How to Cook Mesquite BBQ Chicken


The sweet and sultry flavor of mesquite can be added to chicken two ways -- by grilling the chicken over mesquite wood chips, or by using a mesquite spice rub or marinade. Mesquite smoking enhances most grilled meats as long as you don't overdo it. Mesquite flavor is intense, so use it sparingly with chicken so that it does not overpower the meat or turn bitter.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 to 3 cups mesquite wood chips
  • Bowl or bucket
  • Smoker grill
  • Coals
  • Vegetable oils
  • Mesquite spices
  • Mesquite marinade
  • Grill

Smoked Mesquite Barbecue Chicken

  • Take approximately 2 to 3 cups of mesquite wood chips and place them in water in a bowl or bucket. Let them soak for at least 1 hour or longer. They can soak overnight, if you prefer.

  • Fill the smoker grill with coals and fire them up. A smoker grill is a specialized grill that can be enclosed to trap the smoke. When the coals are glowing (but not smoking), take the still-wet chips and place them on top of the coals. Leave the chips bare or wrap them in foil to better control the smoke. Punch a few small holes in the foil.

  • Wait until the chips begin emitting smoke. Place the chicken pieces on the grill rack directly above the smoking chips. Close the lid of the smoker grill so the meat can absorb the maximum amount of smoke flavor. Leave until done, turning the pieces occasionally. Be aware that smoke cooking takes longer than direct-grill cooking, because only the smoke is cooking the meat.

  • Add vegetable oils as needed to the chicken to help absorb the essence of the mesquite and to moisten the meat. Chicken can be grilled without any additional spice or flavoring; the mesquite is strong enough to add sufficient flavor. Still, you can add other spices, such as garlic or pepper, to your taste.

Mesquite Barbecue Chicken Using Marinade or Rubbing Spice

  • Cook mesquite barbecue chicken using a mesquite marinade or herb rub. Mesquite marinade comes in many varieties, and there are hundreds of commercial spice rub preparations. Most marinades use a base of vegetable oil, garlic, hot peppers and a touch of citrus, typically lime. Mesquite smoking gives an earthy and slightly sweet, tart flavor to chicken. The spice rubs and marinades attempt to replicate this flavor profile without smoking.

  • Wash chicken pieces and pat them dry. If you're using a marinade, place the clean chicken pieces in the mesquite marinade of your choice and let them sit overnight. Cook the pieces over an ordinary grill or stove top until they're done. Stick a fork into the chicken to test; if the juices run clear, the meat is done. If you like, brush occasionally with oil or add additional dry spice to your taste during the cooking process.

  • Take the clean and dry chicken pieces and roll them in the mesquite dry rub spice preparation of your choice, if you're not using marinade. Do this just before cooking -- you do not have to let the pieces sit for any length of time in the spice. Cook over an ordinary grill or stove top until they're done. Brush lightly with oil as needed, being careful not to remove too much dry spice.

Tips & Warnings

  • Technically, mesquite barbecue chicken is almost always grilled rather than barbecued in the traditional sense. Classic barbecue requires hours of cooking and smoking. Do not try the lengthy barbecue method with mesquite. The flavor is too intense and it is likely to become bitter.

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