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Despite living in the Midwest my entire life, I was never really a summer person until Chris & I moved to Minnesota 5 years ago. There’s something about living in one of the coldest, snowiest places in the country that’ll make you stop & really appreciate a little sunshine, ya know?
During the summer months, Chris & I fall into the most deliciously relaxed routine (emphasis on delicious!), complete with quiet early morning walks by the lakes, sunny days on the water, & summery evenings in our backyard enjoying a grilled dinner & the warmth of the late sunset.
I look forward to it all year long. Pure bliss.
Even though we might be spending more time at home this summer (or, at least, for the foreseeable future), I’ll still be spending as much time as possible outside, safely enjoying the warm weather & grilling up some of our favorite summer staples.
When it comes to summer staples, grilled BBQ chicken is one of my favorites. It’s classic, it’s simple, & it’s always a crowd-pleaser (even if you’re just grilling for a crowd of 2 these days). Plus, when done right, it’s pretty much the perfect grilled food: juicy, smoky, & deeelicious.
That’s the thing, though. You gotta do it the right way. Since grilled barbecue chicken is so simple, it’s surprisingly difficult to really nail…until today, that is.
Just in time for summer, the very best grilled BBQ chicken recipe!
Grilled BBQ chicken can be tricky to master: chicken is notorious for drying out & BBQ sauce can quickly turn into a sticky, burnt mess on the grill.
Lucky for you, that’s not the case with this recipe; you’re in good hands here! Following a few simple PWWB tips & tricks, you’ll be cooking up the best BBQ chicken on the grill all summer long.
This grilled barbecue chicken recipe is…
- JUICY. Giving the chicken a quick brine before it hits the grill helps ensure it stays totally juicy & tender – no dried out barbecue chicken here!
- SMOKY & FULL-FLAVORED. This recipe starts with a simple brine & the most perfect dry rub, & is finished with your favorite BBQ sauce, creating grilled BBQ chicken that’s seasoned & flavorful all the way through.
- EASY. Cooking with indirect heat means that the chicken practically grills itself. Very little hands-on time is required, making it perfect for both weekend cookouts & quick weeknight dinners all summer long.
- AFFORDABLE. You can get everything you need to make this grilled BBQ chicken – from the spices to amazing & high-quality chicken, to the best BBQ sauce ever – at ALDI!
I’ve forever been a fan of their high-quality products (& those affordable ALDI prices don’t hurt either!). ALDI is my favorite place to shop always, but especially during grilling season!
Juicy, smoky, flavorful, & easy…when it comes to BBQ chicken, I’m not sure it gets better than that. ♡ Read on to learn more about this grilled barbecue chicken, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!
The best BBQ chicken calls for the simplest ingredients!
The best thing about grilled BBQ chicken is the fact that you’ve likely got everything you need to make it on hand at any point in time. Absolutely necessary for any summer staple!
The cast of characters includes… (Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below):
- chicken – You can use whatever chicken parts you love most for this BBQ chicken recipe: breasts, drumsticks, wings, leg quarters, thighs – it all works! Personally, I have a thing for chicken thighs; I think they’re the tastiest, most flavorful & juicy part of the chicken.
- beer or buttermilk, used for a quick BBQ chicken marinade. Both are delicious in their own right. Beer lends an awesome funky flavor (the darker the beer, the better!), while buttermilk tenderizes the chicken. Use whatever you’ve got on hand or whatever you’re in the mood for.
- spices, like chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, mustard powder, onion powder, & smoked paprika, which, when combined with a little bit of brown sugar, create the easiest & most delicious dry rub for chicken. I buy all my spices & staples at ALDI. They’re super high quality, fragrant & full-flavored, & totally affordable.
- BBQ sauce – Use your fave! You can, of course, make your own BBQ sauce from scratch. With so many amazing bottled BBQ sauces out there, I always opt to just grab something from the store. The Burman’s BBQ sauces at ALDI are my personal favorite. With a variety for each major BBQ region (Kansas City, Memphis, Texas, & Carolina), it’s fun to pick & choose what you’re in the mood for whenever you make grilled BBQ chicken. I always keep a bottle of each stocked in my pantry.
What’s the best chicken to use for grilled barbecue chicken?
Before we talk through the “how-to,” let’s chat chicken for a second. The best chicken parts to use for BBQ chicken is whatever parts you love most. Seriously!
