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Weekend Recipe: Sweet and Tangy Barbecued Chicken

Photo courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

Never scramble for a rub and sauce recipe for your barbecued chicken again (and don't even think about buying the bottled stuff at the supermarket). The dry seasoning in this recipe gives the meat great flavor while retaining moisture, and the sauce is tangy and sweet.

Cook's Illustrated stresses the importance of using indirect heat to cook the chicken, with the fattier pieces closer to the coals and the leaner ones away from the heat. Adding a water pan underneath the cooler side will also help with even cooking. Happy grilling!

Sweet and Tangy Barbecued Chicken
Serves 6 to 8

Chicken
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (split breasts and/or leg quarters), trimmed

Sauce
1 cup ketchup
5 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup grated onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large disposable aluminum roasting pan (if using charcoal) or 2 disposable aluminum pie plates (if using gas)

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For the chicken: Combine sugar, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne in bowl. Arrange chicken on rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle both sides evenly with spice rub. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

For the sauce: Whisk ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, and pepper together in bowl. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is softened, 2 to 4 minutes. Add chili powder and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in ketchup mixture and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Set aside 2/3 cup sauce to baste chicken and reserve remaining sauce for serving. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent halfway and place disposable pan filled with 3 cups water on 1 side of grill. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over other half of grill (opposite disposable pan). Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

For a gas grill: Place 2 disposable pie plates, each filled with 1½ cups water, directly on 1 burner of gas grill (opposite primary burner). Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn primary burner to medium-high and turn off other burner(s). (Adjust primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature of 325 to 350 degrees.)

Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chicken, skin side down, over hotter part of grill and cook until browned and blistered in spots, 2 to 5 minutes. Flip chicken and cook until second side is browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Move chicken to cooler part and brush both sides with 1/3 cup sauce. Arrange chicken, skin side up, with leg quarters closest to fire and breasts farthest away. Cover (positioning lid vent over chicken if using charcoal) and cook for 25 minutes.

Brush both sides of chicken with remaining 1/3 cup sauce and continue to cook, covered, until breasts register 160 degrees and leg quarters register 175 degrees, 25 to 35 minutes longer.

Transfer chicken to serving platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve, passing reserved sauce separately.

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