Barbecued Dry-Rubbed Chicken from The Best Of America’s Test Kitchen 2012

Raise your hand if there’s snow where you are. How about if you have snow lying around but you also have spring plants peeking their heads above ground already.

Down here in North Carolina, the daffodils are blooming and the dogwood is getting ready to. Even so, we had a dusting of flurries this morning, a very rare occurrence for the Piedmont area.

It’s alright though, because by this afternoon it’ll be back into the 50’s and later this week we’ll hit 70. That means that preparations for my favorite cooking season can continue to move forward. The grill can be uncovered and cleaned, the deck can be scrubbed down and the seat cushions pulled out of storage.

If you’re whimpering because you’re still a ways off from being able to do all that, don’t worry. You can still still make this barbecued chicken in the oven and it’ll come out just fine, I promise. Put a cooling rack in a baking tray and cook your chicken on that. If the skin isn’t browned to your liking when the chicken is cooked through, put it under the broiler for a minute or two.

The Process

It’s a good thing that the process for this dish is so simple because I had a helper in the kitchen this time. Dudette became enthralled with watching me cut up the whole chicken and asked if she could help, mainly because she wanted to handle the pieces, having never touched raw meat before.

In between many hand washings, we rinsed off and dried the chicken pieces, contemplated whether chickens go to heaven, combined the ingredients for the rub, discussed why we don’t eat people meat since we eat animal meat (that was an interesting topic), coated the chicken pieces with the rub, talked about whether we would ever eat our chickens (her idea, not mine), and then put all pieces on a plate to sit in the fridge for an hour.

While the chicken ‘marinated’ in the rub, I got myself a stiff drink and Dudette wandered off to play.

The theory behind this recipe is that the dry rub will turn into a glaze when the fat from the skin hits it (meaning that skinless breasts won’t really work with this). With the grill set for medium-high heat (about 325 degrees), mine didn’t ever really get to that ‘light, lacquered, even glaze’ stage.

Because of that, when it was time to dredge the pieces through more of the rub halfway through the cooking, the chicken didn’t have enough outside moisture for the rub to stick to so I had to try and press it on. I ended up sprinkling it on top more than dredging it.

The Verdict

Wow. Wow, oh wow. That whole dredging, no moisture for the rub to stick to thing? Doesn’t matter. This was delicious. The chicken came out dripping with juices (big win), flavored all the way through with the rub (another big win) and with a crispy, delicious crust (huge win).

The black pepper, chili powder and cayenne made it too hot for Dudette (which was why we left one leg uncoated for her) and was almost too hot for me. Hubby loved it just as is. The heat from those peppers, sweetness from the sugar and saltiness from the, well, salt, all played around in our mouths like five year-olds in a bounce house. Hubby and I both loved this recipe and I will use it a lot this summer.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

I’ll probably add just a dash of cayenne or a little less chili powder just to drop the heat a little so I can enjoy the dish without continually thinking about how hot it is.

Barbecued Dry-Rubbed Chicken from The Best Of America's Test Kitchen 2012
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Grilling
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
  • 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (breasts, thighs and drumsticks, or mix, breasts cut in half), trimmed
  1. Combine all ingredients except chicken in a bowl. Set aside half of mixture in a shallow bowl for later.
  2. Pat chicken dry and coat over and under skin with remaining rub. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
  3. For a charcoal grill, open the bottom vent completely, and pour lit coals over whole grill bottom. Open the lid vent completely and heat the grill until hot (5 minutes). For gas, turn all burners to high, cover, heat until hot, then turn burners to medium-low.
  4. Arrange the chicken pieces skin side down. Grill until the skin is well browned and crisp, 15-20 minutes.
  5. Lightly dredge the skin side of the chicken with reserved rub and return it to the grill, skin side up. Grill, covered, until the rub has melted into a glaze and the chicken is fully cooked, 15-20 minutes longer. Breasts should register 160 degrees; thighs and drumsticks 175 degrees.
  6. Transfer chicken to a plate, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes.
What I'd Do Different Next Time
I'll probably add just a dash of cayenne or a little less chili powder just to drop the heat a little so I can enjoy the dish without continually thinking about how hot it is.


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