The Best BBQ Chicken Recipe with Tangy Carolina Sauce

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The best BBQ chicken is finger licking delicious and so easy to make. This authentic low and slow recipe comes with tips and tricks for getting incredible flavor from smoked chicken, including using a chicken dry rub and dipping in a flavorful BBQ sauce glaze during the final minutes of cooking. Looking for high heat style then check out our ultimate grilled chicken guide.

Glazed BBQ Chicken paired with a glass of wine
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We are huge fans of chicken on the smoker or grill. Over the years we have learned a few things about making the very best smoked BBQ chicken. Here are all the tips, tricks, and secrets we have to share.

Recipe Highlights

  • This easy recipe is cooked low and slow with a Carolina style vinegar sauce applied at the end for added flavor.
  • You can substitute with your favorite BBQ sauce or any homemade barbecue sauce.
  • You can use any cut of chicken for this recipe, just cook it to the property internal temperature.

BBQ versus Grilling

Ask any pitmaster and you realize it is not semantics, it’s two separate techniques. BBQ is the process of low and slow cooking using indirect heat versus a hot grill. As authors of a cookbook focused on this style of cuisine it’s important to understand the difference.

  • BBQ – Cooking your chicken at lower temperatures under 325 degrees Fahrenheit typically with charcoal and wood for a smoky flavor. Usually it’s between 225 and 275 F. Alternatively you can use certain techniques to achieve this on your gas grill. Often it can end with a BBQ sauce or glaze.
  • Grilling – Whether a charcoal grill or a gas grill this is cooking at or over 400 degrees Fahrenheit using direct or two-zone grilling on a grill grate. Less smoky flavor is added and more of the char and earthiness for hot and fast cooking. With a two-zone set up you can finish the chicken on the cooler side of the grill.

The Best Cut for BBQ Chicken

We’ve learned that we definitely want to cook in separate pieces and ideally bone-in chicken. Yes, an entire smoked chicken is fun, but to be able to monitor the internal temps of chicken pieces makes it so much easier to have the bone-in breast, thighs, drums separated. Our favorite cut is the skin on chicken thighs and leg combined as they cook at similar times.

You are also able to season each piece more thoroughly when they are separated. We still do the occasional smoked whole roaster chicken, but for that it’s usually when we’re looking to do shredded (or pulled) chicken for other recipes, like smoked chicken chili or smoked buffalo chicken dip.

Related Recipe: Grilled Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

The best chicken is sourced from local ranchers at farmers markets or direct. You can also find online retailers like D’Artagnan that sources quality meats direct from small farmers around the country and delivers right to your door.

BBQ Glazed Smoked Chicken
Smoking chicken in smaller pieces allows for a faster cook and more smoke flavor.

Preparation

The two important factors for BBQ chicken are a good spice rub that has kosher salt and making sure you allow it to dry brine.

  1. Trim excess fat off the chicken. In some cases you can get really technical on say, the thighs, and actually remove the skin, scrape off the fat, and then put it back on again. But really, that’s a pain when you are in the backyard.
  2. After trimming add a dry rub, savory to be specific with kosher salt. Yes, you can wet brine chicken. But one challenge with wet brining is the impact that it can have on the skin (as in more rubbery). When cooked at a lower temp the skin often comes out rubbery. And ideally we are trying to achieve crispy skin to render the fat out. So when cooking low and slow, the key is avoiding too much excess moisture, but without skipping flavor. So that’s why we start with a good dry rub.
Trimming meat and applying a dry rub
Trim excess skin and season liberally.

BBQ Chicken Secret – Dehydrate the Chicken

There are two ways to achieve a good texture for bbq chicken skin. Either cook at a higher heat, or dehydrate and dry brine the chicken.

To dehydrate, place the seasoned chicken in the refrigerator uncovered (like we do for our Smoked Buffalo Wings). This allows the airflow in the fridge to dehydrate the chicken while the salt in the rub help to dry brine. This will assist in the skin rendering down while smoking the chicken which is the secret to crispy chicken skin. Adding olive oil first causes the chicken to stay wet and leads to rubbery skin, so there is no need for any.

How to Smoke Chicken

  1. Cooking at 275 degrees is the sweet spot for the best results. It’s hot enough to help render out some fat (for that crispier skin), while still allowing that low and slow smoke to infuse your meat. Prepare your grill using lump charcoal and wood chunks. Oak and apple wood are great with chicken.
  2. Place the seasoned chicken on the smoker skin side down. This will allow the grate to press on the skin to help render.
  3. Smoke until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, about 60 – 90 minutes. Then glaze the chicken with the BBQ sauce. Flip it so the skin side is facing up.
  4. Finish smoking the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s then time to remove and let the chicken rest. As it rests brush on last coating of BBQ sauce over the chicken. Then eat and enjoy.
Checking the temperature of poultry with a Digital Thermometer
Be sure to check the temp of each piece as it cooks, they will all be done at various times.

If smoking bone-in BBQ chicken breasts follow the same directions for BBQ chicken except glaze when the chicken reaches 150 – 155 degrees Fahrenheit and then remove when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Glaze on last time and serve.

This recipe will yield a nice bite to the chicken, but the skin texture still won’t be like grilled chicken. If you want to achieve a stronger crunch, then smoke at 300 – 325 degrees F or just make grilled chicken with a glaze.

Temperature of Chicken

For food safety the USDA recommends cooking chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. For a standard boneless or bone-in chicken breast that can overcook the chicken. It’s best to remove at 160 and let it rest. While it rests carry over cooking will occur and take the temperature of the chicken to 165.

