Quick-Brined Barbecued Chicken Thighs

As promised, here is the BBQ chicken recipe where I got to use my homemade BBQ sauce for the first time.  It surely won’t be the last time I use the sauce or make the chicken!

If you’ve never brined chicken thighs before, it was a relatively simple process compared to brining the whole bird since it takes up a lot less room in your refrigerator.  I doubled the recipe because I knew it would take more than 1 1/4 lbs. of chicken to feed five people which included 3 hungry guys.  The 3-lb. package of boneless chicken thighs I bought contained 10 thigh pieces which I split up between two gallon-sized Ziploc bags.

The brine takes just a few minutes to throw together and then you boil the ingredients after which you cool the mixture before pouring over the chicken and refrigerating it.  You do have to plan ahead because the chicken needs to chill in the brine for 6 hours.  I had my chicken in the fridge by noon on Father’s Day, and that left the afternoon free to make a couscous salad (coming!) and a fabulous dessert—blueberry shortcake (also coming!).

Roger did the grilling honors even though it was his special day, and I’ve made notes with regard to how long it took him to grill the chicken which was significantly less time than the original recipe stated.  Of course, it will depend on the size of your chicken pieces but be forewarned and watch them closely on the grill.

The chicken thighs were a huge success.  The five of us dug into it with gusto.  I know I enjoyed every bite of the tender, moist chicken with its flavorful homemade BBQ sauce.  If you are not a fan of thighs as I am, the original Gourmet magazine recipe called for using other pieces of the chicken with bone included.  Those pieces will definitely need a longer grilling time.

All in all, it was a special meal for a special Dad.  Hope you all enjoyed your Father’s Day…

One year ago:  Brookies

Quick-Brined Barbecued Chicken Thighs

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Ingredients for the Brine

  • 1 quart cold water
  • 1 tbl. sugar
  • 2 tbl. Kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Ingredients for the BBQ Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tbl. cider vinegar
  • 3 tbl. honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. liquid smoke
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a medium saucepan, bring the water, sugar, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 12 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the brine cool to room temperature.  Once cool, pour the brine over the chicken in a large bowl or sturdy gallon-size zipper bag; seal the bowl or bag and chill for 6 hours.

Meanwhile, make the sauce—whisk the first six ingredients for the sauce in a medium bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Chill until ready to use.  You’ll have quite a bit more than you’ll need for this recipe which is not a bad thing!  Store the extra in another container for more good grilling later on.  Just be sure not to dip a brush that you’ve used to coat raw chicken (or raw anything else other than veggies) into the container.  Pour out what you need each time so as not to contaminate the larger bowl of sauce.

Prepare a gas grill (charcoal instructions can be found in this link to Gourmet):  Preheat all burners on high, with the lid down, 10 minutes, then adjust heat to medium-high.

After 6 hours and while the grill is heating, remove the chicken from the bowl/bag and pat it dry with paper towels.  Do not season it with salt before grilling.  Sear the chicken on both sides then turn off 2 burners (if your grill has 3) or 1 burner (if your grill has 2) and move the chicken over the off burners and let it cook over indirect heat for 12 minutes, flipping once about halfway through the cooking time.  (Note:  These are the original instructions, but the  chicken thighs were cooked to perfection over the indirect heat in 5 minutes, so watch yours closely.)

After 12 minutes (or 5 minutes!), slather one side of the chicken with the BBQ sauce, flip it over, slather the other side and let it cook for 2 minutes.  Flip the chicken one more time and let the other side cook for 2 minutes.  (Roger cooked each side for just one minute.)  Remove the chicken from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes, loosely tented with foil, before serving hot.

Fran’s Notes

I bought a 3-lb. package of boneless chicken thighs which contained 10 thighs.  They were cooked to perfection in the times I have noted in parentheses in red.  Depending on the size/weight of chicken you buy, cooking times may vary.

Source:  Adapted from a Smells Like Home recipe

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