Sticky Hands & Sauce-Smeared Faces

September 2, 2008

Can you believe that I’ve never made barbecue chicken before? I’m fully aware that it’s a summer BBQ staple, ensuring a grill wafting with delicious smells and a table full of people with sticky hands and sauce-smeared grinning faces. Which of course, makes them the perfect centerpiece for my Summer’s-Last-Stand BBQ Menu (components of which I’ll be posting about each day this week).

But barbecue sauce has never been my thing. I think a certain fast-food chain is mainly to blame for that: those little rectangular vessels of the stuff seemed to accompany all my childhood friends’ Happy Meals, a dunking pool for McNuggets and French fries—and a constant source of nose-wrinkling on my part. Growing up, I also eschewed the barbecue-flavored chips, much to my friends’ dismay. The sauce was just too sweet, too cloying, too overpowering for me.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

I always knew, though, that there was a way to do it right. And I also suspected that the way didn’t involve popping open a squeeze-bottle from the grocery aisle. I wanted to make a homemade sauce and I turned to Ina, she who I trust when it comes to finding a failsafe version of a classic recipe.

As it turned out, the sauce was absolutely delicious. But it also turned out that, instead of popping open just one super market-aisle bottle, I popped open no fewer than a dozen jars (see below), emptying most of them in the process. I’ll warn you now: this is a recipe that is certain to (a) empty out your refrigerator door shelves, (b) clean out your pantry, (c) put a significant dent in your wallet, (d) make way more than necessary (you could definitely cut the recipe in half and still have plenty to sauce enough chicken for six to eight people), (e) require a mid-recipe trip to the market because you will inevitably run out of something along the way (thank you, Kevin), and (f) completely, totally blow any other store-bought barbecue sauce out of the water.

It’s the item listed in (f), of course, that will have me making this sauce for summers to come and that has me thanking my lucky stars that I’ve got a significant amount of it stashed in the freezer. I used the sauce on skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, thighs and drumsticks (using two-thirds of the sauce to marinate it overnight, reserving the other half for brushing the chicken pieces as they grilled), but the variations are endless: ribs, pork chops, firm tofu, salmon, shrimp. And, since we have a gas grill rather than a charcoal one, I baked the marinated chicken in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes before finishing them off (and swabbing them with additional sauce) on the hot grill for another 20 minutes, where they smoked and sizzled and crisped up.

Summer’s Last Stand: We’re making the most of one of the last weeks of summer by meandering through the Canadian Rockies. As such, comment moderation and email responses will be slow this week. But, while we’re away, daily posts will highlight components of a Summer’s-Last-Stand BBQ Menu. Up tomorrow: grilled corn on the cob and smoked paprika butter.

Barbecued Chicken
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook via Food Network

Serves 6-8

2 chickens (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each), quartered, with backs removed*
1 recipe Barbecue Sauce, recipe follows**

Marinate the chickens in 2/3 of the barbecue sauce for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Heat the coals in a charcoal grill. Spread the bottom of the grill with a single layer of hot coals and then add a few more coals 5 minutes before cooking, which will keep the fire going longer. Place the chicken quarters on the grill, skin side down, and cook for about 45 minutes,*** turning once or twice to cook evenly on both sides. Brush with the marinade as needed. The chicken quarters are done when you insert a knife between a leg and thigh and the juices run clear. Discard any unused marinade.

Serve with extra barbecue sauce on the side.

Barbecue Sauce:
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup tomato paste (10 ounces)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

In a large saucepan on low heat, saute the onions and garlic with the vegetable oil for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not browned. Add the tomato paste, vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.

* I used skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, thighs and drumsticks.
** You can easily halve the sauce recipe and have enough to sauce the 5-6 pounds of chicken, brush the chicken while it grills and serve additional sauce on the side. If you make the entire batch, be prepared to freeze some leftovers (which is not a bad thing).
*** We have a gas grill, so I baked the chicken in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes and finished them off on the grill for about 20 minutes, brushing often with some of the reserved sauce.

