Recipes Main Courses Poultry and Game Classic BBQ Chicken

Classic BBQ Chicken

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 65 minutes
Servings: 4

Classic barbecued chicken doesn’t begin with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You have to have bones to develop great flavor. Nor do you want your chicken to be burnt on the outside and raw on the inside, which is what happens to too many cooks. Follow this recipe for great results. Here, the chicken is brined before grilling and then brushed with a tasty barbecue sauce during cooking.


For the basic poultry brine:

  • 8 cups water
  • 5 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. dried basil
  • 2 Tbs. coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbs. peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs. yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 chicken, about 4 lb., neck and giblets removed, chicken cut into 4 pieces
  • Freshly ground pepper for sprinkling
  • Granulated garlic for sprinkling

For the classic barbecue sauce:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbs. yellow mustard
  • 1 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin (optional)


To make the brine, in a large bowl, combine the water, salt, basil, coriander seeds, peppercorns, mustard seeds, garlic and bay leaves and stir until the salt dissolves. Use immediately.

Place the chicken pieces in a large sealable plastic bag and pour in the brine. Seal the bag closed, squish the brine around the chicken and refrigerate overnight.

At least 30 minutes before you plan to begin grilling, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and remove the pieces from the brine. Discard the brine. Rinse the chicken pieces briefly in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Lightly sprinkle on all sides with pepper and garlic.

Meanwhile, make the barbecue sauce: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the ketchup, mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, broth, a pinch of salt and the pepper and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. For a Southwest-style sauce, stir in the chilies and cumin. Simmer for 5 minutes for a relatively thin sauce or for 10 to 15 minutes for a thick sauce. Adjust the seasoning with salt.

Prepare a grill for indirect grilling over medium heat; the internal grill temperature should be about 350ºF. If using charcoal, bank the lit coals on either side of the grill bed, leaving a strip in the center without heat, and place a drip pan in the center. If using gas, preheat the burners, then turn off 1 or more of the burners to create a cooler zone. Brush and oil the grill grate.

Place the chicken pieces on the grill over the direct-heat area and sear, turning once, for 2 minutes per side. Move the chicken pieces to the indirect-heat area, cover the grill and cook for 30 minutes. Now, start brushing the chicken with the barbecue sauce, turning and brushing the pieces every 5 minutes, for about 15 minutes more. The chicken is ready when it is firm to the touch and the juices run clear when a thigh or breast is pierced with a knife tip.

Transfer the chicken pieces to a platter and serve immediately. Pass the remaining sauce at the table. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Grill Master, by Fred Thompson (Weldon Owen, 2011).

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