Master Recipe for Barbecuing Chicken

Using a gas grill can be easier because you can control the fire with the turn of a button. The drawback is that you don't get as good a smoked flavor. If your gas grill has a smoke box that sits on or between the burners, put wood chips or sawdust in it to give your chicken some smoky flavor. Or wrap some wood chips or sawdust envelope-style in heavy-duty foil. Poke holes in the top and set it on the grill's lava rocks or burner to produce some smoke. Serves eight to ten.

7 to 8 lb. bone-in chicken parts, cut as you like
1 recipe Spice Rub (see recipe)
1 cup apple juice for basting
1 recipe Classic Kansas City, Memphis Style,
or Georgia Peach barbecue sauce (see recipes)

To prepare the chicken -- Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces. Sprinkle on the rub generously.

To prepare the fire -- Using a chimney starter, light 40 to 50 pieces of good-quality lump charcoal. When the coals are glowing, transfer them from the chimney to one side of the grill. (If you don't have a chimney starter, stack the charcoal around some crumpled newspaper in a pyramid in the grill and light the newspaper. The coals will be hot in 20 to 30 min.)

If you have some pieces of apple or oak hardwood, feel free to add a couple to the stack of coals. Put a small foil or metal pan full of water next to the coals. Position the grilling grate so that one of the holes is over the coals so you can add coals and wood chips as needed.

When the coals are about 90% white, position the pieces of chicken, skin side up, on the grill anywhere except directly over the coals. Cover the grill with the lid, making sure that the air vent is opposite the fire. Cook the chicken for about 30 min., maintaining a temperature of 230 to 250F by adjusting the vents. (Opening the vents lets in more oxygen and raises the temperature.) Add more charcoal if the temperature drops below 230F. You'll likely need to add 15 to 20 pieces about 30 min. after putting the chicken on.

If you're using a gas grill -- Get one side of the grill hot and arrange the chicken on the other side. Close the lid and maintain the temperature of the grill between 230 and 250F.

If your grill -- gas or charcoal -- didn't come with a thermometer, you can set an oven thermometer on the grate near where the chicken is cooking.

After a half hour or so, baste the chicken with some of the apple juice. Continue to cook the chicken until it's cooked through -- this will take about 3 hours -- basting it and checking the temperature of the grill every 45 min. or so. As the chicken cooks, you can move the pieces around the grill if those closest to the fire seem in danger of overcooking. But keep the chicken skin side up for the duration.

Check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer after 2-1/2 hours. Cooked chicken should read 165F in the meatiest part of the thigh or breast. You'll also know the chicken is done when its juices run clear after being sliced into with a knife.

When the chicken is cooked, pour some of the barbecue sauce into a separate container (to avoid contaminating the whole batch) and brush it onto the chicken. Cook it an additional few minutes so that the sauce adheres to the chicken in a sticky glaze; watch the chicken carefully at this point and pull it off the grill if the sauce starts to burn.

Remove the chicken from the grill and serve with some of the barbecue sauce on the side, if you like.

Source of recipe: Paul Kirk, Fine Cooking #39
photo: Scott Phillips

Recipe link:

Master Recipe for Barbecuing Chicken