Bone-in chicken thighs or legs need a little more time to cook. We pull at 170 degrees to allow some of the connective tissue to soften and cook a little more. The size of your chicken pieces will cause your cooking times to vary. Always cook to temperature and not time using a high quality instant read meat thermometer.

BBQ Glaze

Use 2 cups BBQ sauce and combine with 2/3rds cup honey to get a nice shine and flavor. It’s that easy.

This is where your favorite flavors can stand out. Like mixing sweet with heat and savory. In our case, we use a Carolina style BBQ sauce, honey, and the heat from the rub. All three make for a complex flavor bomb when you bite into the chicken with minimal work. It should still be moist and delicious in every bite, both white and dark meat.

If you like a sweeter and stickier style sauce, check out our Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce recipe too! But if you have your favorite store bought sauce, use that in the same ratios.

Related Article: Various Styles of BBQ Sauce

When to Glaze

Here is where the flavor really pops. Right before the chicken is done dip the chicken into a bowl of your prepared glaze then place back on your cooker for those final minutes.

The dipping method allows for a uniform sauce application, and it also creates this gorgeous glossy look! So pretty!

Or you can use a silicon brush to apply right on the grill too.

Dipping chicken pieces in a Carolina BBQ Sauce

This allows a few minutes to set the glaze but avoid burning. After the bird reaches 160 degrees F internal temp, remove and dip again in the glaze. Let sit for about 10 minutes and then enjoy.

If you are wondering about the chicken temperature, check out this great article from Thermoworks about when chicken is really done and safe to eat.

Barbecue Glazed Chicken

Side Inspirations for BBQ Chicken

Wine Pairing With BBQ Chicken

We’ve got a few things going on here that will effect the wine pairing. We love Syrah for this recipe. There’s the savory, slightly sweet, and just barely spicy dry rub. And then we have the chicken glaze. For our glaze we went with a Carolina style sauce and some honey, so that means vinegar (acid) and sweet. You’ll find lovely integration of fruit, herbs, spice, and even some floral notes, without becoming rich or jammy. Those from Santa Barbara are a wonderful match. But feel free to find a Syrah from your favorite region.

If you go with a KC, or sweeter-style BBQ sauce that will create an even sweeter and smokier glaze. We strive for a balance of savory/smoky/sweet, which we achieved. This allows for more options with wine like Zinfandel or Barbera.

BBQ Glazed Chicken and Wine Pairing

Want more BBQ Chicken Recipes?

Follow our guide to How To Grill Chicken perfectly or try these amazing dishes.

This BBQ Chicken Recipe was originally published in April of 2016 and updated in August of 2022 to include new photos, recipe instructions, sourcing chicken, and details to the sauce.

If you like this recipe we’d truly appreciate it if you would give this recipe a star review! And if you share any of your pics on Instagram use the hashtag #vindulge. We LOVE to see it when you cook our recipes. 

Glazed BBQ Chicken with Syrah
5 from 2 votes

Glazed BBQ Chicken Recipe

Recipe for glazed barbecue chicken. Slowly smoked chicken finished with a tangy and sweet sauce.
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
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Ingredients 

For the Chicken:

For the Glaze:

Instructions 

  • Trim meat of excess fat, and pat dry. Apply dry rub all over the chicken pieces and place in a refrigerator overnight or at least 4 hours uncovered to dry brine.
  • Preheat smoker to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (F) using fruit wood like apple or cherry. Oak and Hickory also work well.
  • Place chicken pieces in the smoker until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 150 degrees F in the breast and 160 degrees in the thighs.
  • Dip the chicken pieces into the bowl of glaze and place back onto the smoker. Continue smoking until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160 degrees F using a good instant read thermometer for the breast and 170 degrees for the thighs.
  • Remove from the smoker and then dip again into your glaze, let it rest for 10 minutes allowing glaze to set.
  • Serve and enjoy.

Notes

As always, cooking times will vary. Always cook to proper internal temperature (in this case 16o degrees per piece of chicken). For this recipe we cooked the meat for approximately 90 minutes total.
To Get Crispy Skin – If you want crispy skin, then follow same directions, but smoke at 325 degrees F. It will cook faster. Smoked chicken typically won’t achieve the same texture as a grilled piece because the fat does not render out at the lower heat.
Sourcing Chicken – We love shopping local ranchers, and those who source from them. Consider the amazing and rich flavor of D’Artagnan for locally sourced, straight to your door heritage and local chicken.

Nutrition

Calories: 1201kcal | Carbohydrates: 109g | Protein: 66g | Fat: 56g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 330mg | Sodium: 1750mg | Potassium: 1169mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 94g | Vitamin A: 755IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 133mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 1201
Keyword: BBQ Chicken, bbq chicken recipe, chicken glaze, glazed chicken, smoked bbq chicken
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Vindulge

About Mary


I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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19 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’ve used this sauce a number of times for pulled smoked chicken. We like the Eastern NC vinegar and pepper style but prefer a bit more savory and the ketchup and hot sauce do the trick. It’s great. This time around, cut up a whole Costco organic chicken to BBQ. Uncovered in fridge for about 6 hours after applying rub. Smoked at 275-300 degrees indirect, several small apple chunks, finished over direct heat for a few mins to crisp skin. Breasts only took about an hour, other pieces 45 mins. Great flavor, smokey, juicy.