Grilled BBQ Chicken with Homemade BBQ Sauce

Grilled BBQ Chicken enveloped in a tantalizing spice rub, slathered with Homemade Barbecue Sauce and grilled to perfection for the best juicy, smokey flavorful chicken every single time!

Grilled BBQ Chicken is super quick and easy and doesn’t require a marinade so it is perfect for last minute dinners or entertaining.  You can use my insanely delicious Homemade Barbecue Sauce or your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce.  I’ve included tips and tricks and cooking times for different cuts of chicken so you are fully quipped to make Grilled Barbecue chicken in all its juicy, saucy, caramelized-edged glory.

GRILLED BBQ CHICKEN RECIPE VIDEO

picking up a piece of grilled bbq chicken

What Makes the Best BBQ Chicken on the Grill?

Grilled BBQ Chicken is always a crowd pleaser – when it’s done right.  And this Grilled BBQ Chicken is done right.  Both Patrick and I were expecting to love this Barbecue Chicken but we were inhaling this chicken.  This Grilled BBQ Chicken deserves to become a dinner time staple along with favorites Nashville Hot Chicken and Baked Fried Chicken.

What sets this Grilled BBQ Chicken recipe apart from the rest is the homemade spice rub and homemade Barbecue Sauce.   I’ve scaled down both the rub and barbecue sauce from my  BBQ Brisket, BBQ Ribs, and BBQ Brisket Sandwiches because you don’t mess with perfection. If you haven’t tried any of these barbecue recipes yet, then it’s time, starting with this Barbecue Chicken!  Here are just a few comments regarding the Homemade Barbecue Sauce (on my ribs post):

“Absolutely incredible!! My husband is a huge BBQ rib fan. He’s been to rib competitions always looking for the best BBQ sauce. He was blown away. I haven’t even finished digesting and felt the need to leave this comment asap. Lol thank you...” – Danielle

The BBQ sauce is some of the best I have tasted!”  -Beth

….The best part is your BBQ sauce. That is the best I have ever had and I will be making my own (your recipe) from here on out. I was skeptical reading all the posts about how good it was and I now know why. Absolutely amazing…” – Terry

“…That bbq sauce is amazing, I will definitely be using that sauce from now on!” – Kristen

So while it’s easier and more convenient to squeeze a bunch of store-bought barbecue sauce on your grilled barbecue chicken, I promise the homemade barbecue sauce is very simple to make and tantalizingly delicious!

far away top view of the best grilled BBQ chicken on a white plate

What Should I Season Grilled BBQ Chicken with?

Along with the homemade barbecue sauce, your chicken needs a dynamite rub.  If you just slather a piece of grilled chicken in barbecue sauce, I promise you will be disappointed. If you just marinate your chicken in barbecue sauce, I promise you will be disappointed.   If you want multi-dimensional restaurant delicious Grilled Barbecue Chicken, then it needs a spice rub and barbecue sauce.

I am a huge believer in the elevating power of spice rubs.   I use a spice rub in my Carne Asada recipe and I use a spice rub in my Buffalo Hot Wings which I believe transforms them into some of the best out there.

For this Grilled BBQ Chicken spice rub we whisk together:

Once you rub your chicken with olive oil and the spice rub, you can let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, or cover or transfer to a freezer size bag and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  24 hours is optimal but even with just 30 minutes of resting, your chicken will be taken to a whole new level of YUM.

showing how to make grilled bbq chicken by rubbing chicken in a spice rub

Grilled BBQ Chicken Breast

If you want to make Grilled BBQ Chicken Breasts,  you might want to consider using a brine because chicken breasts can easily dry out when cooked due to their low fat content.

  • WHY BRINE CHICKEN BREASTS?   In short, brining is the quickest way (15 minutes) to ensure juicy chicken every single time because the salty brining bath increases the moisture capacity of the chicken.  It does this by breaking down the proteins of the bird so they can no longer contract when cooking.  This means less water will be squeezed out and lost, resulting in juicier chicken.
  • HOW TO BRINE CHICKEN:  Combine 8 cups warm water and ½ cup kosher salt together in a glass dish. Stir until the salt dissolves. Add chicken and let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.  Rinse chicken and pat dry – that’s it!

placing a platter of grilled bbq chicken on a table

How long does it take to BBQ chicken on the grill?

