looks delicious! Definitely pinning to try on my SC BBQ lovin’ hubby. ;)

    • Elizabeth Stark

      Thanks Raia! The recipe is one of my favorites – especially this time of year.

  • Cheryl A.

    This looks great. I don’t use a grill either so would also love it if an oven option is available. Thank you!

    • Elizabeth Stark

      Hi Cheryl, I don’t have a good oven recipe myself, but there are lots of “oven barbecued” chicken recipes out there and I bet they’d be great with this sauce recipe. Please keep me posted!

      • Cheryl A.

        Thank you – I am going to try to make this recipe this weekend in the oven. My guess is it won’t get crispy though but maybe a few minutes under the broiler? I’ll give it a shot. You have a beautiful web site…

  • Laura ~ Raise Your Garden

    To me, BBQ is one of the best comfort food around~ Here in Buffalo, NY I live right next door to the only good one in town….but I need to learn to make my own, it’s getting $$$.

    • Elizabeth Stark

      Ha! Laura, I feel you on that one – I used to near Fette Sau in Brooklyn. Here’s to going homemade sometime soon!

  • Rachel

    I don’t have a grill but this looks amazing. Any suggestions for cooking times and temp if baking in an oven?

    • Elizabeth Stark

      Hi Rachel, I’m so glad you like the sound of recipe! I didn’t test the recipe in the oven, but there are lots of “oven barbecue chicken” recipes online, my suggestion would be to use the cooking times and temps from one of those, but swap in this South Carolina Barbecue Sauce recipe. Let me know how it goes!