This barbecue chicken is the best thing I’ve cooked in a long time. I’m confident enough that I’d put it up in a barbecue contest any day of the week. The key is to cook the chicken quarters over indirect heat with a lot of smoke, before finishing them over the coals until nice and crispy. Glaze the chicken right before you take if off the grill to avoid burning the sauce. The result is perfectly cooked, incredibly juicy dark meat that’ll be a hit at your next backyard barbecue.
Watch Andrew make this recipe:
Andrew Zimmern Cooks: Barbecue Chicken
- 2 quarts water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup salt
- 5 chicken leg quarters
- Vegetable Oil
- Applewood chips, soaked in water
- Barbecue sauce
- 3 cups cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
- 1 cup Heinz chile sauce
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons Crystal hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons red chile flakes, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a large stockpot, combine the water, sugar and salt. Whisk until dissolved. Add the chicken leg quarters to the pot, and additional water if needed to ensure the chicken is covered. Place in the fridge overnight.
Two hours before you want to start the grill, remove the chicken from the brine and place on a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. Place back in the fridge to dry on the rack.
Prepare a charcoal grill for indirect cooking. Light a chimney full of charcoal, and let burn until the top of the charcoal turns white. Dump the coals into one side of a kettle grill. Clean and oil the grate.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brush the tops of the chicken lightly with vegetable oil. Place on the grill, with the leg end of the chicken quarter furthest from the fire. Put a couple handfuls of the soaked wood chips on top of the charcoal. Cover the grill with the lid and close the top vent. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes, until well browned.
While the chicken is cooking, light another half-full chimney of charcoal. After the chicken has cooked on the cool side of the grill for about 45 minutes, add the additional charcoal to the hot side of the grill. Cover with the lid and open the top vent. When the heat is back above 400 degrees F, move the chicken to cook directly over the coals. Cook for another 10 minutes, flipping once (or more if needed to avoid flare-ups). Glaze with barbecue sauce and cook for about a minute to allow the sauce to set. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. Dig in, passing more barbecue sauce at the table.
Combine barbecue sauce ingredients over medium heat in a small pot. When boiling, lower heat to maintain simmer and gently cook until barbecue sauce consistency is reached, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
Photographs by Madeleine Hill.