Chicken breasts are perfectly seasoned with my go-to sweet BBQ dry rub then grilled until they are juicy, tender and flavorful. The chicken is then slathered with homemade sweet, spicy and tangy BBQ sauce and seared until the exterior is nicely charred and the BBQ sauce is caramelized. Two-zone grilling ensures perfectly grilled chicken every time!
Hello, summer grilling!
In the spring, Nate and I purchased a pellet grill! Before this, we were using a hand-me-down gas grill, and it was time to upgrade! Learning to use our new Pit Boss pellet grill has been so fun and such a game changer! Being able to easily adjust the heat and knowing exactly what temperature the grill is it has really upped my grilling game.
But what has really taken my grilling to the next level is the use a meat thermometer. Before we bought our pellet grill, I rarely used a meat thermometer, and man, the difference it makes is unreal! Our pellet grill has a plug-in for a meat thermometer so I started using it out of convenience. Well, I really should have just bought a meat thermometer sooner.
Grilling meat to the perfect temperature results in the most juicy, tender, flavorful meat! No more guessing if the meat is done! Seriously, I can't emphasize enough how crucial a meat thermometer is when grilling. You will honestly taste the difference!
I recommend using an instant-read meat thermometer, and if you're feeling fancy, you can even get a bluetooth meat thermometer so you can check the temperature of the meat right from your phone! How cool is that!?
Okay, enough about meat thermometers. Let's talk delicious grilled BBQ chicken! Grilled chicken is so easy and quick to make, yet so delicious. Slather on some homemade BBQ sauce, and it takes it to another level.
This is my go-to grilled chicken recipe, it combines a dry rub marinade with BBQ sauce to create the most flavorful chicken! Both the dry rub and the BBQ sauce are made with pantry staple ingredients that you likely already have in your home, and they both use a few of the same spices.
If you're wondering if homemade BBQ sauce is worth it, the answer is yes! It's actually incredibly easy to make and so dang flavorful. I like mine a little spicy, a little sweet and a little tangy. My inspiration actually came from Voodoo chips that my friend is obsessed with, and I'm starting to think I am too! The chips are like a combination of salt and vinegar and sweet BBQ, just like my BBQ sauce.
Grilled BBQ Chicken Breasts.
Chicken. I personally prefer to make BBQ chicken with breasts or thighs, but you can use whatever cut of chicken you like best! Chicken breasts, drumsticks, thighs, wings - they all work great for this recipe! Depending on the cut of chicken you use, keep in mind that the grill time will change. But, the best way to ensure that you don't overcook the chicken and dry it out (or even undercook), is to use an instant-read meat thermometer. It is crucial when grilling meat. Trust me, you will notice the difference!
BBQ Dry rub. My go-to BBQ dry rub is made with simple pantry spices that you likely already have in your home. It's a little sweet, a little smokey and a little spicy. Not only is it great on chicken, but also on pork and beef, as well! So, I suggest making a double or triple batch and storing it for future grilling!
Sweet, Spicy, Tangy BBQ Sauce. You'll be surprised at how easy barbecue sauce is to make at home - plus, it's incredibly delicious! I like my BBQ sauce to be lightly sweetened, a little spicy and have a tangy bite. The combination is absolutely perfect. Cayenne pepper is what's used to amp up the spice level, so feel free to adjust the amount of cayenne to your liking. Keep in mind that simmering the BBQ sauce helps to bring out the flavor of all the spices, so do a taste test after the BBQ sauce has simmered for a few minutes before adding more cayenne.
Grilled BBQ Chicken Dry Rub Ingredients.
My BBQ dry rub is made with simple pantry-staple spices that you likely already have in your home. This is my go-to dry rub recipe for grilling and can be used on chicken, pork and beef! It's a little sweet, smokey and spicy and perfect for grilling meat!
Sweet, Spicy, Tangy BBQ Sauce Ingredients.
Homemade BBQ sauce is the condiment you never knew you needed! It's actually super simple to make and you likely already have all the ingredients in your pantry and fridge. This is my favorite go-to BBQ sauce because it's lightly sweetened, a little spicy and deliciously tangy. The combination is amazing. I'm obsessed.
What is Two-Zone Grilling?
