How Do I Cook Chicken to Caramelize BBQ Sauce?


Caramelizing the barbecue sauce -- without burning it -- makes all the difference to the flavor of your barbecued chicken. For many cooks it can be tricky to get the chicken and sauce done to perfection. The secret is to cook the chicken low and slow over indirect heat, then crank up the heat during the last few minutes to caramelize the sauce.

Things You'll Need

  • Salt and pepper or dry rub
  • Gas or charcoal grill
  • Tongs
  • Sweet barbecue sauce
  • Preheat the grill in zones. For a gas grill, turn on the back burner or the burners on one side of the grill. Close the lid and allow the temperature to rise to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. On a charcoal grill, spread the charcoal around the sides and light it, allowing for indirect heat in the center of the grill.

  • Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper or your favorite dry rub. Place the chicken over the unlit portion of the grill, not directly over the coals or burner.

  • Allow the chicken pieces to slowly roast until the internal temperature reaches 165 F, approximately 10 to 15 minutes per side, and a few minutes longer for chicken quarters and halves. Turn the chicken occasionally, using tongs.

  • Cover the top of the chicken with a sweet barbecue sauce and move it directly over the heat source now.

  • Grill the chicken over direct heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn it over and sauce the other side. Continue saucing and turning the chicken in this way until the sauce is built up and caramelized to your satisfaction, approximately 10 to 20 minutes.

  • Remove the chicken to a clean platter and allow it to rest for approximately 5 minutes before serving.

Tips & Warnings

  • Sweet barbecue sauces caramelize because of the sugar and tomato in the recipe. Don't expect a vinegar sauce or mustard sauce to caramelize as well as a sweet sauce.
  • Use clean utensils when handling cooked chicken; do not reuse utensils that have touched raw meat.

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