This grilled barbecue chicken recipe will work great with chicken breasts, chicken thighs, drumsticks, leg quarters, & chicken wings – whatever you love most! I’m especially partial to chicken thighs, which is why you see them pictured in this post.
That said, a couple of quick notes:
- Bone-in vs boneless chicken: If possible, I strongly suggest using bone-in chicken parts, as they tend to be more flavorful & juicy than boneless.
- Skin-on vs skinless: Whether you leave the chicken skin on is up to you. Removing the skin from your chicken will yield what you likely think of when you think of grilled BBQ chicken: a chicken piece coated in layers of BBQ sauce. Because this grilled barbecue chicken recipe involves a dry rub & the chicken skin gets perfectly crisp on the grill, I also like making some pieces with the skin still on. The chicken skin will soak up the sauce pretty quickly, so it’s best to only add BBQ sauce to the skin-on side just as you serve it. (Soggy, saucy chicken skin is no good!)
How to grill BBQ chicken:
Grilling BBQ chicken is really simple, but doing it the right way requires a little bit of technique. This recipe utilizes a quick brine, a flavorful dry rub, & indirect grilling, a simple combination that yields perfectly tender, juicy, & flavorful BBQ chicken every time. You’ll be making the absolute best BBQ chicken on the grill in no time!
Note: full Recipe Directions are provided in the Recipe Card, below.
#1 – Start with an easy grilled BBQ chicken marinade.
Before you panic about the need to mix up a complicated marinade for your chicken, let me assure you we’re keeping things really minimal here. This grilled BBQ chicken marinade is actually a simple brine!
Because chicken is pretty lean, marinating or brining it before you barbecue it is key. A quick brine will help ensure your grilled barbecue chicken stays totally juicy & doesn’t dry out on the grill.
2 brine options:
- Beer brine: Even if you’re not a beer lover (I’m not either), soaking chicken in beer adds an incredibly rich, deep flavor to the chicken. It’s my favorite grilled chicken trick. For best flavor, use a full-bodied, dry & hoppy beer, such as an IPA.
- Buttermilk brine: If beer isn’t your thing (totally get it!), you can use buttermilk, which is totally classic & has the added benefit of tenderizing the chicken. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can DIY it by adding a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to regular ol’ milk.
You can brine your chicken for up to 3 days in the fridge, but if you only have 15 minutes before dinner needs to get on the grill, please don’t skip this step. Even the quickest brine will make a difference!
#2 – Layer on the best grilled BBQ chicken rub.
My go-to BBQ chicken rub is so simple to make with pantry spices, & it’s filled with flavor. It takes less than 5 minutes to mix up. You’ll want to grill with it all summer long!
Chili powder, paprika, & cumin add rich, smokiness, while garlic powder, onion powder & mustard powder provide nice aromatics & the littlest bit of brown sugar adds the perfect kiss of sweetness.
I always suggest making a double or triple batch. It’s great on grilled chicken, of course, but it’s also awesome on pork, steaks, or sprinkled on burgers. It’s an all-purpose dry rub that you’ll turn to time & time again!
#3 – Get grilling!
Now for the fun part – grilling up your chicken!
The secret to perfectly cooked, juicy & tender grilled BBQ chicken lies in zone grilling. By creating 2 zones of heat on your grill, you can cook your chicken with really gentle, steady indirect heat before finishing it over strong direct heat. The result? Grilled BBQ chicken that’s perfectly juicy & tender through the middle, with the best crispy & charred exterior.
If you’ve never grilled with indirect heat before, don’t panic. It’s the simplest thing.
- BBQ chicken on a gas grill with zone grilling – Prepare your gas grill for indirect cooking, by turning 1-2 burners of your grill on to their highest setting & leaving the remaining 1-2 burners of your grill shut off completely. This creates a zone of direct heat (directly over the burner flames) & a zone of indirect heat (the area of the grill where the burners are shut off).
- BBQ chicken on a charcoal grill with zone grilling – Prepare your charcoal grill for indirect cooking, by lighting charcoal and arranging it on just one side of your grill. This creates a zone of direct heat (directly over the hot charcoal) & a zone of indirect heat (the area of the grill where there’s no charcoal).
Grilling BBQ Chicken:
- Cook with indirect heat first: Place the seasoned chicken on the indirect side of the grill (skin side up, if using skin-on chicken), as close to the fire as possible without being over the direct heat. Rotate the chicken 180 degrees every 15 minutes, & continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken (without hitting the bone) registers a temperature of 150 degrees F.
