Competition-Style Barbecue Chicken Thighs Recipe


Although these may be a bit much for backyard barbecue, this recipe shows exactly how competition barbecuers pack as much flavor into their meats as possible, along with a strong focus on presentation.

Note: I did not go out of my way to get powdered citric acid and the rub was just fine.

Recipe Details

Competition-Style Barbecue Chicken Thighs Recipe

Active 2 hrs 30 mins
Total 9 hrs
Serves 6 servings


For the Rub:

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt

  • 6 tablespoons turbinado sugar

  • 3 tablespoons freshly ground white pepper

  • 4 teaspoons lemon pepper

  • 4 teaspoons garlic powder

  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

  • 2 teaspoons powdered citric acid (optional, see note)

  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

For Chicken:

  • 12 meaty chicken thighs, about 5 pound

  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 12 tablespoons margarine, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces

  • 2 cups competition-style barbecue sauce, such as Blues Hog or Meat Mitch

  • 1 cup white grape juice

  • 3/4 cup agave nectar

  • 2 small chunks apple wood


  1. To make the rub, combine salt, sugar, white pepper, lemon pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, powdered citric acid, and dry mustard in a small bow. Set aside.

  2. Carefully remove skin from chicken thighs by running finger between skin and meat and gently pulling to separate. Lay thighs side-by-side and and trim each one into uniform, trapezoid shapes, removing excess fat. Turn thighs over and cut away muscle along the back of the thigh bone.

  3. Using a paring knife, carefully scrape excess fat from chicken skins. Trim skins so they’re slightly smaller than the thighs (the skin should wrap around the thigh, fully covering the front and about half of the back). Reattach skins by threading toothpicks on both sides of bottom of the thigh, securing meat and skin together. Refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight.

  4. Using a marinade injector, inject 1/2 ounce of chicken stock into left and right side of thigh meat. Pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle back of each thigh with 1/2 tablespoon of White BBQ Rub and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

  5. Fire up smoker or grill to 250°F, adding chunks of smoking wood chunks when at temperature. Place 6 tablespoons of margarine in each pan. Rest one chicken thigh on top of each piece of margarine, skin-side up. Sprinkle tops of thighs with 1/2 tablespoon of White BBQ Rub. Place in smoker and smoke for 1 hour.

  6. Cover each pan with aluminum foil and continue to cook for 1 hour more.

  7. In a medium saucepan, combine barbecue sauce and grape juice. Heat sauce over medium heat until warmed through.

  8. Remove thighs from smoker and remove toothpicks. Using tongs or gloved hands, submerge each thigh into warm sauce. Shake off excess sauce and place thighs back in smoker, directly on grill grate. Cook until sauce is caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes more.

  9. Spread out a large sheet of aluminum foil. Squirt 12 swirls of agave nectar onto foil and sprinkle a pinch of White BBQ Rub on each swirl.

  10. Remove thighs from smoker and place each, skin-side down, on an agave swirl. Let rest for 10 minutes, then serve

Special equipment

Smoker or grill, marinade injector, 2 disposable aluminum pans

This Recipe Appears In

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
930 Calories
56g Fat
53g Carbs
57g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 930
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 56g 72%
Saturated Fat 14g 70%
Cholesterol 292mg 97%
Sodium 7603mg 331%
Total Carbohydrate 53g 19%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 42g
Protein 57g
Vitamin C 18mg 90%
Calcium 82mg 6%
Iron 4mg 23%
Potassium 1018mg 22%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)