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barbecued chicken

Barbecued Chicken. Metro photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Labor Day is more or less the official farewell to summer. It’s a bittersweet holiday marking the end of lazy, languorous days poolside or at the beach with time being some abstract notion governed more by light than by the hands on the clock. In our reluctance to let go of all that summer connotes, we hang on, in wishful perpetuity, to whatever we can salvage despite the back-to-school, close-the-pool regimen. 

One thing that endures far beyond the season is cooking on the grill. So what better way to celebrate this holiday than with a barbecue in the great outdoors with all the traditional dishes that we love and crave. It can be anything from a clam bake to a hot dog roast but it must include barbecued chicken too, spicy and sticky and charred. Here are three different ways to do that chicken. Sauces can be thinned out with a little water if they get too thick.

All 3 versions would be great served with any one or combination of the following: tossed salad, garlic bread, corn on the cob, iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing, coleslaw, potato salad, sweet potato fries, corn bread, baked beans, macaroni salad.

Barbecued Chicken #1

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


Barbecued Chicken. Metro photo

3/4 cup ketchup

1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar

1 heaping tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon za’atar

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 garlic cloves, minced

One medium onion, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 broiler -fryer chicken cut into 8 pieces


In a large bowl combine ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, za’atar, cayenne, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.  Place chicken parts in bowl and toss to thoroughly coat. Transfer contents of bowl to a large resealable bag, seal and refrigerate for two hours. Prepare a grill on medium heat and place chicken on grill over indirect heat, turning once and basting with any remaining sauce, until it is lightly charred, cooked through and an instant read thermometer reads 165 F, about 25 to 30 minutes. 

Barbecued Chicken #2

YIELD: Makes 8 servings


1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup ketchup

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup tomato sauce

1 tablespoon cucumber relish

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 generous dashes hot pepper sauce

8 chicken breast halves, bone in


In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, then add garlic and cook, constantly stirring, 30 seconds, until it releases its aroma. Add the ketchup, brown sugar, tomato sauce, relish,Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper and hot pepper sauce; stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then remove from heat and set aside. Prepare grill on medium heat; season chicken with salt and pepper, then grill, covered, turning and basting frequently with sauce, until charred on both sides and cooked through, about 30 minutes. 

Barbecued Chicken #3

YIELD: Makes 8 servings


1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

8 bone in chicken thighs or half-breasts 

1 cup ketchup

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon cayenne

Salt to taste


In a large bowl whisk together half a cup of the oil, vinegar, salt, sugar and red pepper flakes. Place chicken pieces in gallon size resealable plastic bag, then pour marinade in, seal bag and tilt and rotate to be sure chicken is thoroughly coated. Refrigerate, turning bag occasionally 4 to 8 hours. 

When ready to grill remove chicken from refrigerator and let come to room temperature. In a small saucepan combine the remaining tablespoon oil, ketchup, brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, garlic, cayenne and salt; over medium heat; stirring frequently, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool 10 minutes. 

Set a grill on medium-low heat to 300 F. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Place chicken pieces on grill, cover and cook for 10 minutes, turning once. During last 15 to 20 minutes or so of cooking, baste with barbecue sauce and turn frequently. When chicken is charred, sauce is thickened and sticky and a thermometer reads 165 F, it should be cooked through after a total of about 30 minutes.