- Finish over direct heat: Move the chicken over direct heat to finish cooking. If using skin-on pieces, flip the chicken so the skin-side is down, which will help it get super crispy & charred. Baste the chicken with your BBQ sauce of choice. Let the chicken cook for 2 minutes, then flip it, baste it with more sauce, & cook for 2 minutes more*. Repeat 2-3 times, until your chicken is as charred & saucy as desired, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken (without hitting the bone) registers a temperature of 160 degrees F. Carryover heat will cause the internal temperature to continue to rise to a safe 165 degrees F as the chicken rests for 5-10 minutes before serving. (*Quick note: If using skin-on chicken, I suggest not basting the skin side with BBQ sauce so it stays keep it nice & crisp.)
BBQ chicken grill time:
How long to grill BBQ chicken depends on the temperature of your grill & the size of your chicken pieces. The best way to ensure your chicken is cooked through is to use an instant-read thermometer.
BBQ Chicken Grill Time Guidelines:
- Grilled BBQ Chicken Breasts: For boneless, skinless chicken breasts, begin checking for doneness after 10-15 minutes. For bone-in chicken breasts, begin checking for doneness after 20-25 minutes.
- Grilled BBQ Chicken Thighs: For boneless, skinless chicken thighs, begin checking for doneness after 10-12 minutes. For bone-in chicken thighs, begin checking for doneness after 15-20 minutes.
- Grilled BBQ Chicken Drumsticks: Begin checking for doneness after 15-20 minutes.
- Grilled BBQ Chicken Leg Quarters: Begin checking for doneness after 15-20 minutes.
Because we use 2-zone grilling, there are 3 internal temperatures you want to check for when you make this grilled barbecue chicken recipe: move the chicken from indirect to direct heat once its internal temperature is 150 degrees F, then pull the chicken from the grill once its internal temperature is 160 degrees F. Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before serving; carryover heat will cause the internal temperature to continue to rise to a safe 165 degrees F as the chicken rests.
*More Grilling Tips & Tricks
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The best part: serving! What goes with BBQ chicken:
When it comes to side dishes for grilled barbecue chicken, I like to keep things super classic. A few of my faves:
- Ready-Made Classic Potato Salad, Coleslaw, & Macaroni Salad are all available at ALDI – my favorite summertime shortcut!
- Pasta salad – Pure summertime food! Try this Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad or this Creamy Southwest Pasta Salad – they’re both always a hit.
- Grilled veggies – No summer plate is complete without some grilled veggies. Grill up some corn on the cob, peppers & onions, or sweet potatoes!
- Panzanella – Another one of my summertime favorites. This recipe is perfect since you’ll already have the grill fired up for your BBQ chicken.
My ideal plate? A Grilled BBQ Chicken Bowl! Dice up your chicken & serve it over greens & quinoa, with grilled veggies, a little sharp cheddar, & some guac for good measure. Weeknight dinner perfection!
I can’t wait for you to try this Grilled Barbecue Chicken recipe. It’s so classic, totally easy, & I’m certain that it’ll be a staple at your house once you master it this summer!
If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡Print
Say hello to your newest go-to summer staple, the best Grilled BBQ Chicken recipe! This easy recipe utilizes a quick BBQ chicken marinade, a flavorful BBQ chicken dry rub, & indirect grilling, yielding perfectly tender, juicy, & flavorful BBQ chicken every time. The only grilled barbecue chicken recipe you’ll need from now on!
- 1 4-5-pound package bone-in chicken thighs from ALDI (see Recipe Notes)
- kosher salt, to season
- 2 cups Burman’s BBQ sauce of choice (found at ALDI)
- for serving, as desired: extra Burman’s BBQ sauce of choice, freshly snipped chives, grilled corn, potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, cornbread, etc.
for the grilled BBQ chicken marinade/brine:
- 1 16-ounce beer of choice (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
for the grilled BBQ chicken dry rub:
- 3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- optional: 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Chicken: If you’d like to make BBQ chicken without the skin, tear the skin off of each chicken thigh. If you’d like to make skin-on BBQ chicken, simply trim off any excess skin or fat.
- Dry rub: Add all listed ingredients to a small bowl or jar. Stir to combine. Set aside, or store on your spice rack in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Grilled BBQ Chicken:
- Brine the chicken: Add the beer (or buttermilk) to a large bowl or ziptop bag. Add in the kosher salt and stir to combine. Add the chicken, submerging all the parts in the beer mixture. Set aside to brine for at least 20 minutes or up to 2 days. If brining longer than 1 hour, be sure to store the chicken in the brine in an airtight container or ziptop bag in the refrigerator. If I have the time, I usually try to brine for at least 12 hours.
