Guide on how to BBQ chicken on a charcoal grill

How to BBQ Chicken on Charcoal Grill

There’s nothing quite like the smoky, rich flavor of BBQ chicken cooked on a charcoal grill. The aroma alone can make your mouth water, and the taste? Well, it’s pure culinary bliss. Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a backyard grilling newbie, mastering the art of BBQ chicken on a charcoal grill can elevate your summer cookouts and family dinners to a whole new level.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essential techniques and tips on how to bbq chicken on charcoal grill every time. From selecting the right cuts and marinades to setting up your grill and achieving that perfect char, we’ve got you covered. Let’s fire up the coals and get grilling!

Instructions for barbecuing chicken on a charcoal grill
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Preparing Your Chicken

Proper preparation is key to delicious BBQ chicken. Start by rinsing your chicken under cold water and patting it dry with paper towels. Remove any excess fat or skin to prevent flare-ups on the grill.

Season your chicken generously with salt and pepper, ensuring even coverage. This simple step enhances the flavor and tenderizes the meat. For a more flavorful experience, consider marinating your chicken or applying a spice rub a few hours before grilling. Letting the chicken rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before cooking helps ensure even grilling.

Charcoal grill chicken BBQ instructions
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Choosing the Right Chicken Cuts

Selecting the right chicken cuts can make all the difference. Chicken breasts are lean and cook quickly, making them ideal for a speedy BBQ. Thighs and legs, with their higher fat content, stay juicy and flavorful, even with longer cooking times.

Wings are perfect for appetizers or snacking, offering a great skin-to-meat ratio for that crispy, charred goodness. Whichever cut you choose, ensure they are uniform in size for even cooking. Mixing different cuts on the grill can add variety and please every palate at your BBQ.

Choosing the Right Chicken Cuts for Charcoal grill chicken BBQ
Credits to 100 Days of Real Food

Spice Rubs and Marinades

Elevate your BBQ chicken with the perfect blend of spices and marinades. Spice rubs add a burst of flavor and create a delicious crust when grilled. Mix paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, and a pinch of cayenne for a classic BBQ rub. Marinades, on the other hand, infuse the chicken with flavors and tenderize the meat.

A simple marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs works wonders. Let the chicken marinate for at least an hour or overnight for deeper flavor. Both methods enhance the taste, making your BBQ chicken unforgettable.

Spice Rubs and Marinades for Charcoal grill chicken BBQ tutorial
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Spice Rub Recipe

Here’s a quick and flavorful recipe guide on how to make BBQ spice rub for your chicken:

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for heat)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Generously coat your chicken with the spice rub, ensuring even coverage. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before grilling to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat. This rub adds a smoky, sweet, and slightly spicy kick to your BBQ chicken.

Setting Up Your Charcoal Grill

Step-by-step guide to barbecuing chicken on a charcoal grill
Credits to America’s Test Kitchen
  1. Clean the Grill Grate: Start with a clean grill. Use a wire brush to remove any leftover residue from previous grilling sessions.
  2. Arrange the Charcoal: Create a two-zone fire by placing more charcoal on one side of the grill for direct heat and less on the other side for indirect heat.
  3. Light the Charcoal: Use a chimney starter for even and efficient lighting. Fill the chimney with charcoal, place a fire starter underneath, and light it. Wait until the coals are covered with white ash.
  4. Spread the Coals: Pour the hot coals into your grill, maintaining the two-zone setup. Place a drip pan in the cooler zone to catch any drippings.
  5. Adjust the Vents: Control the temperature by adjusting the grill’s vents. Open vents increase airflow and heat, while closing them decreases it.
  6. Preheat the Grill: Let the grill heat up for about 10-15 minutes with the lid closed. Aim for a temperature of 350-375°F for perfect BBQ chicken.
  7. Maintain Temperature: Keep an eye on the grill temperature using a grill thermometer. Add more charcoal as needed to maintain consistent heat.

Grilling Techniques

Grilling chicken on a charcoal grill requires different approaches for each cut to ensure they are cooked perfectly. Here’s how to master grilling whole chickens, chicken breasts, chicken thighs, chicken wings or even barbecue chicken legs.

