Don't Make This Sauce Mistake When Grilling Chicken

For such a commonly consumed item — it's the most widely eaten meat in the U.S., with each American downing about 96 pounds per year — chicken is surprisingly easy to mess up (via Statista). White meat can be prone to overcooking and the threat of salmonella bacteria make it a minefield to safely store, defrost, and cook. And let's face it, sometimes chicken just doesn't have a lot of flavor, especially if you neglect to brine or marinate it. 

And don't get us started on the pitfalls of grilling chicken — from cooking over a too-hot grill to slacking on the seasoning, this should-be simple preparation too often goes horribly awry. Speaking of grilled chicken, we love a classic BBQ sauce-slathered bird, but it has its difficulties, too. Namely, it often burns and turns bitter. Here's how to avoid that, so that you can easily serve up the juicy, tangy BBQ chicken all your guests will love.

How to do BBQ chicken right

Barbecue sauce, is typically a sweet-savory mix of ketchup livened up with some vinegar, flavored with dried herbs and spices, and sweetened with honey, molasses, or sugar. That last ingredient is why many of us just can't get enough of this tangy sauce — and it's also responsible for a host of problems when you're attempting to grill BBQ chicken. As we describe in our article on how to solve common grilling errors, the sugar or sweetening agent in barbecue sauce quickly burns the grill, making the chicken look done even though it's still raw on the inside. Leave the chicken on longer and that sauce will burn even more. And then if you take it off, you're gambling with an undercooked and possibly unsafe piece of meat. 

So, here's how to do BBQ chicken right. Tap into your patient side, and start grilling your (seasoned) chicken sans sauce. Then, about 10 minutes before the meat is done, start glazing the chicken with thin coatings of barbecue sauce, turning the meat each time so that the prior coating has time to caramelize but not to burn. This recipe for BBQ chicken from Epicurious concurs with our preferred method, waiting until the chicken is mostly cooked before applying a mustard barbecue sauce and turning the meat every one to two minutes. The result is juicy, beautifully cooked grilled chicken slathered in a tangy sauce that's sweet but not bitter. Consider your chicken woes solved.