Barbecue Chicken with Spicy BBQ Sauce


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Barbeque Chicken with Spicy BBQ Sauce

© Brian Bowen Smith

For me, this is a summer-only staple, and the reason is the BBQ sauce: It’s irresistible. I always make extra portions for dipping. Another reason this barbecue chicken is a warm-weather dish? Afterwards, everyone can jump in the pool and rinse off the sticky remnants of that finger lickin’ deliciousness. For reference, this is Kentucky masterpiece-style BBQ, clove-forward and aromatic, and on the sweet side thanks to the chemistry that happens between the apple cider vinegar, molasses, ketchup, chipotle peppers, cloves, and other seasonings. I made a version of this on my show—Tom and I double-booked friends for dinner and I pulled this together, along with baked beans and a lemon-basil granita, for what turned out to be a backyard feast. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best barbecue chicken I’ve had. Suddenly I’m wishing I made it more often. Keep in mind, the secret to this is the sauce. It’s all about the sauce.


1. Make the Spicy BBQ Sauce: Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high. Add the onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add the ketchup, water, vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, chipotle peppers, salt, allspice, and cloves; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender. Remove the center piece of the blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure the lid on the blender, and place a clean towel over the opening in the lid. Process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

2. Make the Barbecue Chicken: Preheat the grill to high (450°F to 550°F). Reserve 3/4 cup of the Spicy BBQ Sauce for serving.

3. Sprinkle the chicken with the salt and black pepper. Reduce the grill heat to medium (350°F to 450°F). Place the chicken, skin side down, on the lightly oiled grates; grill, uncovered, until well marked, 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Reduce the grill heat to low (250°F to 350°F); cover and grill until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the thigh registers 175°F, 35 to 40 minutes, basting with the remaining 1 3/4 cups Spicy BBQ Sauce every 5 minutes. Do not baste during the last 5 minutes to prevent cross-contamination.

5. Serve the chicken with the reserved 3/4 cup Spicy BBQ Sauce. 

Cooking Tip

Remember to move the chicken around the grill to keep it tender, but not so much that the skin doesn’t crisp slightly.


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeded and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 chicken leg quarters (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper

The BBQ sauce can be made up to 1 week ahead of time—it yields 2 1/2 cups.

serving size

6 People

Hands on time

45 Minutes

Total time

1 Hour, 15 Minutes


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