My Competition Chicken Thigh Recipe | Cook the Book

What could be easier than barbecued chicken? Just brush some sauce on pieces of chicken and throw them onto the grill, done. Well, if you have ever had truly transcendent barbecued chicken, you know that it's not that easy. Grill masters like Adam Perry Lang know that a bottle of store-bought sauce and a package of chicken thighs are not the only ingredients that go into competition worthy barbecued chicken.

Adam Perry Lang's Competition Chicken Thigh Recipe from Serious Barbecue takes a multilayered approach to flavoring the chicken. First it is marinated, then rubbed with a seasoning blend, and finally basted with a homemade barbecue sauce. It might be an involved process but the chicken thighs will emerge from the grill beautifully lacquered and award winningly delicious.

Just a quick note, if you aren't a pro griller and don't have the ceramic cooker called for in this recipe, don't worry. You can place the thighs in aluminum pans and cook them on top of your grill.

Recipe Facts



Total: 0 mins
Serves: 8 servings

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  • 16 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 2 cups bottled Italian salad dressing
  • Seasoning Blend:
  • 3/4 cup mild chile powder, preferably Chimayo, Ancho, or Hatch
  • 3/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 1/2 cup Sugar in the Raw, or other turbinado sugar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
  • Pan Ingredients:
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons Accent (optional, see Note)
  • BBQ Sauce:
  • 2 1/4 cups APL BBQ Sauce (recipe follows), or your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 3 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 3 tablespoons pineapple preserves
  • 3 tablespoons honey, preferably orange blossom
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Accent (optional, see Note)
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium sweet white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional if needed
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, plus additional as needed
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 jalapeno chile, grated on a Microplane grater, stopping before the seeds
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, grated on a Microplane grater.


  1. Place the thighs in an extra-large resealable plastic bag (or divide between two smaller bags) and pour the dressing over the top. Squeeze out any excess air from the bag, and roll to coat all of the meat. Refrigerate for 3 hours

  2. Preheat an indirect barbecue with a drip pan and a combination of hardwood and fruitwood (preferably hickory and apple), a ceramic cooker with a deflector plate and a combination of and a combination of hardwood and fruitwood (preferably hickory and apple), or a charcoal and gas grill with a box or packet with a combination of hardwood and fruitwood (preferably hickory and apple) to 300°F.

  3. Combine the seasoning blend ingredients and grind together in a coffee or other small grinder that is dedicated to spices. Depending on the size of the grinder, it may need to be done in batches.

  4. In two baking dishes or two disposable aluminum pans, preferably 13 1/2 x 9 5/8 x 2 3/4-inch lasagna pans that will hold the thighs in a single layer, spread the butter (2 tablespoons in each) in the bottom. Divide the water, salt, and Accent, if using, between the pans.

  5. Remove the chicken from the dressing, letting any excess remain in the bag, and lightly pat dry with paper towels.

  6. Place the chicken, skin side down, in the pans, keeping in a single layer.

  7. Using about 1 teaspoon of the seasoning blend on each thigh, sprinkle over the top flesh side with the blend. Cover each pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, and crimp the edges to seal.

  8. Place the thighs in the cooker, stacking the pans on top of each other, if needed, to fit in the cooker, and rotate them from top to bottom halfway through the cooking. Cook for 45 minutes.

  9. Remove the thighs from the cooker and let rest in the pans, covered for 15 minutes.

  10. Transfer the thighs to a sheet pan or work surface and lightly pat them dry with paper towels. Season all sides with the seasoning blend; there may be some unused blend.

  11. Place back in the cooker, skin side up, and cook for an additional 45 minutes.

  12. Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the BBQ sauce. Pour into a dish or disposable aluminum pan, preferably a 13 1/2 x 9 5/8 x2 3/4-inch lasagna pan.

  13. Remove the thighs from the cooker and carefully dip each one in the sauce, dredging to coat on all sides and making sure that the skin side, especially, is evenly coated.

  14. Be sure to tuck the skin taut, place the thighs back in the cooker, skin side up, for 30 minutes.

  15. Transfer to a plate and serve.

  16. APL BBQ Sauce:

    Makes about 7 cups - Adapted from Serious Barbecue by Adam Perry Lang.

    Pour the oil in a large saucepan and place over medium heat until it starts to simmer. Stir in the garlic, onion, bell pepper and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes.

  17. Pour in the bourbon and cook until the alcohol has cooked off, about 5 minutes. There will no longer be the strong smell of alcohol.

  18. Combine the chili powder, black pepper, allspice and cloves and add to the pan. Cook, stirring continuously, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

  19. Stir in the water, brown sugar, ketchup, molasses, mustard, vinegar, hot sauce and preserves. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally to be sure that nothing sticks to the bottom and burns. Continue to simmer, stirring often, about 45 minutes.

  20. Add the jalapeno and apple. At this point the sauce can be left chunky or blended in a blender (blend in small batches since it will still be hot), or in a bowl using an immersion/stick blender until smooth.

  21. Season to taste with additional allspice, cloves, salt, and vinegar to taste.


You'll notice that I call for Accent, which contains MSG. Although monosodium glutamate has acquired a bad reputation, numerous studies have concluded that it has no effect on most people - well, unless you count happiness, because of the extra blast of deliciousness if offers. Still, if you are skeptical, leave it out of this dish. It'll be great either way.