IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Very Best Grilled Chicken Ever

Cook Time:
35 mins
Prep Time:
40 mins

Chef notes

We heard that in fancy culinary schools, the first thing they teach you is how to make amazing chicken with just salt. We weren't admitted to any of those schools, so we can't confirm. Regardless, this chicken recipe is intentionally simple and intentionally first in the chapter to establish some fundamentals. Oh, and also to make epically delicious chicken.

The word count is high on this recipe, but it is mainly about how to buy a whole chicken and break it down. We personally find this process therapeutic. Don't let it scare you off. You can get a butcher to do this or buy the parts already separated.

Swap option: This is our basic barbecue sauce recipe, but you can switch things up by swapping the cayenne for chipotle, habanero or your favorite hot pepper. Or get citrusy and use orange juice in place of the vinegar.


  • 1 (4-to 5-pound) broiler fryer chicken or 4 pounds skin-on, bone-in pieces
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
Texas Barbecue Sauce
  • cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter


For the chicken:


If you master breaking down a whole chicken into pieces, then you can save money and give everyone the barbecue chicken piece they love.


With a sharp chef's knife and a large cutting board ready, pat the chicken dry with paper towels.


Starting with one side, grab the drumstick and pull it away from the chicken, until the skin is taught. Use the knife to cut through the skin between the leg and the body, then repeat on the other side. Pull the leg down farther and twist it hard until the leg joint pops out of the socket.


Flip the bird over and score the top of the skin above and between the thighs. Then use your knife to remove the leg quarter by cutting through the joint area you revealed. Repeat this on the other side.


Working with one quarter at a time, you can split the thigh and drumstick by placing the piece skin side down and locating the joint. There's often a white piece of fat between the thigh and drumstick that you can use as a guide, or you can use your fingers to feel around for the joint. Separate the pieces by cutting directly through the joint and repeat with the other quarter.


Removing the wing is just as easy as removing the leg. Pull the wing taut away from the breast. Cut through the joint to remove the wing and repeat on the other side. Cut through the joint, as you did with the thighs, to remove the wing tip. Save these for making stock.


Lastly, remove the chicken's breasts. Flip the body back over and use the knife to cut through the skin on the sternum. Keeping your knife as close as possible to the rib bones, slice off the breasts on each side. You can turn the carcass into stock, so don't throw it away!


Set the chicken pieces on a rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Season each piece well with kosher salt and black pepper.


Then combine the sugar and garlic powder in a small bowl and stir to combine. Season the chicken pieces on all sides with this seasoning mixture and dry brine, uncovered, in the fridge for 24 hours before grilling.

For the Texas barbecue sauce:

Make the sauce by combining the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, honey and cayenne in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium, add the butter and cook for about 10 minutes. The sauce will be thin. Store for up to 3 days in advance of cooking.

To cook and assemble:


Heat the grill for two-zone cooking, with the heated side cranked to high.


Cook the chicken over indirect heat for 18 to 20 minutes. Keep close to the grill to move the chicken as needed to prevent flare ups and rotate the pieces away from the high-heat side of the grill. When the chicken reaches 150 F, you can begin basting with the sauce. Sauce the chicken every 2 to 3 minutes for an additional 10 to 12 minutes until the breasts hit 160 F.


Serve with any remaining sauce and lots of napkins.

Reprinted with permission from "The Best Grilling Cookbook Ever Written by Two Idiots" by Ryan Fey and Mark Anderson. Page Street Publishing Co. 2022. Photo credit: Ken Goodman.

TODAY has affiliate relationships, so we may get a small share of the revenue from your purchases. Items are sold by the retailer, not by TODAY.