Classic Barbecue Chicken

Makes 6 servings
  • Active time: 45 min
    Total time: 1 hr 10 min
Nothing says summer quite like barbecue chicken. No matter how many culinary fads Americans latch onto, the simplicity of a classic tomato barbecue sauce just can't be beat. Sure, there are loads of bottled versions to choose from in the supermarket, but nothing is more satisfying than a homemade one. And it couldn't be easier to make! In fact, you've likely got the ingredients for the sauce already in your cupboard and fridge. So fire up the grill and let the good times begin.


For Barbecue Sauce:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup mild molasses
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For Chicken:

  • 5 1/2 to 6 pounds chicken parts, skin on, bones in
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  • A 22 1/2–inch charcoal kettle grill and a charcoal chimney; or a large gas grill


Make Barbecue Sauce:

  • Whisk together all sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil in a heavy 2–quart saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered, whisking occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 1 3/4 cups, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer 3/4 cup sauce to a bowl and reserve for dipping. Use remaining cup as directed while grilling the chicken.

Grill Chicken:

  • Prepare grill for indirect–heat cooking over medium–hot charcoal (medium–high heat for gas); see Grilling Procedure below.
  • Toss chicken with oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  • Oil grill rack, then arrange chicken pieces over area with no coals underneath (or over unlit gas burner; see Gas Grill Instructions below).
  • Grill (covered with lid), turning occasionally and moving chicken pieces around to avoid flare–ups and to help chicken cook evenly, until cooked through (165°F on instant–read thermometer), 20 to 25 minutes for breasts, thighs, and drumsticks; 12 to 15 minutes for wings.
  • About 3 minutes before chicken is done, brush it generously all over with barbecue sauce and continue to grill, covered, until chicken is cooked through.
  • Serve chicken with reserved 3/4 cup of sauce for dipping.


  • Barbecue sauce can be made 3 days ahead and kept covered and chilled.
  • If you don’t have access to a grill, chicken can be roasted, starting with skin sides up, in 2 lightly oiled shallow baking pans in upper and lower thirds of a 500°F oven, switching position of pans and turning chicken over halfway through roasting, until skin is crisp and chicken is cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes total. Brush with barbecue sauce 3 minutes before chicken is done.


Charcoal Grilling Instructions:

  • Open vents on bottom of grill. Light a large chimney starter full of charcoal (preferably hardwood).

For Indirect-heat Cooking:

  • Open vents on grill lid. When coals are lit, dump them out along two opposite sides of bottom rack, leaving a space free of charcoal in middle of rack equal to the size of the food to be grilled.
  • When charcoal turns grayish white (start checking coals after 15 minutes), the grill will be at its hottest and will then begin to cool off. It will be at the proper medium–hot temperature when you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill rack (directly above the coals) for 3 to 4 seconds.

Gas Grilling Instructions:

  • Preheat all burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then adjust heat according to recipe. For indirect–heat cooking, just before grilling, turn off 1 burner (middle burner if there are 3).
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