I chose to use chicken drumsticks in this Grilled BBQ Chicken recipe because they are always the first to fly off the plate (pun intended).  Chicken drumsticks are inherently juicy, hard to overcook and easy to eat with just one hand without any utensils required.

That being said, you can certainly use any part of the chicken to grill.  I have outlined the different cooking times for each cut of chicken below, but keep in mind these will be slightly different for each individual due to grill variables and the actual size of each cut of chicken.  The only certain way to know if your chicken is done is to use an instant read thermometer.  If you don’t own one, they are available at every grocery store, so add it to your list today :)!

You will note below that I say some cuts of chicken are done when an instant read thermometer reads 165°F and on some cuts I say 165-180° F.  While 165° is safe, some cuts of chicken, such as the drumsticks and leg quarters, actually taste better when they are cooked closer to 180°F  because they (unlike chicken breasts) will become more tender.

HOW LONG DO I GRILL CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS? 

  • Grease and preheat grill to high heat.
  • Season chicken and add to hot grill and sear for 5 minutes, uncovered, flip and sear an additional 5 minutes, uncovered.
  • Cover, and turn heat down to low so the temperature stays around 325°F when the lid is CLOSED.
  • Cook 5 minute then flip and cover; cook an additional 5 minutes.
  • Check chicken temperature. It should register 165-180°F. If chicken is not cooked to this temperature yet, flip and repeat steps until chicken is fully cooked through.

up close view of the best grilled BBQ chicken on a white plate

HOW LONG DO I GRILL CHICKEN THIGHS?

  • Grease and preheat the grill to medium heat, 375-450°F.
  • Season chicken thighs and grill undisturbed for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. An inserted thermometer should read 165° F.

HOW LONG DO I GRILL BONE-IN CHICKEN THIGHS?

  • Grease and heat grill to medium heat.
  • Season and add chicken to grill. 
  • Cover, and reduce heat so it stays around 350-375°F with the lid CLOSED.
  • Grill chicken thighs 6-10 minutes per side, depending on size, or until no longer pink and an inside thermometer registers 165° F

HOW LONG DO I GRILL CHICKEN BREASTS?

  • Grease and preheat grill to medium heat, 375-450°F.
  • Pound chicken breasts to an even thickness.
  • Season chicken breasts and grill undisturbed for 5-7 minutes per side, depending on thickness, or until chicken is cooked through. An inserted thermometer should read 165°F.

HOW LONG DO I GRILL CHICKEN LEG QUARTERS? 

  • Grease and heat grill to high heat.
  • Add seasoned chicken to hot grill and sear for 5 minutes. Flip chicken over and sear 5 minutes.
  • Cover and reduce heat to low so that the heat stays around 350 degrees F when the lid is closed. Grill with the lid closed for 12 minutes. Flip chicken over, cover and grill and additional 12 minutes. Check chicken temperature. It should register 165 degrees F. If chicken is not cooked to this temperature yet, flip and repeat steps until chicken is fully cooked through.
up close grilled bbq chicken with barbecue sauce

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR GRILLED BARBECUE CHICKEN

  • Remove Skin. I remove the skin from my chicken drumsticks because I am not a fan of soggy skin.  Even if the skin is crispy initially when grilled, it gets soggy when coated in the barbecue sauce. Chicken with the skin on is also more prone to cause flare-ups and burn.  If you want to grill with the skin on, eat it with the skin on or you will lose the flavor from the rub.
  • Use all the seasonings.  The spice mix might seem like a lot of seasonings, but I promise it is the perfect amount, use ALL of it!
  • Let chicken rest.  After you rub the chicken with seasonings, let it rest for 30 minutes on the counter or tightly wrap/transfer to freezer size Ziploc bag and refrigerate up to 24 hours.  Letting it rest is life changing!
  • Don’t cook chicken straight from the refrigerator!  If your chicken has been refrigerated, let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes, this will allow your chicken to come closer to room temperature so it will cook more evenly
  • Preheat grill with lid closed.  Preheat your grill with the lid closed so your grill gets nice and hot but sear with the lid open.  Follow specific instructions on whether grill should be open or closed.  If instructions do not specify, then that means to grill uncovered, with the lid open.
  • Use a instant read thermometer!  When it comes to checking the temperature of chicken, there is no accurate way to check without cutting your chicken open and loosing juices, other than an instant read thermometer!  They are fast, highly accurate, and save you all the guesswork and possibly food poisoning.
  • Close lid.  With the exception of chicken breasts, and thighs,  keep the grill lid closed as much as possible after searing. Drumsticks, leg quarters and bone-in chicken thighs need to be roasted which is accomplish when the lid is closed causing heat to surround the chicken.
  • Cook to 165°F for LIGHT meat or 180°F for DARK  meat.  While 165°F is a safe internal temperature for all chicken, 180°F will produce more tender, fall-off-the-bone dark meat.
best grilled bbq chicken on a white plate garnished by parsley