Two zone grilling means you have two zones of heat on the grill. One zone with direct flames and the other zone without direct flames.
Grilling with two zones of heat allows meat to cook more evenly, resulting moist and tender chicken, pork or beef, and allows you to get a perfectly charred sear without burning or overcooking the meat.
Direct heat. This is when you cook over direct flames. Direct heat is great for searing meat and fast cooking.
Indirect heat. This is when you cook on the other side of the grill away from direct flames. This allows for slow cooking and prevents burnt and overcooked meat.
Two-zone grilling on a charcoal grill. Only place coals on one side of the grill to create direct heat over the coals, and indirect heat on the other side of the grill.
Two-zone grilling on a gas grill. You need a grill with at least TWO burners for two-zone grilling on gas grills. Turn the burners to high on one side of the grill, creating direct heat. Leave the burners off on the other side of the grill for indirect heat.
Two-zone grilling on a pellet grill. When using a Traeger or Pit Boss pellet grill, two-zone grilling is very easy. For indirect grilling, close the sear plate and cook on the opposite side. To cook over direct heat, open the sear plate, allowing the flames to come through then place the meat over the direct flame.
Sear vs. Reverse Sear
When grilling with two zones, I traditionally use the reverse sear method.
Reverse sear. Reverse searing is when you first cook the meat over indirect heat, allowing the meat to slowly rise in temperature, typically resulting in more juicy, tender meat. You then finish the meat over direct heat to sear and get a nicely browned exterior. This is the method I use most often when I'm grilling, and the method I use for this recipe.
Sear. The other method of searing is when you first sear the meat over direct heat to get that nicely browned exterior, then you transfer the meat to indirect heat to slowly finish cooking. This method is great when you plan to slow cook in the oven or crock pot. For example, when you are making a roast, traditionally you start by searing the meat in a hot skillet until it's nicely browned on the outside, then you transfer it to a dutch oven or crockpot with liquid to finish cooking over 6-8 hours.
Tips & Substitutions.
Can I use store-bought BBQ Sauce? Yes! If you don't have the time or ingredients to make homemade BBQ sauce, then feel free to use your favorite store-bought brand. The chicken will still be great!
Can I use bone-in or skin-on chicken? Most certainly! Feel free to use whatever cut of chicken you like best - you will just adjust the grilling time. Keep in mind that bone-in chicken takes longer to cook then boneless.
Do I need to use a meat thermometer? I HIGHLY recommend it! You will be shocked by the difference - it will forever change grilling for you! When you cook chicken to exactly 160 degrees F, it is so tender and juicy. You can say goodbye to dry, tough chicken! I also recommend that you use an instant-read meat thermometer because the temperature of meat rises fast when grilling! If you're feeling fancy, you can get a bluetooth meat thermometer that allows you to see the temperature from an app on your phone!
Delicious Sides to Serve with Grilled Chicken!
Grilled Sweet & Tangy BBQ Chicken
- 4-5 chicken breasts
- olive oil
Sweet BBQ Rub
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon each black pepper, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, and garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- ¼ cup white or apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon each dijon mustard and molasses
- ½ tablespoon worcestershire
- ½ teaspoon each garlic powder and onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon each salt, chili powder and paprika
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- Make the BBQ Sauce. In a small saucepan, combine all of the BBQ sauce ingredients and simmer over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, or until sauce thickens to desired consistency. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
- Make the Dry Rub. While the bbq sauce simmers, mix together the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl.
- Season the chicken. Drizzle the chicken breasts with a little olive oil and rub it around on all sides. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with the dry rub. Let the chicken marinate while you prepare the grill.
- Preheat the Grill. Preheat the grill to medium heat, about 350 degrees F with two-zone heat.
- Grill over indirect heat. Place the seasoned chicken on the grill over indirect heat and close the lid. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees F, about 20-25 minutes. Using a thermometer is the best way to ensure you don't overcook and dry out the chicken.
- Grill over direct heat. Generously baste both sides of the chicken with bbq sauce and finish cooking over direct heat. Sear on both sides until nicely charred and the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.
- Let rest. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with tinfoil. Lest rest for about 10 minutes before servings, allowing the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
- Serve. Serve the chicken with more BBQ sauce for dipping.