BBQ Chicken

Without a doubt, this BBQ chicken is insanely juicy, perfectly charred, and glistening with my secret homemade BBQ sauce. And if you’re new to barbecuing, this foolproof method will have you shining at your next summer cookout.

BBQ chicken on a grill

First, Let’s Talk Barbecue vs Grill

Often times, grilling and barbecue are used interchangeably (I thought the same). But they’re actually two completely different ways of cooking.

Grilling is what we’re typically used to, where foods are seared hot and fast over a direct heat source. This calls for items like burger patties, steaks, vegetables, and seafood. These types of items don’t need a long cooking time – like my garlic grilled shrimp skewers, grilled salmon steaks, or grilled corn on the cob. Just a short 10 to 20 minutes will have them perfectly cooked.

But when you’re grilling thicker, bone-in foods like chicken thighs or drumsticks, beef ribs, brisket, or pork, you want to barbecue them. Meaning, they need to be cooked low and slow for at least a few hours, away from direct heat. The results are extra tender, juicy, and especially delicious when slathered with my homemade BBQ sauce!

Ingredients for BBQ chicken on the table

Ingredients You’ll Need

In terms of ingredients, you don’t need much really. Just a bunch of chicken thighs and drumsticks, a homemade dry rub, and some BBQ sauce. But what goes into the dry rub and BBQ sauce will make all the difference. So take note below.

  • Chicken Thighs & Drumsticks: Make sure to use bone-in, skin-on chicken for maximum juiciness.
  • Dry Rub: A simple combination of kosher salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, onion powder, and black pepper adds heaps of flavor to the chicken.
  • BBQ Sauce: Of course, I love my homemade BBQ sauce (which I use in this recipe) as it has no junky ingredients. But you can use any BBQ sauce that you love. This is going to be the final touch on your chicken, so choose wisely!

Find the printable recipe with measurements below.

Best Types of Chicken for BBQ

Chicken thighs will always remain a favorite, just because they’re extra tender and don’t dry out as easily as other cuts. But, chicken legs are also a great option for those who like munching on drumsticks! Either way, make sure to leave the skin on. It helps to keep the chicken moist as it undergoes the barbecue process.

Side note: Chicken breasts can be an option, you’ll just cook them to a lower final temperature of 160°F (71°C). But from my experience, bone-in chicken yields the best results.

Essential Grilling Tools

Become a grill master with just 3 tools – a basting brush, large tongs, and thermometer.

  • Basting Brush: This silicone basting brush is my all-time favorite! Not only is it easy to use, but the cleanup is minimal.
  • Large Tongs: Make sure to grab long tongs! This will make it easier to flip the chicken pieces over a hot and flaming grill.
  • Thermometer: An instant read thermometer is key to making sure your chicken is perfectly cooked through. Just give it a quick poke towards the end!
A plate of BBQ chicken on a white plate and napkin.

How to Make Baked BBQ Chicken

The #1 thing to remember about barbecuing is to create a balanced heat source. You either want your grill to have a cool and hot side (where you can cook in indirect heat), or keep the heat on low the entire time. Either way, the general idea here is to cook your chicken low and slow.

Pro tip: If you have a 3-burner grill, you can turn two burners on and leave one burner off (watch the video below to see how I do that).

Patting chicken dry on a baking sheet for BBQ chicken

Prep the chicken. Place the chicken on a large baking sheet and bring to room temperature. Pat dry with a paper towel.

Mix the dry rub. Stir the dry rub in a small bowl, sprinkle it onto each piece of chicken, then rub it all over with your hands to make sure the chicken is well coated. Don’t forget to rub the spices under the skin too!

Prep the grill. Prepare one side of your grill for high, direct heat, leaving the burners off on the other side. If you are using charcoal or wood, make sure there is a cool side to the grill where there are few to no coals.

A grill with BBQ chicken

Grill the chicken. Lay the chicken on the indirect heat side of the grill, yet close to the heart. Cover and cook the chicken for 30 to 35 minutes, flipping each piece every 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 160°F (71°C) to 165°F (74°C).

Brushing BBQ sauce on BBQ chicken

Brush with BBQ sauce. Brush the chicken with BBQ sauce and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, covered. Flip the chicken, brush with more BBQ sauce, and cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat this process until the chicken thighs and drumsticks reach 170°F (77°C) to 175°F (80°C).

Serve. Remove the chicken to a serving plate, and serve it up with a side of extra BBQ sauce!