WHEN SHOULD I ADD BARBECUE SAUCE TO THE GRILLED CHICKEN?

You don’t want to add any BBQ Sauce to your chicken until the last 3 minutes or so of cooking otherwise the sauce will burn due to the sugars in the barbecue sauce.  I like to add the barbecue sauce when my chicken is almost done, then let it grill on each side for a minute or so so the barbecue sauce caramelizes slightly then I slather my chicken with more barbecue sauce off of the grill.

easy grilled bbq chicken with a bite taken out of the chicken drumstick on a plate with zucchini

What Should I Serve with Grilled BBQ Chicken?

dipping grilled bbq chicken in homemade barbecue sauce

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

grilled bbq chicken stacked together

Grilled BBQ Chicken with Homemade BBQ Sauce

Grilled BBQ Chicken enveloped in a tantalizing spice rub, slathered with Homemade Barbecue Sauce and grilled to perfection for the best juicy, smokey flavorful chicken every single time!
Servings: 4 -6 people
Total Time: 35 mins
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins

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Ingredients

  • 8-10 skinless chicken drumsticks approx. 3 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

SPICE MIX

Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons seedless blackberry preserves
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons reserved Spice Rub (from above, in directions)

Instructions

  • Whisk together all of the Spice Mix Ingredients. Remove 1 ½ teaspoons to a saucepan to use later in your Barbecue Sauce.
  • Drizzle chicken with 1 tablespoon olive oil and rub it all over the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with half of the Spice Mix and rub into chicken. Flip chicken over and sprinkle with remaining spice mix (it will seem like a lot but use it all). Rub spice mix into chicken. Let chicken sit 30 minutes at room temperature OR you can cover and refrigerate up to overnight and cook later. (If you refrigerate chicken and grill later, let chicken sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to grilling for more even cooking.)
  • Meanwhile, add all of the Barbecue Sauce ingredients to the saucepan with the reserved 1 ½ teaspoons spice mix. Whisk together and simmer for 5-10 minutes for the flavors to meld.

TO GRILL

  • Grease grill and preheat grill to high heat. Once hot, add chicken and sear, uncovered, for 5 minutes, flip chicken over and sear an additional 5 minutes.
  • Cover, and turn heat down to low so the temperature stays around 325 degrees F when the lid is closed. Cook 5 minutes with the lid closed, flip and cook an additional 5 minutes with the lid closed.
  • Baste chicken with barbecue sauce and cook 1 minute, flip and cook an additional minute. Using an instant read thermometer, check temperature of chicken at the thickest part without touching the bone. Chicken is done when it registers 165-180º F on an instant read thermometer. If chicken isn’t done, continue to grill (covered) and flip chicken and baste with barbecue sauce every 3 minutes until it reaches temperature.
  • Remove chicken to a serving platter brush with barbecue sauce. Let rest 5 minutes before serving. Serve with additional barbecue sauce.

TO BAKE

  • Line a baking sheet with foil (for easy cleanup) and top with a baking/cooling rack if you have one. Lightly spray rack with nonstick cooking spray. Line drumsticks on the baking rack without touching. Let chicken set at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 F degrees. Bake chicken at 425 F degrees for 30-35 minutes or until cooked through.
  • Remove chicken to a serving platter brush with barbecue sauce. Let rest 5 minutes before serving. Serve with additional barbecue sauce.

Video

Notes

Don’t miss the “how to make” recipe video at the top of the post!

