Without a doubt, this BBQ chicken is insanely juicy, perfectly charred, and glistening with my secret homemade BBQ sauce. And if you’re new to barbecuing, this foolproof method will have you shining at your next summer cookout.
First, Let’s Talk Barbecue vs Grill
Often times, grilling and barbecue are used interchangeably (I thought the same). But they’re actually two completely different ways of cooking.
Grilling is what we’re typically used to, where foods are seared hot and fast over a direct heat source. This calls for items like burger patties, steaks, vegetables, and seafood. These types of items don’t need a long cooking time – like my garlic grilled shrimp skewers, grilled salmon steaks, or grilled corn on the cob. Just a short 10 to 20 minutes will have them perfectly cooked.
But when you’re grilling thicker, bone-in foods like chicken thighs or drumsticks, beef ribs, brisket, or pork, you want to barbecue them. Meaning, they need to be cooked low and slow for at least a few hours, away from direct heat. The results are extra tender, juicy, and especially delicious when slathered with my homemade BBQ sauce!
Ingredients You’ll Need
In terms of ingredients, you don’t need much really. Just a bunch of chicken thighs and drumsticks, a homemade dry rub, and some BBQ sauce. But what goes into the dry rub and BBQ sauce will make all the difference. So take note below.
- Chicken Thighs & Drumsticks: Make sure to use bone-in, skin-on chicken for maximum juiciness.
- Dry Rub: A simple combination of kosher salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, onion powder, and black pepper adds heaps of flavor to the chicken.
- BBQ Sauce: Of course, I love my homemade BBQ sauce (which I use in this recipe) as it has no junky ingredients. But you can use any BBQ sauce that you love. This is going to be the final touch on your chicken, so choose wisely!
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
Best Types of Chicken for BBQ
Chicken thighs will always remain a favorite, just because they’re extra tender and don’t dry out as easily as other cuts. But, chicken legs are also a great option for those who like munching on drumsticks! Either way, make sure to leave the skin on. It helps to keep the chicken moist as it undergoes the barbecue process.
Side note: Chicken breasts can be an option, you’ll just cook them to a lower final temperature of 160°F (71°C). But from my experience, bone-in chicken yields the best results.
Essential Grilling Tools
Become a grill master with just 3 tools – a basting brush, large tongs, and thermometer.
- Basting Brush: This silicone basting brush is my all-time favorite! Not only is it easy to use, but the cleanup is minimal.
- Large Tongs: Make sure to grab long tongs! This will make it easier to flip the chicken pieces over a hot and flaming grill.
- Thermometer: An instant read thermometer is key to making sure your chicken is perfectly cooked through. Just give it a quick poke towards the end!
How to Make Baked BBQ Chicken
The #1 thing to remember about barbecuing is to create a balanced heat source. You either want your grill to have a cool and hot side (where you can cook in indirect heat), or keep the heat on low the entire time. Either way, the general idea here is to cook your chicken low and slow.
Pro tip: If you have a 3-burner grill, you can turn two burners on and leave one burner off (watch the video below to see how I do that).
Prep the chicken. Place the chicken on a large baking sheet and bring to room temperature. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Mix the dry rub. Stir the dry rub in a small bowl, sprinkle it onto each piece of chicken, then rub it all over with your hands to make sure the chicken is well coated. Don’t forget to rub the spices under the skin too!
Prep the grill. Prepare one side of your grill for high, direct heat, leaving the burners off on the other side. If you are using charcoal or wood, make sure there is a cool side to the grill where there are few to no coals.
Grill the chicken. Lay the chicken on the indirect heat side of the grill, yet close to the heart. Cover and cook the chicken for 30 to 35 minutes, flipping each piece every 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 160°F (71°C) to 165°F (74°C).
Brush with BBQ sauce. Brush the chicken with BBQ sauce and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, covered. Flip the chicken, brush with more BBQ sauce, and cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat this process until the chicken thighs and drumsticks reach 170°F (77°C) to 175°F (80°C).
Serve. Remove the chicken to a serving plate, and serve it up with a side of extra BBQ sauce!
A Few Tips For The Best BBQ Chicken
- Bring your chicken to room temperature before grilling. If it’s chilled, it may take longer to cook or burn more easily on the outside. So get your baking sheet ready and lay your chicken out between 20 to 30 minutes before starting.
- Don’t skip the dry rub! Sure, you can just add salt and pepper and call it a day. But we’re talking about barbecuing chicken with lots of flavor. So make the dry rub – it’ll add that extra layer of spices and help crisp up the skin.
- Check the internal temperature. You’ll know your chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches about 175°F (80°C).
- Do an extra sear for a more blackened skin. Get that extra charred skin by giving your chicken pieces a quick sear on the hot side of the grill. Just arrange them skin side down, for a quick 1 to 2 minutes. Keep an eye on them, otherwise they’ll burn!
- To store: Make sure the chicken is cool before storing away in an airtight container. It will last for 4 to 5 days in the fridge.
- To freeze: Store the BBQ chicken in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy, thaw in the fridge the night before. Then, you can reheat for 1 to 2 minutes in the microwave. For crispier skin bake them in the oven or air fry them!
Grilled BBQ Chicken Recipe Video
If you need some visual guidance for this barbecue chicken – watch the video below! And if you have any questions along the way, pop a comment below.
More Summer Cookout Recipes
This BBQ chicken always deserves prime real estate on a cookout table. If you need a few ideas on what to pair with the chicken, I’ve got plenty of crowd-pleasing options!
- Classic Potato Salad
- Broccoli Salad
- Grilled Watermelon
- Coleslaw (or Vinegar Coleslaw if you don’t like mayo!)
- Caprese Salad (or this avocado caprese salad)
Without a doubt, this BBQ chicken will have all the barbecue aficionados on their toes. So if you make it for 4th of July, Labor Day, or any cookout day, let me know how it turned out! I’d love to hear what everyone thinks of this recipe.
BBQ Chicken (Grilled)
- 3 ½ to 4 pounds (about 12 to 14 pieces) chicken thighs or drumsticks (bone-in and skin-on)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup BBQ sauce
- Prep the chicken. Place the chicken thighs on a large baking sheet and bring to room temperature. Pat dry with a paper towel.
- Mix the dry rub. In a small bowl, combine the salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Sprinkle the rub over the chicken and use your hands to make sure the chicken is well coated on all sides (and under the skin if you'd like).
- Prep the grill. Prepare one side of your grill for high, direct heat, leaving the burners on the other side off. If you are using charcoal or wood, make sure there is a cool side to the grill where there are few to no coals. Watch the video above to see how I do this!
- Grill the chicken. Lay the chicken on the indirect heat side of the grill, yet close to the heat. Cover, and cook the chicken for 30 to 35 minutes, flipping the chicken every 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 160°F to 165°F.
- Brush with BBQ sauce. Brush the chicken with BBQ sauce and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, covered. Flip the chicken, brush with more BBQ sauce, and cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat this process until the chicken thighs and drumsticks reach 175°F.
- Serve. Remove the chicken to a serving plate. Serve with extra BBQ sauce if desired.
- If you’re using my BBQ sauce recipe, you can always make that the day before to simplify prep work and grilling. Just store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it!
- If you don’t have a grill, you can bake your chicken thighs using my crispy baked chicken thighs recipe. Just slather the BBQ sauce on the pieces towards the end!