Paula: In most recipes, grilled meats are brushed with sauce towards the end of the cooking process so the sweetners (sugar, honey, molasses, etc.) don’t scorch and blacken over the fire. This time-honored method is solid, but what if you want your chicken to sing with more sauce? Marinating chicken thighs (or drumsticks) in sauce infuses the meat with a deeper hot-sweet flavor and results in a richer, more tender texture. To avoid the scorched skin scenario, cook the chicken over indirect heat.
Bonus: the meat needs less babysitting (“can I get anyone another beer?”), because it’s cooking at more moderate heat. If the skin needs additional crisping, give the thighs a quick spin over direct heat the last few minutes of cooking, flipping as needed to prevent the skin from becoming overly black.
Barbecued Chicken Thighs with Tupelo Two-Step
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon The Usual or Chicka Licka Bam Bam
- 1 cup Tupelo Two-Step sauce, plus more for serving
Place the chicken thighs in a mixing bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat, and season with The Usual. Use your hands to gently toss the chicken and ensure each thigh is evenly coated with seasonings, and then transfer the chicken to a sealable plastic bag. Pour the Tupelo Two-Step over the chicken, seal the bag, use your hands to disperse the sauce and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to one day in advance. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour before cooking.
Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire. Clean and oil the grill grates. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, place the chicken thighs over indirect heat (the side of the grill with no coals), close the grill, vent for smoking, and cook for the chicken skin for 10 minutes. Baste the thighs with additional sauce (and rotate around the heat as needed), close the grill and cook for another 10 minutes. Baste again, close the grill and continue cooking until the skin is crisp and an instant read digital thermometer reads 165 F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, about 25-30 minutes total.
If the chicken skin needs additional crisping, move it to direct heat for the last few minutes of cooking, flipping as needed to prevent the skin from becoming overly black. Remove from heat, allow the thighs to rest for 10 minutes, then serve as desired with additional Tupelo Two-Step.
Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe, and infamous grill nerd and co-owner of PK Grills, Scott Moody.
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