This is the best recipe for grilled BBQ Chicken – the chicken is extra juicy from brining, super flavorful from the spice rub and then finished with BBQ sauce. The perfect recipe for backyard barbecues!
There is nothing quite like summer food! Backyard barbecues are one of my favorite parts of hot weather, so I love having a lot of recipes on hand so we don’t get into a grilling rut.
And this BBQ chicken… I don’t use the term lightly, but it’s just the best! I don’t know if I could ever grow tired of it. It’s a little more work than just basting the chicken with sauce, but I promise the extra few minutes are so worth it!
Ingredients you’ll need
Here is a visual overview of the ingredients in the recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities!
- Chicken: You can use whatever chicken pieces you like. I went to our local butcher and got a sampling from everything for the pictures – chicken breast, drumsticks, thighs and wings. You can do bone-in or boneless, leave the skin on or remove it. It really doesn’t matter and you can absolutely just pick what you prefer.
- BBQ sauce: You will use this to baste the chicken in the end, so the flavor is pretty strong and should be one you enjoy. I used a very sweet Heinz BBQ sauce because it’s the only one my children will eat, but if it was just me… I’d go for a Hickory Bourbon flavor. Stubbs or Sweet Baby Ray’s are my favorite brands.
- Spices: Feel free to use your favorite ready-made BBQ rub if you prefer. I used to buy a mix, but with the kids I now make my own without even the slightest hint of spiciness (they think cinnamon is too spicy, so you get the picture…). You can easily add chili powder or cayenne pepper for some heat.
How to make the best BBQ Chicken
1. Start by trimming any excess fat from your chicken pieces. Combine all of the brine ingredients in the largest bowl you own and submerge the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
2. Once ready to cook, combine the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl. Heat your grill on high heat.
3. Remove the chicken from the brine, discard the brine. Pat the chicken dry with paprika towels, then coat each chicken piece with spice mix.
4. Place the chicken skin-side down on the hot grill. Reduce the heat to 360°F and grill the chicken covered for 10 minutes. Flip, then grill with the lid closed for another 5-10 minutes (depending on the size and thickness of your chicken pieces).
Open the lid and increase the heat to 425°F. Keep grilling the chicken on both sides for another 5-10 minutes, until the chicken is crispy with good browning/grill marks on the outside.
5. Once the chicken is nearly done (at about 155°F), baste it with BBQ sauce. Grill uncovered for 2 minutes, then flip, baste again, and grill for another 2 minutes.
Once the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, remove it from the grill and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Depending on the chicken pieces you use and their exact size, not all of them may cook in the same time frame.
If you notice a large temperature difference after 20-25 minutes on the grill, you could take the ones that have already reached 165°F off and keep them covered on a plate. Finish grilling the other pieces, then put the ones from the plate back on when you start basting with the BBQ sauce.
I love make ahead recipes when all I want to do is enjoy summer.
You can start brining the chicken up to 24 hours ahead of grilling it, and you can combine the spice rub as well. Then, all you have to do before dinner is to season the chicken and throw it on the grill!
Altering the quantity:
This makes enough to feed 8 people (or 6 hungry ones/teenagers, ha!). If you have a smaller family, you can easily cut the recipe in half.
If you need a large quantity for a party or a larger gathering, you can double it – you need a really large bowl for the brine, or you’ll need to divide it between two bowls. I highly recommend multiplying the spice rub by 2.5 if you’re doubling the recipe, because it tends to start sticking to your fingers and you’d rather have a little more than a little less.
BBQ chicken usually does come with pretty classic summer side dishes – pretty much the same as for Oven Fried Chicken. Which is exactly how we love it! Some of our favorites:
- Crockpot Baked Beans
- Grilled Corn on the Cob (or Air Fryer Corn on the Cob)
- Creamy Dill Potato Salad
- Classic Macaroni Salad
And… the kids will always ask for a hot dog or burger bun on the side, and I oblige because it’s not easy to get them to eat much when it’s hot out. I don’t really bake bread in the summer, but if you wanted to go all out and make your own… Dinner rolls are really nice, and so is a classic white bread!
Grilled BBQ Chicken
- 2 quart water
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 4-5 lbs chicken pieces I used a mix of boneless/skinless chicken breast and bone-in, skin-on thighs, drumsticks and wings
Spice rub (or use your favorite ready-made BBQ rub)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup BBQ sauce or more to taste
- Brine chicken: Combine brine ingredients in a very large bowl. Trim any excess fat off chicken, then submerge chicken in brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and for up to 24 hours.
- Prepare for grilling: Once ready to cook, heat grill on high. Combine all ingredients for spice mix in a small bowl.
- Prepare chicken: Remove chicken from brine, discard brine. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Rub each chicken piece with spice mix all over.
- Grill covered: Lower heat from grill to 360°F (on a gas grill; if using charcoal, place chicken over indirect heat). Place chicken skin-side up on grill. Close lid and grill for 10 minutes. Flip chicken, then grill with lid closed for another 5-10 minutes (depending on how large your chicken pieces are).
- Grill uncovered: Increase grill to 425°F (or move chicken over direct heat). Keep grilling chicken, uncovered, for 5-8 minutes, flipping once or twice, until browned with grill marks.
- Baste and finish: Once chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 155°F, baste with BBQ sauce. Grill for 2 minutes, flip, baste again, the grill for another 2 minutes. Once chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F, remove chicken to a plate. Rest for 5 minutes, then serve.