TIPS AND  TRICKS

  • Remove Skin. I remove the skin from my chicken drumsticks because I am not a fan of soggy skin.  Even if the skin is crispy initially when grilled, it gets soggy when coated in the barbecue sauce. It is also more prone to cause flare-ups and burn.  If you want to grill with the skin on, eat it with the skin on or you will loose the flavor from the rub.
  • Use all the seasonings.  The spice mix might seem like a lot of seasonings, but I promise it is the perfect amount, use ALL of it!
  • Let chicken rest.  After you rub the chicken with seasonings, let it rest for 30 minutes on the counter or tightly wrap/transfer to freezer size Ziploc bag and refrigerate up to 24 hours.  Letting it rest is life changing!
  • Don’t cook chicken straight from the refrigerator!  If your chicken has been refrigerated, let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes, this will allow your chicken to come closer to room temperature so it will cook more evenly.
  • Preheat grill with lid closed.  Preheat your grill with the lid closed so your grill gets nice and hot but sear with the lid open.  Follow specific instructions on whether grill should be open or closed.  If instructions do not specify, then that means to grill uncovered, with the lid open.
  • Use a instant read thermometer!  When it comes to checking the temperature of chicken, there is no accurate way to check without cutting your chicken open and loosing juices, then by using an instant read thermometer.  They are fast, highly accurate, and save you all the guesswork and possibly food poisoning.
  • Close lid.  With the exception of chicken breasts, and thighs,  keep the grill  lid closed as much as possible after searing. Drumsticks, leg quarters and bone-in chicken thighs need to be roasted which is accomplish when the lid is closed causing heat to surround the chicken.
  • Cook to 165°F for LIGHT meat or 180°F for DARK  meat.  While 165°F is a safe internal temperature for all chicken, 180°F will produce more tender, fall-off-the-bone dark meat.
  • Add BBQ sauce at the end.  We want to develop a nice sear on our chicken, so hold the barbecue sauce until the last few minutes of grilling.  It is also important to not add barbecue sauce until the end of grilling otherwise the sauce will burn due to the sugars in the sauce.   I like to add the barbecue sauce when my chicken is almost done, then let it grill on each side for a minute or so so the barbecue sauce caramelizes slightly then I slather my chicken with more barbecue sauce off of the grill.

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42 Comments

  1. Candace says

    It is too hot to stand in front of the stove here in Arizona so I have been making a bunch of your slow cooker and grill recipes, and they have all been awesome, including your BBQ Ribs! I agree, that barbecue sauce is the best and makes me so extra excited to try this chicken!

    • Jen says

      Hi Candace, I’m so happy you have been loving my slow cooker and grill recipes, thank you! I am so excited for you to try this chicken too,I hope it becomes a new fav!

  2. Jackie says

    Hi Jen
    Wish I could make this, but don’t have a grill.

    • Jen says

      Hi Jackie, I will add baking instructions right now 🙂

  3. Lynn says

    For some reason I can’t see the link to the video…. Looks amazing!

    • Jen says

      Sorry Lynn, it’s working for me, maybe try again?

  4. Cathy says

    This recipe sounds amazing. One question…do you need to cook the bbq sauce ingredients or just mix together?

    • Jen says

      Hi Cathy, great question, I’ve updated the recipe :). I recommend simmering the barbecue sauce ingredients together for 5 minutes for the jelly to fully melt and the flavors to meld. Enjoy!

  5. Jackie says

    Hi Jen
    Thanks so much for the baked recipe instructions, now I can make the recipe. Also, I can’t click on the link for the video.

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Jackie!

  6. 2pots2cook says

    …. definitely proves how good it is to subscribe 🙂

  7. Wendy says

    Just an FYI. I don’t see any directions for the barbecue sauce and the video isn’ working. This looks absolutely delicious!!!

    • Jen says

      Hi Wendy, the video is defaulting to the top of the page right after the intro, it’s working for me, so hopefully it will work for you! I added the barbecue sauce instructions immediately after I published so you may need to refresh or clear your cache. Sorry about that!

  8. Cindy says

    What kind of molasses? The small bottle in Asian section called bead molasses which is dark or the large bottle in the cooking section which is not as dark?

    • Jen says

      Hi Cindy, it is not the bead molasses but the unsulphured molasses found in the cooking section. I hope that helps, enjoy!

  9. Debra Guerra says

    Hi Jen-

    Is there a substitute for the blackberry preserves? I love blackberries but the preserves most likely will go to waste in my house after the sauce is made, unless the whole jar is used…I hadn’t looked at the amount yet…just a question…

    Many thanks!
    Debra

    • Brandy Rolin says

      Just a tip: If you go to Cracker Barrel, grab a few little tubs that come out with the biscuits!

