Chicken thighs marinated in buttermilk and pickle juice

Marinating chicken in milk may sound crazy, but it actually works really well. Marinating chicken in buttermilk is something that they do in the southern states of the USA. The buttermilk ensures that the chicken becomes even more tender and that it gets a beautiful colour.

We marinate the chicken thighs in not just buttermilk. Some pickle juice goes through the buttermilk for the acidity and taste, a tablespoon of the dry rub, the salt which penetrates further into the meat and we ad a little Tabasco just because we can. We leave the chicken to marinate overnight. Longer is allowed, but not really necessary.

We cook the chicken thighs indirectly, with some extra dry rub, at about 160ºC (320F). As far as we’re concerned, that’s the temperature to cook the fattier chicken meat. This gives the fat the chance to melt, making the meat even more tender and tastier. Fat and barbecue go well together.

When the chicken thighs are on the barbecue, we make a quick bbq sauce. We start with ketchup and sugar and finish with onion, garlic and a little vinegar. After that, you can do with the sauce what you want. You can add extra honey to make it sweeter, or give it some umami with Worcestershire sauce.

When the chicken thighs are cooked, we coat them with the sauce. Then we remove the plate setter so that the sauce caramelizes over direct heat. That makes any sauce tastier. The sugars in the sauce take on a more complex flavour that goes very well with traditional BBQ.

These are our chicken thighs that we have marinated in buttermilk and grilled with a homemade barbecue sauce. It really doesn’t get much better than that. If you are going to make these chicken thighs, let us know in the comments below. Or better! Take a photo and post it on Instagram. Tag @bbq.heroes so we can see what you made.


  • 4 chicken thighs with skin and bone

For the dry rub

  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder

For the marinade

  • Half a litre of buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp Tabasco
  • 3 tbsp pickle juice
  • 1 tbsp of the dry rub

For the bbq sauce

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 400ml ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar


  1. Make the dry rub by mixing the ingredients.
  2. Mix the buttermilk, Tabasco, pickle juice and 1 tbsp of the dry rub and add the chicken thighs. Let this marinate overnight in the fridge.
  3. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and pat them dry with some kitchen paper. Then sprinkle the chicken thighs with the remaining dry rub.
  4. Prepare a barbecue with an indirect temperature of about 160ºC (320F). Place the chicken thighs on the grates, insert a thermometer and close the lid.
  5. Cook the chicken thighs to a core temperature of 80ºC (176F) while making the barbecue sauce.
  6. Chop the onion and garlic clove very fine. Heat a pan with the oil and add the onion and garlic while the oil heats up.
  7. When the onion has softened, add the sugar. Stir this while the sugar caramelizes.
  8. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Warm up the sauce while continuing to stir, then remove it from the heat. Pass the sauce through the blender to get an even sauce.
  9. When the desired core temperature in the chicken thighs has been reached, coat them with the sauce. Increase the temperature or place the chicken thighs over direct heat for a while so that the sauce can get nice and sticky.

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