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How to Make Barbecued Chicken

Smoky, juicy, tangy, sweet—how to make the American classic.

Length: 5:26
Produced By: Sarah Breckenridge; Videography by Gary Junken and Mike Dobsevage

In this video, test kitchen manager Julissa Roberts demonstrates Jamie Purviance's recipe for classic BBQ chicken, step by step. Read Jamie's tips and secrets below.

In the 15 years or so that I’ve been writing cookbooks and teaching classes about grilling and barbecue, I’ve heard one question over and over: “My barbecued chicken always burns on the outside but stays completely raw inside. What am I doing wrong?”

Usually, the answer is that the grill is too hot. Many would-be grill masters throw any kind of meat on the fire, then just cook it until it looks done. This is a particularly bad idea for bone-in chicken, because the outside will always burn before the meat near the bone is fully cooked. The key is to set up your grill with direct (hot) and indirect (cool) heat zones. This way, the chicken can slowly cook through over indirect heat, giving the fat a chance to render under the skin and keep the meat tender and juicy. Then, a quick turn over direct heat crisps the skin without burning it.

The other secrets to great barbecued chicken are adding hickory or applewood chips to the fire for smoky flavor, and waiting to coat the chicken with sauce until near the end of cooking, so it caramelizes but doesn’t scorch. It may be a few more steps, but that classic barbecue flavor is well worth the effort.


Recipe: Barbecued Chicken Legs

Need to Know
Choose dark meat. The legs are richer and fattier than breasts, and the extra bit of fat goes a long way toward keeping the meat from drying out.

Use a spice rub and a sauce. Sprinkle the rub on the chicken (as shown at right) before cooking so it can penetrate and flavor the meat. Brush the sauce on at the end of cooking to give the chicken another layer of flavor and a deliciously glazed exterior.

For a charcoal grill, use hardwood lump charcoal. It burns hotter than briquettes, and it lights quickly, so if you have to add more during cooking, you can just scatter unlit pieces on top of the lit ones. Charcoal briquettes, which are made from compressed hardwood byproducts and additives, take longer to light and can give off a chemical or sooty aroma while doing so.

Keep the temperature between 300°F and 350°F so that the meat doesn’t cook too quickly and dry out. if your grill doesn’t have a built-in thermometer, drop a heatproof probe thermometer through its top vent.

Add wood chips early. Smoke penetrates the chicken best when it’s close to raw. If you add chips throughout cooking, the meat may taste sooty.


Cook's Tip
Glaze the chicken with a few thin layers of sauce near the end of cooking. A thick coating would overpower the other flavors, and because of the sauce’s high sugar content, it would burn if added early. I use a silicone brush because it’s heat resistant, easy to clean, and doesn’t shed, as some other brushes do.

Tool Kit
In addition to the usual cookware and tools, you’ll need the following grill gear:

  • Digital probe thermometer, if not built into the grill
  • Wire grill brush
  • Applewood or hickory chips
  • Tongs that are 12 to 16 inches long
  • Long-handled silicone basting brush
  • Instant-read thermometer

For a Charcoal Grill

  • Hardwood lump charcoal
  • Chimney starter or lighter cubes
  • Long-reach butane lighter

For a Gas Grill

  • Smoker box, if not built in


Text and recipe by Jamie Purviance

from Fine Cooking
Issue 123

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