Grilling Whole Chicken

  1. Use the indirect grilling method.
  2. Place the chicken on the cooler side of the grill, breast side up.
  3. Cover and cook for 1.5 to 2 hours at 350-375°F.
  4. Rotate the chicken halfway through for even cooking.
  5. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh.
  6. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Step-by-step guide to Grilling Whole Chicken on a charcoal grill
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Grilling Chicken Breasts

  1. Grill over direct heat for 6-8 minutes per side.
  2. Sear each side for 2-3 minutes to create a nice char.
  3. Move the breasts to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking.
  4. Ensure an internal temperature of 165°F.
  5. Let the breasts rest for a few minutes before serving.
Step-by-step guide to Grilling Chicken Breasts on a charcoal grill
Credits to Grilling Grandma

Grilling Chicken Leg Quarters

  1. Sear skin-side down over direct heat for 3-4 minutes until crispy.
  2. Move to the indirect heat side and cook for an additional 20-25 minutes.
  3. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 175°F.
  4. This method keeps the meat juicy and the skin crispy.
Step-by-step guide to Grilling Chicken Thighs and Legs on a charcoal grill
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Grilling Chicken Wings

  1. Cook over direct heat for 4-5 minutes per side.
  2. Move to the cooler side of the grill and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  3. Toss in your favorite sauce during the last few minutes of cooking.
  4. Ensure the internal temperature reaches 165°F for safe consumption.
Step-by-step guide to Grilling Chicken Wings and Legs on a charcoal grill
Credits to Allrecipes

Managing BBQ Sauce

Applying BBQ sauce correctly can make or break your grilled chicken. Here’s how to enhance flavor without burning:

Managing BBQ Sauce
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  1. Pre-Cooking: Avoid applying sauce too early as the sugars can burn quickly over high heat.
  2. Mid-Cooking: Wait until the last 10-15 minutes of grilling. This allows the chicken to cook through without the sauce burning.
  3. Application: Use a basting brush to apply a thin, even layer of BBQ sauce on all sides of the chicken.
  4. Repeat: Reapply the sauce every 5 minutes, flipping the chicken to ensure an even, caramelized coating.
  5. Final Touch: For a thicker glaze, apply one last coat of sauce just before removing the chicken from the grill.

Best BBQ Sauces for Grilling

Finding the right BBQ sauce can elevate your grilled chicken to new heights. Here are some top recommendations:

Commercially Available BBQ Sauces

  1. Sweet Baby Ray’s Original: Known for its sweet and tangy flavor, it’s a crowd-pleaser with a perfect balance of sweetness and spice.
  2. Stubbs Original BBQ Sauce: Offers a robust, smoky flavor with a hint of vinegar and a touch of heat, great for those who enjoy a more traditional taste.
  3. KC Masterpiece Original: A classic choice with a rich, molasses-based sweetness and a smoky finish, ideal for all types of grilled chicken.
Commercially Available BBQ Sauces for Charcoal barbecue chicken grilling instructions
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Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe

For those who prefer homemade goodness, here’s a simple recipe:

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup ketchup
    • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Instructions:
    1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.
    2. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently.
    3. Reduce heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes until thickened.
    4. Let it cool before using. Store any extra sauce in an airtight container in the fridge.

This homemade BBQ sauce recipe is also good in chicken drumsticks on the BBQ. It’s incredibly easy to make and can be customized to suit your taste preferences. Add more heat with some cayenne pepper, or keep it mild and sweet—either way, you’ll have a delicious BBQ sauce that’s miles better than store-bought.

Side Dishes

Complement your BBQ chicken with these delicious side dishes:

  1. Coleslaw: A classic, creamy coleslaw provides a refreshing crunch that balances the smoky flavors of BBQ chicken.
  2. Corn on the Cob: Grilled corn on the cob, brushed with butter and sprinkled with salt, is a summer favorite.
  3. Potato Salad: A creamy potato salad with mustard and dill complements the rich flavors of grilled chicken.
  4. Baked Beans: Smoky, sweet baked beans add a hearty touch to your BBQ spread.
  5. Grilled Vegetables: Bell peppers, zucchini, and onions grilled to perfection offer a healthy, flavorful side.

Safety and Cleaning Tips

Handling Raw Chicken:

  1. Always wash your hands before and after handling raw chicken.
  2. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw chicken to avoid cross-contamination.
  3. Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F to ensure safety.

Cleaning the Grill:

  1. Allow the grill to cool slightly before cleaning.
  2. Use a grill brush to remove food residue from the grate.
  3. Empty and dispose of charcoal ashes once they are completely cool.
  4. Wipe down the grill exterior with a damp cloth and mild detergent.
  5. Store the grill in a dry place to prevent rust and ensure longevity.
Guide on how to BBQ chicken on a charcoal grill
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Preheat the grill and oil the grates before placing the chicken. Also, ensure the chicken skin is dry before grilling.

Cook over indirect heat to prevent burning. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Flip the chicken every 5-7 minutes to ensure even cooking and prevent burning.

A: Add more charcoal as needed and adjust the vents to maintain consistent heat.

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