      • Jen says

        Yassss – that sounds amazing!

  10. Ruth says

    What are the measurements for the spice rub?

    • Jen says

      Hi Ruth: In Step 1: Remove 1 1/2 teaspoons Spice Rub to a saucepan to use later in your Barbecue Sauce.
      You will then use the rest in the barbecue sauce.

  11. Ruth says

    Thanks but I meant how much of each ingredient goes into the rub? Is it a tablespoon of garlic powder, pepper, salt, etc?

    • Jen says

      It is all listed under the ingredients where it says “Spice Mix.”

  12. Sue says

    Hi Jen. Wonderful meal! I’m interested in your GRILLED BBQ CHICKEN WITH HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCE. With my honest, I have just learned about cooking. I would like to learn your recipe. I have an indoor grill which works very well. So, I can start this menu tomorrow. Thank you very much for your sharing. I really love this.

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome, happy cooking adventures!

  13. Sydney says

    Hi! You probably won’t see this by the time I go to the store lol but I thought I would ask anyway in case someone else has the same question. How do you think honey would do instead of molasses? I have some great honey at home but if you think the molasses really amps up the sauce I will get that. I can’t wait to grill this tonight.

    • Jen says

      Hi Sydney! I highly recommend molasses – I’m sure honey would be good too – but molasses is amazing!

  14. Geeta H says

    I don’t normally write reviews. But after I made this and my 5yr said “what is that smell” and then asked for a sample I had to give you a shoutout. This was delicious hands down. My kids and hubby loved it. Thanks for sharing this great recipe. This is my go to from now.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Greeta, I’m so happy you did take the time to write a review! I’m so pleased this BBQ Chicken is a new repeat favorite!

  15. Wendy Franks says

    I tried your BBQ seasoning and BBQ sauce and loved it. I am an amateur at cooking on the grill. I wanted to do chicken instead of just burgers and hot dogs, so I tried it your way and it was great. Thank for the tips and instructions, it helped a lot.

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Wendy! I’m so pleased my tips were helpful and that the BBQ Chicken was a success! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  16. Kate says

    Hi Jan, would I be able to use an air fryer? I haven’t got a grill and my new oven won’t be fitted till mid year

    • Jen says

      Absolutely, an air fryer will work great!

  17. Ashley Hover says

    It seems the directions to grill chicken leg quarters are missing. Would you mind sharing the directions specifically for chicken leg quarters?

    • Jen says

      So sorry about that!
      Add chicken to hot grill (high heat) and sear for 5 minutes. Flip chicken over and sear 5 minutes.
      Cover and reduce heat to low so that the heat stays around 350 degrees F when the lid is closed. Grill with the lid closed for 12 minutes. Flip chicken over, cover and grill and additional 12 minutes. Check chicken temperature. It should register 165 degrees F. If chicken is not cooked to this temperature yet, flip and repeat steps until chicken is fully cooked through.

  18. Melissa says

    Only made the rub and sauce so far, but the flavors are AMAZEBALLS. I subbed sugar free blackberry preserves and no sugar added ketchup. The sauce is mild, but-as stated earlier- the flavor is, yes, AMAZEBALLS. I want to add a smidge of heat to the sauce, but the rub has dos chili powders, plus the white pepper I subbed for the pepper. So, I’m going to wait to see how heated the chicken is before adding heat to the sauce. Overall, sooper dooper easy recipe and will def make again. Did I mention the flavors are AMAZEBALLS?

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for your awesome comment Melissa, I’m so pleased the flavor is AMAZEBALLS ;)!

  19. Cherie says

    This is the best bbq chicken I’ve ever made. Can’t wait to try your other recipes. I have tons of leftover bbq sauce. How long can it be stored in fridge? Can it be frozen?

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Cherie, I’m so pleased you loved it! Store the leftover BBQ sauce for up to two weeks in the refrigerator or freeze or up to 3 months.

  20. Sandy says

    I did not have any blackberry preserves so I used huckleberry instead best ever sauce. Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Yes, I think that should also work. Readers have commented on my other barbecue recipes that they have used all sorts of different preserves with success.

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