Everybody loves barbecued chicken. The most common way to make it is the tried-and-true method of painting the chicken with barbecue sauce while it’s on the grill. The problem, as most backyard chefs have experienced, is the inevitable flame-ups as the sauce hits the hot coals. You end up with tasty chicken but lots of charred skin.
Lately, I’ve been doing grilled chicken a better way, using a dry rub. And I cook the chicken low and slow, at around 270° for around two hours. This is not easy to accomplish on a gas or regular charcoal grill, so I use The Big Green Egg. This delightful contraption is based on a centuries-old Japanese ceramic cooker, and it produces the best grilled chicken ever. The heat can be set from 150° to almost 800° and kept at the desired temperature for as long as necessary. If you use “natural” hardwood charcoal, a single bag can last almost a whole summer’s worth of grilled meals. Natural charcoal has no lighter fluid added, and tends to burn more slowly than treated briquets. I use an electric starter to get the coals glowing.
Here’s my easy chicken rub recipe. I make it in big batches and store it in the refrigerator for use over several weeks.
BBQ Rub for Grilled Chicken
1/2 cup each:
- dry mustard
- sweet paprika (or a mixture of hot and sweet)
- onion powder (you can find large containers of onion powder and garlic powder at warehouse stores like Costco)
- garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
- dark or light brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 chicken thighs or other chicken parts, skin on (you can do it with the skin off, but you’ll get drier meat)
Double or quadruple this recipe if you want a supply for later.
Mix all the ingredients together with your hands. Put about 1 cup of the mixture in a deep bowl.
Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces. Place in a baking dish large enough to hold all the pieces. Drizzle chicken on both sides with a bit of olive oil.
Dredge chicken pieces one at a time in the bowl of rub mixture, coating well on both sides. Slip a bit of the rub under the skin. Put chicken back into the baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerator for an hour or two. (When rushed, I’ve skipped this step, and it’s fine.)
If you have a Big Green Egg or other smoker, get the heat up to about 270° or just under 300°. Place the chicken pieces on the grate, close the lid, and cook for about 2 hours, turning half-way through. Keep the temperature as constant as possible. Remember, the idea is to cook the chicken “low and slow,” so the meat doesn’t dry out, but the skin becomes nicely crisp.
If you are working with a regular gas or charcoal grill, try the indirect cooking method. Bank your coals or briquettes to one side of the firebox and put your chicken on the other side of the grate. Control the temperature by opening and closing the vent holes, if your grill has them.
I usually make more of this than we can eat at one meal. Leftovers are terrific.