Molasses Barbecued Chicken



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As mentioned last week, I barbecued chicken on the Fourth of July this year. I’ve been dreaming of a barbecued pork tenderloin that I made when I was a lot younger, but I wanted to make it with chicken. So, I took the barbecue sauce from that recipe and used it for the best barbecued chicken I’ve ever made.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because everything actually starts with the rub. When coming up with a chicken rub I wanted to add to the flavor of the chicken, not overpower it, so I used paprika instead of chili powder. I love mustard powder with chicken, so I loaded up on the mustard powder and used black pepper instead of hot red pepper for just a little heat. Of course, if you really like heat, you could also throw in a little dried chipotle or cayenne; but we’re in New England up here, and I don’t want to make smoke come out of anyone’s ears.

This chicken would be delectable  if you used only the rub and threw it on the grill.  But my oh my, the molasses in the barbecue sauce gives the chicken the suck-on-your-fingers quality that will get everyone talking and will make you look like a grilling god! You can make this sauce ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to start grilling. To avoid burning the sugary sauce, I don’t add it until right before I take the chicken off the grill. I use a gas grill, so I’ve also added a small smoker box with mesquite chips to give the chicken the Texas flavor I can’t live without. Feel free to leave out the wood chips – smoke isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Chicken Rub – Click here for a printer-friendly version

This recipe makes enough rub for 6-7 pounds of bone-in chicken pieces. I used a five pound chicken cut into pieces plus 1 1/2 pounds of chicken wings (know your crowd). If you are only feeding a few people, you can make this up and store what you don’t use.

2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon yellow mustard powder
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper or cayenne(optional)

For the rub, mix all ingredients and generously rub on meat or store in an air-tight container until ready to use. This should keep for several weeks if tightly stored.

Barbecue Sauce – Click here for a printer-friendly version

This sauce is a double recipe adapted from an Eating Well recipe for Southern Style Pork Tenderloin. One of the changes I’ve made is the addition of brown mustard seeds to give the sauce a full, rich mustard flavor without too much vinegar.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded with membranes removed and finely diced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer add the onion,  jalapeno pepper and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent and soft, about five minutes. If the onion starts to brown, reduce heat.

Add the molasses, vinegar, mustard, mustard seeds and soy sauce and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally,  until the sauce becomes thick like syrup, about 25 minutes.

Remove from heat to cool. You can use this immediately or store refrigerated for several days.

Molasses Barbecued Chicken – Click here for a printer-friendly version
Serves 6 hungry adults

This recipe is developed for use on a gas grill. If you are using a charcoal grill, then good for you. I’m proud of you. That takes real commitment and talent. Here is a link on instructions for prepping your grill with charcoal. Good luck!

6 – 7 pounds bone-in chicken (I used one whole chicken cut into 10 pieces plus 1-1/2 pounds of chicken wings)
1 recipe Chicken Rub (see recipe above)
1 recipe Molasses Barbecue (see recipe above)
1 cup mesquite chips (optional)

Thoroughly coat chicken in rub and allow chicken to marinate for a full 24 hours, turning the pieces in the rub a few times. As always, keep the chicken tightly covered in the coldest part of your refrigerator and make sure not to let any of the rub or chicken juices touch anything else.

If you are going to use wood chips, soak the chips in water for 1/2 hour before grilling. Separate the barbecue sauce into two equal portions; one is to brush on the chicken in the last few minutes of cooking, and the other is to brush on the chicken right before serving. Heat grill on high until very hot, and place the wood chips in your grills smoker box. This takes about 10 minutes on my grill’s highest setting. Indirect heat is best for this chicken recipe, so when the grill is not, turn off the middle burner(s) leaving the outside burners on medium-high. Using a brush or rag, oil the grill.

Place the chicken above the burners that are turned off. If you are cooking small chicken wings, wait until after the first 10 minutes of cooking to add these to the grill. Cook chicken for 12 minutes and then turn it over. Cook chicken pieces for an additional 10 minutes and then take the internal temperature. When the internal temperature reads 160 at the thickest part of the piece of chicken (but not next to a bone), brush the chicken with half the barbecue sauce. Continue to cook the chicken until the breast meat reads 165 degrees. The thigh and drumsticks are even better if you let them stay on until they reach 180, but if you are going to do this, don’t brush with barbecue sauce until they come off the grill.

Remove chicken to a serving platter and brush the pieces with the remaining barbecue sauce. Enjoy!


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