A white plate of BBQ chicken thighs and drumsticks

A Few Tips For The Best BBQ Chicken

  • Bring your chicken to room temperature before grilling. If it’s chilled, it may take longer to cook or burn more easily on the outside. So get your baking sheet ready and lay your chicken out between 20 to 30 minutes before starting.
  • Don’t skip the dry rub! Sure, you can just add salt and pepper and call it a day. But we’re talking about barbecuing chicken with lots of flavor. So make the dry rub – it’ll add that extra layer of spices and help crisp up the skin.
  • Check the internal temperature. You’ll know your chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches about 175°F (80°C).
  • Do an extra sear for a more blackened skin. Get that extra charred skin by giving your chicken pieces a quick sear on the hot side of the grill. Just arrange them skin side down, for a quick 1 to 2 minutes. Keep an eye on them, otherwise they’ll burn!
A plate of BBQ chicken

Storing Leftovers

  • To store: Make sure the chicken is cool before storing away in an airtight container. It will last for 4 to 5 days in the fridge.
  • To freeze: Store the BBQ chicken in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy, thaw in the fridge the night before. Then, you can reheat for 1 to 2 minutes in the microwave. For crispier skin bake them in the oven or air fry them!

Grilled BBQ Chicken Recipe Video

If you need some visual guidance for this barbecue chicken – watch the video below! And if you have any questions along the way, pop a comment below.

More Summer Cookout Recipes

This BBQ chicken always deserves prime real estate on a cookout table. If you need a few ideas on what to pair with the chicken, I’ve got plenty of crowd-pleasing options!

Without a doubt, this BBQ chicken will have all the barbecue aficionados on their toes. So if you make it for 4th of July, Labor Day, or any cookout day, let me know how it turned out! I’d love to hear what everyone thinks of this recipe.

A plate of BBQ chicken

BBQ Chicken (Grilled)

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 hr 20 mins
Servings: 6 servings (2 pieces of chicken)
Author: Lisa Bryan
This BBQ chicken is insanely juicy, perfectly charred, and glistening with my secret homemade BBQ sauce. Perfect for your summer cookout!

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 3 ½ to 4 pounds (about 12 to 14 pieces) chicken thighs or drumsticks (bone-in and skin-on)

Dry Rub

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup BBQ sauce

Instructions 

  • Prep the chicken. Place the chicken thighs on a large baking sheet and bring to room temperature. Pat dry with a paper towel.
    Patting chicken dry on a sheet pan before barbecuing
  • Mix the dry rub. In a small bowl, combine the salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Sprinkle the rub over the chicken and use your hands to make sure the chicken is well coated on all sides (and under the skin if you'd like).
    BBQ chicken with dry rub on a sheet pan
  • Prep the grill. Prepare one side of your grill for high, direct heat, leaving the burners on the other side off. If you are using charcoal or wood, make sure there is a cool side to the grill where there are few to no coals. Watch the video above to see how I do this!
  • Grill the chicken. Lay the chicken on the indirect heat side of the grill, yet close to the heat. Cover, and cook the chicken for 30 to 35 minutes, flipping the chicken every 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 160°F to 165°F.
    A grill with BBQ chicken
  • Brush with BBQ sauce. Brush the chicken with BBQ sauce and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, covered. Flip the chicken, brush with more BBQ sauce, and cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat this process until the chicken thighs and drumsticks reach 175°F.
    A grill filled with BBQ chicken
  • Serve. Remove the chicken to a serving plate. Serve with extra BBQ sauce if desired.
    BBQ chicken piled on a white plate

Lisa’s Tips

  • If you’re using my BBQ sauce recipe, you can always make that the day before to simplify prep work and grilling. Just store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it! 
  • If you don’t have a grill, you can bake your chicken thighs using my crispy baked chicken thighs recipe. Just slather the BBQ sauce on the pieces towards the end!

Nutrition

Calories: 656kcal, Carbohydrates: 21g, Protein: 50g, Fat: 40g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g, Monounsaturated Fat: 17g, Trans Fat: 0.3g, Cholesterol: 198mg, Sodium: 1070mg, Potassium: 636mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 16g, Vitamin A: 741IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 49mg, Iron: 3mg
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: BBQ Chicken, BBQ Chicken Recipe
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12 comments on “BBQ Chicken”

  1. I made your BBQ chicken with the dry rub. It came out perfect. It looked and tasted great. Thanks for the recipe. It’s a keeper !!5 stars

  2. Hi Lisa. I’m excited to make your BBQ Chicken and believe it or not, I am preparing it as I write. I know you can’t respond in real time but I need to know if I should pre-heat the grill (and to what temp) or put the chicken on at the same time I turn on the grill. I love your recipes so much and I know this one is going to be a winner too. Thank you!

    • Hi Debra – so sorry about the late response! But, you’ll want to heat up your grill first before adding the chicken on top.

  3. I can’t find the video.

  4. Lisa- how can you make this in an oven? It looks so good but we don’t have a grill. Thanks

  5. Hi Lisa. After cooking chicken on indirect heat, do you not move it over to direct heat once adding BBQ sauce? How did you get the nice grilled char?  Thanks! 

    • Hi Donna – no, I don’t move it over direct heat. For me, the char comes naturally from cooking on indirect heat. But as all grills are different, if you’d like to get a little more char on yours after it’s fully cooked, feel free to place it on direct heat for a minute or so. :)

  6. Great recipe, but, I’m not finding the instructional video.

    Thanks for all your help, inspiration, and positive energy and have a fantastic weekend, Mike5 stars

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