In my experience, the food I see most abused when I go to a cookout is chicken. The combination of fatty skin, sweet barbecue sauce, and high heat results in what often looks like chunks of cinder. You can try scraping off that bitter, black coating, but its flavor and aroma—what I call "eau d'ashtray"—flavors the meat.
The secret to great barbecued chicken, one with moist, tender meat and sticky, pleasantly smoky skin, is to lower the heat of the fire and leave the sauce off until the last minutes of cooking. Most of the flavor comes from a spice rub that's been on the bird from the get-go and from the smoke of the fire, both of which fully permeate the meat during the long, slow cooking.
My method (Get the recipe: Classic Barbecued Chicken) may take longer than most recipes for barbecued chicken, but there's less work involved (If it's speed you're after, try this recipe for Fastest Barbecued Chicken, using boneless thighs). Because you're cooking over a low fire, and because the sauce (the real culprit behind cinder-chicken) doesn't go on until late in the game, you don't have to stand vigil, moving chicken pieces around a hot fire and trying in vain to stave off the inevitable flare-ups.
5 Essential Tips for Great BBQ Chicken
Position a pan of water next to the coals. This helps keep the chicken moist as it cooks.
Arrange the chicken (spice-rubbed only, no sauce yet!) anywhere but directly over the fire. The bigger pieces go closer to the flame.
Maintain a temperature between 230º and 250ºF, opening or closing the vents and adding charcoal as needed.
Baste with apple juice after half an hour. Continue to cook the chicken for about 3 hours, basting every 45 minutes.
Wait until the chicken is cooked through before basting with the sauce. Give it a couple of minutes on the fire for the sauce to glaze the meat.