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, and indirect grilling, yielding perfectly tender, juicy, and flavorful BBQ chicken every time. The only grilled barbecue chicken recipe you’ll need from now on!
- one 4–5-pound package bone-in chicken thighs (see Recipe Notes)
- kosher salt, to season
- 2 cups BBQ sauce of choice
- for serving, as desired: extra BBQ sauce of choice, freshly snipped chives, grilled corn, potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, cornbread, etc.
for the grilled BBQ chicken marinade/brine:
- one 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 ½ teaspoons chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons mustard powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- optional: ⅛-¼ 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and cook for 2 minutes. Flip the chicken and 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 and crispy. Repeat 2-3 times, until your chicken is as charred and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 ½ cups of buttermilk for the chicken brine.
- Barbeque sauce: Homemade is always an option, but there are so many incredible store-bought BBQ sauces these days! My all-time favorites are Lillie’s Q & the Burman’s BBQ sauces at ALDI. Both offer a variety for each major BBQ region (Kansas City, Memphis, Texas, & Carolina), so it’s fun to be able to pick & choose whatever you’re in the mood for.
- 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 and preparing the dry rub according to the Prep notes. At dinnertime, all you have to do is fire up the grill, season the chicken, and grill. Easy!