Sticky BBQ chicken

Sticky bbq chicken is one of the easiest “real” bbq dishes out there. In addition to spare ribs, brisket and smoked sausage, every American bbq restaurant has this on the menu.

These chicken thighs are smoked until they are super tender, and they can be easily pulled off the bone. The sweet and sour bbq sauce is the dessert that finishes it off. The children and the neighbours think they are fantastic.

For this recipe, we use chicken thighs with skin and bone. Boneless chicken thighs are actually an ugly piece of meat with lots of loose parts. The leg provides a bit of structure. We also really like that there is still a bone in it. Not that it matters in taste.

We like to put a bowl on the table where you can throw your bones in when you’re done. This way, you can keep score of how much everyone has had. It sounds childish, but that’s how we are.

If you have the opportunity, we recommend placing the chicken thighs uncovered with the dry rub in the refrigerator. The salt in the dry rub removes the moisture from the skin, allowing it to become nice and crispy during the cook.

The bbq sauce is a bit sour because of the apple cider vinegar and the Worcestershire sauce. We first burn the raw cane sugar in a little olive oil. This gives the sugar a deeper layer that we can really appreciate. Cook the sauce until it thickens enough that it sticks to the back of a spoon.

The sauce keeps well. And that’s quite handy because you have more than enough left over for a few thick spare ribs next weekend.

We set our Kamado Joe Classic to 140°C (284F) with a chunk of applewood. That gives a subtle smoky flavour that gives these chicken thighs that bbq touch. Then we place the probe of the thermometer in the middle chicken and close the lid. Now you can do something else for an hour or so.

You don’t have to do anything until the chicken thighs have a core temperature of 75°C (167F). If you miss that point and shoot too far, there is no panic. These chicken thighs are nice and fat and can take a lot. The meat will not dry out quickly.

Then we will grill the chicken thighs over direct heat. You have to keep an eye on this. The fat in the chicken thighs creates some nice flare-ups that can ruin the work quickly. Turn and move the chicken thighs regularly until the meat and skin are nicely grilled. A few black spots are good but don’t overdo it.

Then we coat the chicken thighs with the bbq sauce and close the lid to avoid flare-ups. Let them sit for a few minutes until the sauce thickens and becomes sticky. Because that’s what you want, right? Otherwise, we should have renamed the recipe.

Keep a stack of wet wipes or take a shower after eating. After eating, you should have the sauce from ear to ear. If you’re going to make them, 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.


  • 1 kilo chicken thighs with skin and bone
  • Tabasco

For the dry rub

  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 3 tbsp smoked paprika powder
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp ground Chili
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

For the bbq sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp of the dry rub
  • 2 tbsp raw cane sugar
  • 250 ml ketchup
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp apple syrup (or molasses)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce


  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dry rub and keep two teaspoons aside. Coat the chicken thighs with a bit of Tabasco and sprinkle the dry rub over the chicken thighs. Leave it in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Then make the BBQ sauce by heating the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the two teaspoons of the dry rub and one tablespoon of the sugar. Stir well for a couple of minutes until the sugar has darkened a bit. Then add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and cook until you reached the desired thickness.
  3. Prepare a grill with an indirect temperature of 120 to 150°C (248 to 302F). Place the chicken thighs skin side up on the grates. Insert a thermometer into 1 of the chicken thighs and close the lid.
  4. When the chicken thighs have a core temperature of 75°C (167F), remove the chicken thighs from the grates.
  5. Heat the grill to a direct temperature of about 200°C (392F). Grill the chicken thighs until the skin has become drier.
  6. Coat the chicken thighs with the barbecue sauce and close the lid for a few minutes to allow the sauce to caramelize.

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