It’s been a while since I posted a chicken based recipe. I’ve been playing around with this barbecue chicken recipe for a long time and I think I finally nailed it. A heads up here, I prefer to grill BBQ chicken on a charcoal grill. Charcoal really does something special with chicken and this recipe unleashes all the right flavors.
I’m also adamant that BBQ chicken has to come from skin on, bone-in chicken thighs, or even quartered chicken with the thighs and legs. You can do this recipe with chicken breasts, BUT it will not taste as good. Chicken thighs are a darker meat that contain more fat than any other piece of chicken, and that adds flavor, especially with the mop sauce and charcoal heat source. Yes that is right, we are using a MOP sauce with this recipe.
Disclaimer: Right now I have a nice bottle of J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon (2019 to be exact), and a great music play list inspiring me to make this recipe a little extra special. My opinions come out more when I have wine, so lets see where this takes us.
What Makes Great BBQ Chicken?
For me, great BBQ chicken needs a couple of crucial check boxes filled.
- Sauce: You need a great Mop Sauce to slather your chicken during the entire cook. I like to slather my chicken every 15-20 minutes. BBQ Chicken takes time because we cook it on a lower temp and we are constantly hitting it with a zesty sauce.
- Char: You need a little char on your chicken. Not too much, but just enough. The char adds a new dimension to the flavor that cannot be replicated from an oven, pan, or some stupid Instant Pot cooker. Use your charcoal, gas or even pellet grill to cook this chicken right.
- Chicken Thighs. Thighs are so under rated amongst the general populace. Everyone is looking for boneless skinless chicken breast, when all the flavor is in the thighs. Luckily thighs haven’t seen massive price increases like so many other cuts of meat. Get skin-on bone-in thighs for this recipe, because that is the cut you need for real BBQ Chicken.
- Seasoning: YOU MUST SEASON YOUR CHICKEN BEFORE THE COOK. Use any of your favorite chicken or rib rub seasoning mixes, but make sure they do not contain any sugar. Sugar burns quickly, so stay away.
So What is Mop Sauce?
Mop sauce is essentially a low viscosity barbecue sauce that aids in slowing the cook of the meat down, and adds flavor and color to the meat. When we are constantly mopping the chicken, we are reducing the cook rate because the grill will lose some temperature, the sauce will slightly cool the outside of the chicken, and the sauce will add flavor and color by cooking into the chicken.
Our mop sauce contains bbq sauce, water and Italian salad dressing as a base. The vinegar from the dressing will add a tang to the chicken.
How To Grill Amazing BBQ Chicken
Overall it is quite an easy meat to grill. What is important is grilling at a lower temp, greasing the grill grates, flipping the chicken regularly and mopping the $%1& out of it. Here’s my basic overview.
- Fire up the (preferably charcoal) grill to 300F. Not too hot or too low. 300F seems to work well as you will not overly sear the chicken, and allow for a nice slow cook. 300F gives you time to keep saucing the chicken and reduce the chance of over cooking.
- Flip Constantly: I like to flip the thighs every 15-20 mins, in combination of slathering them with the mop sauce. This creates an even cook and lets the sauce add flavor.
- Charcoal or Pellet Fuel: I prefer charcoal for this recipe but my Yoder YS640S does an amazing job with BBQ chicken. I can fit a lot more chicken on my pellet grill and perfect temperature management is easy. If I’m using the charcoal grill, I use my Thermoworks Billows fan and Signals controller to dial in the temps to 300F.
- Indirect Heat: If I’m using my charcoal grill I utilize indirect heat. Charcoal on one side of the grill and the chicken on the other. This makes for a nice slow even cook. If I’m using the pellet grill, I use the top rack to keep the chicken away from hot grill grates.
Good BBQ Chicken Must have a Mop Sauce
This is the key to any good BBQ chicken. Mop Sauce. When you constantly slather the chicken every 20 minutes with this zesty sauce, it slows the cook, adds a tangy flavor and increases the beautiful red color that you want in BBQ chicken. I base my mop sauce off of Malcolm Reeds Mop Sauce from How to BBQ right. He nailed it, but I changed a couple things.
Angry BBQ Chicken Recipe
- 12 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
- 2 tbsp seasoning
- 1/4 cup BBQ Sauce
- 2 cups Water
- 1 cup Italian dressing
- 4 ounce BBQ Sauce
- 1/4 cup Chicken Rub
- 1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
- 1/2 tsp Cumin
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire
- 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
- Heat up the grill to 300F. Create an indirect heat zone if using charcoal grill.
- Trim the chicken and remove any excess fat or extra skin.
- Season the chicken with your favorite rub and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes minimum.
- Combine all the ingredients and whisk for 1 minute until mixed well.
- Once the mop sauce is complete and the chicken has absorbed the rub for a minimum of 30 minutes. Place the chicken on the heated grill (indirect heat side), presentation side down. We want slight grill marks on the presentation side.
- After 15-20 minutes, mop the chicken with the sauce, flip the chicken and sauce again. Close the lid and allow to grill for another 20 minutes. Continue to do this every 15-20 minutes. I flip the chicken at least 5-8 times per cook.
- Try to get a slight char on the chicken. This adds flavor.
- When the chicken approaches 160F, slather the chicken with the BBQ sauce. Not the mop sauce. We want the BBQ sauce to thicken and get tacky.
- After the BBQ Sauce, regularly check the chicken temperature with your instant read thermometer. Once it hits 165-170F, remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes.