Home-grilled barbecue chicken has a tendency to end up overcooked and burnt, making it a hard sell when other cookout staples are easier to pull off. If you're tired of overly sweet, overly dry results, try our take on simple barbecue chicken, paired with BUSH's Brown Sugar Hickory Baked Beans. It'll renew your faith in how good this dish can be and make your guests happy, too.
The path to the best barbecue chicken requires fixing some old habits, starting with the sauce. Standard supermarket sauce is way too sugary and can often overpower the meat. We start by making our own, which balances gentle sweetness with a spicy kick, on top of a fruity tomato base that adds complexity and contrast.
Though this sauce alone will make some fine barbecue chicken, we pack on even more flavor with a rub—a simple mixture of spices, salt, and a little sugar that gives the chicken additional earthy, sweet, and slightly spicy barbecue flavors.
But the best sauce and rub won't do you much good if you don't use the proper cooking method, and this is where so much barbecue chicken goes wrong. First, barbecue sauce shouldn't be used as a marinade—the sugar in the sauce will burn by the time the chicken comes to temperature. Instead, we start our seasoned, unsauced chicken over indirect heat and let it cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
After that initial cook time, start basting the chicken with sauce every five minutes until the meat hits 160°F (71°C) in the center. Between applications, the sauce will bake down to create a thick, sticky layer. Only at the very end do we move the chicken over direct heat to caramelize the sauce, concentrating the flavor and adding some crispy bits to the meat.
When it comes time to serve, we suggest using BUSH'S Brown Sugar Hickory Baked Beans as an accompaniment. The sweet and smoky flavor of the beans will bring out the best in your chicken, which, if you've followed our recommendations, should turn out succulent and satisfying, with a perfectly balanced flavor. You'll be wondering why you haven't been doing this all your life.
Barbecue Chicken With BUSH'S® Brown Sugar Hickory Baked Beans
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
For the Rub:
2 tablespoons (28g) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15g) kosher salt
1 tablespoon (15g) paprika
1 tablespoon (15g) chili powder
2 teaspoons (10g) garlic powder
2 teaspoons (10g) onion powder
1 teaspoon (5g) cayenne pepper
For the Sauce:
2 cups (480ml) ketchup
2/3 cup dark brown sugar (5 ounces; 140g)
1/2 cup (120ml) apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup (60ml) molasses (not blackstrap)
2 tablespoons (30ml) Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons (24g) barbecue rub (ingredients above)
2 tablespoons (30ml) yellow mustard
2 tablespoons (30ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped chipotles in adobo
1 tablespoon (15ml) adobo sauce from can of chipotles
3 pounds mixed chicken legs and thighs
1 can (28 ounces) BUSH'S® Brown Sugar Hickory Baked Beans, warmed
1. To Make the Rub: In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, salt, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
2. To Make the Sauce: In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, whisk together ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons barbecue rub, yellow mustard, lemon juice, chopped chipotles, and adobo sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Coat chicken all over with remaining barbecue rub to taste. Light 1 chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to medium-high heat, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate. Place chicken on cool side of grill, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Brush chicken all over with barbecue sauce, cover, and cook 5 minutes more. Brush chicken again with barbecue sauce, cover, and cook until center of chicken registers 160°F (71°C) when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the thickest portion of the meat, about 5 minutes more. Brush chicken a third time with barbecue sauce and move to hot side of grill. Cook, flipping occasionally, until chicken develops light charring on both sides. Transfer chicken to a serving platter and let rest 5 minutes. Serve immediately with BUSH'S® Brown Sugar Hickory Baked Beans.