Chef John's Barbecue Chicken


When it comes to grilled barbecue chicken, everyone wants a nice thick barbecue glaze attached to the skin, and the only way to do it is to brush it on as it cooks. But because barbecue sauce has such a high sugar content, it only takes a minute for it to go from brick red to solid black — so you have to be careful! To ensure a sticky, sweet glaze that's not burnt, I sear the skin quickly, then cook it skin-side up on a covered grill, brushing on the glaze while it cooks. Because the glaze never touches the grilling surface, it doesn't burn.

Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
40 mins
Additional Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
2 hrs


  • 1 whole chicken, cut into halves

  • ¼ cup rice vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • ½ cup barbecue sauce, or as needed


  1. Cut 1/2-inch deep slashes in the skin-side of each chicken half: two cuts in each breast, two in each thigh, and one in each leg. Remove wing tips.

  2. Whisk vinegar, 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, and garlic together in a large bowl. Place chicken in the bowl and turn to coat. Arrange chicken halves in the bottom of the bowl with the cut sides down; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

  3. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate.

  4. Remove chicken from the bowl and pat dry with paper towels; discard any remaining marinade. Place chicken halves, skin-side up, on a plate and season with salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.

  5. Cook chicken, skin-side down, on the preheated grill until grill marks appear, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn chicken over, close the grill lid, and cook, basting with remaining barbecue sauce every 6 minutes, until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear, about 35 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone should read 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

464 Calories
24g Fat
11g Carbs
48g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 6
Calories 464
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 24g 31%
Saturated Fat 7g 34%
Cholesterol 149mg 50%
Sodium 1583mg 69%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 48g
Vitamin C 1mg 5%
Calcium 34mg 3%
Iron 3mg 14%
Potassium 396mg 8%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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