Each week Joshua Bousel drops by with a recipe for you to grill over the weekend. Fire it up, Joshua!
Along with lighter fluid, another common grilling sight that pains me to no end is improperly cooked barbecue chicken. I don't know how many burnt pieces of chicken need to be eaten until we realize that barbecue sauce is not a marinade. Cooking barbecue chicken properly is pretty simple, and produces heavenly results.
Since barbecue sauce has a lot of sugars that burn quickly over high heat, the trick to perfect barbecue chicken is grilling over a two-zone fire, and only applying the sauce after the chicken is mostly cooked. First you grill the chicken, covered, over the cool side of the grill until the skin starts to brown and crisp. Then move the chicken closer to the flames, but not directly over them, and start mopping on the sauce. This will give the chicken time to absorb the flavors of the sauce without it burning. Then, which the chicken is almost completely done, apply a last layer of sauce and move directly over the coals, grilling until the sauce caramelizes, not burns. This juicy chicken has all of the sticky-sweet flavors of the sauce, minus the burnt nastiness that I see way too often on barbecue chicken.
Adapted from Cook's Country.
Pat chicken dry with paper towels and rub chicken pieces liberally with the barbecue rub.
Light a chimney 3/4 full of charcoal. When charcoal is fully lit and covered in gray ash, pour coals out and arrange them on one side of the charcoal grate, keeping the other side empty. If you'd like your chicken to have a smoky flavor, you can add 1 chunk, or a handful of soaked chips, of a light smoking wood—like apple or cherry—to the fire. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place chicken, skin side down, on the cool side of the grill and cover. Cook until chicken begins to brown, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Move the chicken closer to, but not over, the coals. Begin flipping chicken and brushing liberally with the sauce every 5 minutes until sticky, about 20 minutes.
Slide chicken pieces over coals and continue to brush chicken until sauce on chicken becomes crusted and internal temperature of breast meat registers 165 degrees and legs, thighs, and drumsticks register 175 degrees, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter and let rest 10 minutes. Serve with remaining sauce on the side.