When the weather starts to turn, and the neighborhood fills with the scent of grilling up and down the block, I start to crave some really good BBQ chicken.
Like a lot of things, however, BBQ is a deeply personal choice. Everyone has their own preference for the balance of sweet, spicy, tangy, and buttery. Before I step on anyone’s toes, I really encourage you to try this recipe as is and take your experimentation from there.
Either way, you’ll have a BBQ chicken recipe that is both tasty and versatile – cook any cut of chicken in just about any way in this sauce, and enjoy amazing results.
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BBQ CHICKEN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
One of the biggest drawbacks to BBQ, chicken or otherwise, is that it won’t meet everyone’s needs. Kids may be suspicious, or dieters might shy away from a sweet sauce or fatty pieces of meat. And, when it feels like you don’t have a spare moment to throw dinner together, BBQ chicken might not immediately spring to mind.
But the best part of this BBQ chicken recipe is that it can be totally customized to meet the needs of your family and your guests and can be a quick and easy dinner any night of the week.
If your kids are suspicious of sauce, or if the flavor is too intense, you can adjust the amount of hot sauce or leave some plain and serve the sauce on the side.
For dieters, use boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of legs or whole chicken. You can also skip the brown sugar to reduce the sweetness and calories of the sauce.
If your family argues over either light or dark meat, try using a whole chicken broken down into parts, so everyone gets their favorite. Most grocery stores carry fryer packs that offer an assortment of cuts. You can also choose grilling a whole bird if you have more time.
My favorite part of this recipe is that you can literally use whatever cooking technique you like – prefer a crockpot BBQ chicken? Done. BBQ chicken in the oven? You can do that too.
EASY BBQ CHICKEN RECIPE
Ready for an easy BBQ chicken recipe that requires NO marinating? Try this one tonight!
- In a medium saucepan, sauté butter and garlic together until the garlic is slightly tender.
- Add the ketchup, brown sugar, chili sauce, Worchester sauce, celery seed, mustard, salt, and hot pepper sauce (like Tapatio or Frank’s).
- Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
- When slightly thickened, remove your bbq sauce from the heat and allow to cool while you prepare the chicken.
- At this point, you can ready your chicken pieces for baking, grilling or the crockpot.
- The first step for any cooking method is always season with salt. It’s important to season the chicken itself, not just the sauce.
- For baked BBQ chicken or slow cooked, simply pour the sauce over the meat, set it, and forget it.
- In the oven or on the grill, you will be searing then basting your chicken pieces.
- Serve immediately with any remaining sauce served on the side for dipping. Be sure, however, that you don’t cross contaminate basting sauce with dipping sauce – that’s a mix up you’ll definitely regret later!
- Check below for cooking times and tips.
HOW LONG DO YOU COOK BBQ CHICKEN
Figuring out how long to cook chicken can be kind of tricky. Cooking time depends on the shape and size of the meat and the temperature you’re cooking the chicken. This is even harder when you’re cooking mixed cuts – breasts take longer than wings, and thighs and drumsticks are somewhere in the middle.
BBQ Chicken Cooking Time Basics:
- Use a thermometer to check that chicken is cooked to 165 degrees F.
- BBQ chicken in a crockpot can cook 6-8 hours on low.
- BBQ chicken in the oven takes 45 minutes to an hour at 425 degrees for bone in chicken pieces. Boneless will be faster.
- BBQ chicken on the grill usually takes at least 45 minutes for bone in chicken pieces. Again, boneless will be faster.
Remember that bone-in, skin-on chicken needs a different cooking time than boneless skinless cuts.
You don’t always want to be cutting chicken open to check for doneness, especially for grilling when vital juices are easy to lose.
The easiest way to check if you chicken is done is to take your chicken’s temperature! The USDA recommends cooking all chicken to 165 degrees F. With a handy meat thermometer, it is easy to figure out whether your bird meets the minimum.
Here is our favorite affordable meat thermometer!
If you’re worried about your BBQ chicken drying out on the inside, you can pull it slightly below 165, say 163, and cover after you remove it from the heat. It should continue to cook and increase those last few degrees while resting.