14 Responses to “Sticky Hands & Sauce-Smeared Faces”

  1. eggsonsunday Says:

    Oh, Ina! She comes through again. This sauce looks fantastic, I want to reach through the pictures and grab one of those pieces of chicken! The (scary?) thing is, I of those ingredients in my pantry…I think it’s time to make this recipe! -Amy

  2. CB Says:

    Your “bake first” technique is a good idea for many folks as it ensures the chicken is done. Another way is to place the chicken on the grill – sans anything but a little salt & pepper with a light spray or brush of canola oil. Sear it and then remove it to a covered pan or tray where it can “braise” a bit or glaze in the sauce. The one piece of advice I share with folks is to learn when to ‘stop’ grilling. We’ve all been to parties where the host loads up the grill with overly-sauced (usually from a bottled sauce that has lotsa corn syrup or brown sugar) and the flames leap about to char and eventually carbon-coat the chicken. The cook continues to add more sauce and cooks everything the same amount of time. Dark meat takes longer, breasts and wings go on last – cause they will cook fast, especially if you sear first and then remove to a holding/finishing tray.

    Cardinal rule for grilling chicken: Learn when to stop grilling!

    Tasty sauce by the way. Wanna try it this week!

  3. brilynn Says:

    Homemade bbq sauce is definitely where it’s at and yours sounds awesome!

  4. Monica h Says:

    I love Ina and I love BBQ chicken! We had corn, baked beans and BBQ chicken for dinner last night- yum!

  5. Summer Says:

    How funny- my husband just made BBQ Chicken for the first time ever two days ago and also turned to the same exact recipe (printed from Food Network’s website). Being vegetarian, I only tasted the sauce (which I used in homemade baked beans), but it was delicious!

  6. Gabriela Says:

    I miss BBQing! Haven’t had a chance to all sumer. Ina Garten is quite lovely, especially her banana and cream cheese pancakes. Ridiculously delicious.

  7. mybricole Says:

    Thanks for reminding me about this recipe. I forgot how much I love Ina’s BBQ chicken.

  8. Kumiko Says:

    I think I will try this next week! 🙂

  9. lisa Says:

    That’s a great tip about keeping some in the freezer. Homemade bbq sauces are so much better that storebought, and this one looks amazing!

  10. Tom Aarons Says:

    That looks so beautiful and delicious! Right now I could happily start chewing on the computer screen!!!

  11. tara Says:

    I have a heard from a few friends that this is their go-to recipe for barbecue sauce; and most do halve it as it makes vats full. Great picture of all the ingredients, it is somehow mesmerizing!

  12. Curt Says:

    A way to cook the chicken without the oven part is to leave a burner off on the gas grill, or spread coals out so there’s a cooler zone on one side (put the coals all on the other side), then cook the chicken over the cooler part of the grill, using indirect heat, so it doesn’t burn, then just finish it over the hotter part to sear the skin.

    Great looking photos!

  13. Amy: Oh, my, you have a well-stocked pantry! I have a feeling you will love this one (it is Ina after all …).

    CB: Good tips, all!

    brilynn: Thanks!

    Monica h: Well, this sounds like the recipe for you! That meal sounds fantastic … so summer.

    Summer: Oh, I bet this was great in baked beans! Yum.

    Gabriela: I just made her banana-sour cream pancakes this weekend while we were on vacation! Delicious. Sadly, I didn’t get photos. Guess I’ll just have to make them again. Darn.

    mybricole: Why you’re welcome!

    Kumiko: Let us know how it goes!

    lisa: Yes. And I even had the foresight to freeze it in small portions. Sometimes I amaze myself. : )

    Tom Aarons: Hmm. Even coated with this sauce, I’m not sure the screen will be all that tasty. Hate to break it to you … : )

    tara: Thanks! That photo doesn’t even include everything!

    Curt: I thought about the indirect heat method on the grill. I think that would work well (it’s what I did for my beer can chicken), but I was afraid I had too many chicken pieces. Good idea for a smaller batch.

  14. mari Says:

    I made bbq sauce for the first time last summer and I couldn’t believe how fabulous it was, not to mention how easy!

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