- Preheat the grill: Prepare your grill for indirect cooking, creating a zone of direct high heat & a second zone of indirect heat. If using a gas grill, begin preheating at least 15 minutes before grilling. If using charcoal, light the charcoal at least 30 minutes prior to grilling. (To learn more about zone grilling, be sure to check out this post.)
- Season the chicken: Once the grill is hot, remove the chicken from the brine, patting off any excess moisture with a paper towel. Season generously with salt & the BBQ chicken dry rub. If using skin-on chicken, work your fingers under the skin to season both sides of the skin.
- Grill the barbecue chicken: Place the seasoned chicken on the indirect side of the grill (skin side up, if using skin-on chicken), as close to the fire as possible without being over the direct heat. Cook the chicken, rotating the pieces 180 degrees every 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken (without hitting the bone) registers a temperature of 150 degrees F. Depending on the size of your chicken & the temperature of your grill, this could take as little as 15 minutes or up to 40 minutes.
- Baste the chicken: Move the chicken over direct heat. If using skin-on pieces, flip the chicken so the skin-side is down. Use a pastry brush to baste the BBQ chicken with BBQ sauce & cook for 2 minutes. Flip the chicken & cook for 2 minutes more. If using skinless chicken, baste the second side with BBQ sauce; if using skin-on chicken, I suggest not applying BBQ sauce to the skin to keep it nice & crispy. Repeat 2-3 times, until your chicken is as charred & saucy as desired and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken (without hitting the bone) registers a temperature of 160 degrees F. Remove from the grill and set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes. Carryover heat will cause the internal temperature to continue to rise as it rests. The chicken will be ready to serve once an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken (without hitting the bone) registers a temperature of 165 degrees F.
- Serve your grilled BBQ chicken with extra BBQ sauce and your favorite summer side dishes. Enjoy!
- Best chicken to use for grilled BBQ chicken: Use whatever you love most – seriously. This recipe will work great with chicken breasts, chicken thighs, chicken wings, drumsticks – whatever you love! I prefer chicken thighs, which is what you see pictured in this blog post.
- Bone-in vs boneless: If possible, I strongly suggest using bone-in chicken parts, as they tend to be more flavorful & juicy than boneless parts.
- Skin-on vs skinless: Whether or not you leave the skin on the chicken is up to you. Removing the skin from your chicken will help you create what you likely think of when you think of grilled BBQ chicken – a chicken piece coated in layers of BBQ sauce. Because this recipe involves a dry rub & the chicken skin gets perfectly crispy on the grill, I also like making some pieces with the skin still on. The chicken skin will soak up the sauce pretty quickly, so it’s best to only add BBQ sauce to the skin-on side just as you serve it. (Soggy, saucy chicken skin is no good!). It just depends on what you’re craving!
- Brining liquid: Beer brined chicken is simply the best! Even if you don’t love the flavor of beer or you’re not typically a beer drinker, a beer brine adds rich, earthy flavor to chicken that’s pretty hard to beat. For the best flavor, use a big, hoppy beer such as an IPA. If you’d prefer not to use beer, buttermilk is an awesome option – it makes the chicken extra juicy & tender. If you do not have buttermilk on hand, you can quickly DIY it by adding 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk. You’ll need 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk for the chicken brine.
- 10-minute meal prep: To prep your grilled barbecue chicken ahead of time, I suggest brining the chicken according to Step 1 of Recipe Directions & preparing the dry rub according to the Prep notes. At dinnertime, all you have to do is fire up the grill, season the chicken, & grill. Easy!
Keywords: grilled BBQ chicken, chicken recipes, grilling recipes, barbecue, grilled, easy, weeknight dinner, summer
Ready to Hit the Grill?
If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to Grilling 101, a compilation of tips & tricks for all of the grilling basics – everything from how to light your grill to how to clean your grill.
All this talk about grilling have you feelin’ ready to hit the grill? Me too! Be sure to check out this post for my 15 go-to marinades you need this grilling season. At our house, a good marinade is at the heart of grilling season. I’m positive these marinades will be on repeat at your house this summer! For even more grilled goodness, be sure to check out all of our Grilling & Smoking recipes.
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