BBQ chicken legs and BBQ chicken thighs can be hard to check for doneness – even using a thermometer can be tricky with these cuts. You have to make sure the thermometer is in the deepest part of the meat but not touching the bone. In general, dark meat takes slightly longer than white meat, so if you’re cooking mixed cuts, be sure to check and pull breasts before leg cuts.
HOW TO GRILL BBQ CHICKEN
For grilled BBQ chicken, sear the chicken on both sides before basting with sauce. You may want to spray your grill with a grilling spray first. Then put the chicken skin side down to crisp up the skin.
I like to start my grilled chicken right over the coals (or at high heat for a gas grill) to sear it. Then I move the chicken to the side of the grill (or reduce the gas to medium heat) during the basting. This keeps the sauce and outside of the chicken from burning as it cooks through to the center.
For applying the sauce, use a silicone basting brush. This way you don’t get any brush bristles stuck in your food. Continue turning and cooking the chicken and basting it (every 5 minutes) with the barbecue sauce until fully cooked.
OVEN BAKED BBQ CHICKEN
For cooking BBQ chicken in the oven, place seasoned chicken pieces on a baking sheet skin side down.
Cook for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F. This will get your skin nice and crispy.
Remove from oven, baste with sauce and carefully flip to skin side up. This is easiest using a spatula to avoid tearing the skin. Then baste the skin with sauce and put the chicken back in the oven.
Remove the chicken every 5-7 minutes and baste the skin with more sauce.
Repeat the basting 2-4 times until chicken is cooked through.
WHAT IS GOOD WITH BBQ CHICKEN?
I probably don’t even need to tell you what is good with BBQ chicken, because, well what isn’t?!
For most BBQ chicken nights, I like simple and fresh sides that counter the spicy heat from the chicken and boost our veggie intake. Salads, roasted veggies or a veggie tray, and a freshly sliced watermelon are great options.
Here are more of my picks for sides to accompany your chicken for a backyard BBQ, a family dinner, or a block party!
PIN TO SAVE FOR LATER!
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PRINTABLE BBQ CHICKEN RECIPE
This BBQ chicken recipe makes a flavorful barbecue sauce that's easy to adapt and perfect for any cut of chicken. The cooking directions are for large pieces of chicken bone in and skin on (like legs or breasts). Make sure to reduce your cooking time for boneless cuts. Check the Recipe Notes for Crockpot and Oven cooking instructions. (Adapted with permission from Genius Kitchen)
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 teaspoons butter sub oil for dairy free
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup chili sauce Heinz or store brand is fine
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons celery seed
- 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2-5 dashes hot pepper sauce like Tapatio or Frank's
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 large chicken pieces bone-in with skin
- grilling spray
Heat a medium saucepan on medium high heat.
Saute the garlic in butter for a minute or two, until tender.
Add ketchup, brown sugar, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, celery seed, mustard, salt, and hot sauce. Stir well.
Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Let thicken slightly then remove from the heat and set aside. I divide the sauce in half, and use half for basting and half for dipping.
Season chicken all over with salt.
Spray your grill grate with grilling spray.
Sear the chicken on high heat for 5 minutes on each side, starting skin side down. Keep grill closed during cooking.
Baste chicken with sauce and reduce heat to medium (or move to the sides of a charcoal grill).
Grill 30-45 minutes longer, basting every 10 minutes, until internal temperature is 165 degrees F.
Serve with the sauce you set aside for dipping.
Nutritional Values are an estimate only.
- Season chicken with salt, then place in crockpot and cover in sauce.
- Cook on low 6-8 hours.
- Place seasoned chicken pieces on a baking sheet skin side down and cook 20 minutes at 425 degrees F to crisp skin.
- Remove from oven, baste with sauce and carefully flip to skin side up. Baste skin and return to oven.
- Remove the chicken every 5-7 minutes and baste the skin with sauce.
- Repeat the basting 2-4 times until chicken is cooked through.
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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.