The marinade for Grilled BBQ Chicken has been in my family for about 50 years. It looks like regular BBQ sauce, but it’s not. We used it on steak, chops and chicken. Easy and always delicious.
The secret ingredient in the slightly sweet tangy marinade/sauce is French dressing. Catalina or California dressing can be used instead. Not exactly gourmet, but it works. The dressing takes the place of ketchup which forms the base of most BBQ sauces.
My sisters and I call this marinade “mother’s famous BBQ sauce”. My mother has no idea where she got it. All I know is that, back in the day, we used it on anything we grilled. And loved it. I recently discovered it again and still love it.
Grilled BBQ chicken is a breeze to make. I even brought it to a big potluck a few weeks ago. As always, I prefer to use thighs – in this cases boneless skinless thighs – because they are juicier, more forgiving and more flavorful. Boneless chicken breasts work well too for you hard core white meat eaters.
You can marinate the boneless chicken anywhere from 20 minutes to a day. If the chicken pieces are on the small or thinner side, 20-30 minutes is fine. Larger pieces could use more time to infuse flavor, but it’s not necessary – especially if you drizzle on some extra sauce after grilling. Grilling only takes a few minutes per side.
The chicken goes with almost any side. Here’s a few good pairings: grilled corn salad, curried rice with raisins, crispy smashed potatoes with gremolata, grilled vegetable and potato hash and bread salad with charred snap peas.
Tailor To Your Taste
- Add herbs to the marinade such as thyme, oregano or chives
- Kick up the grilled BBQ chicken by adding a dab of sriracha (hot sauce) to the marinade. Or add a splash of Worcestershire sauce.
- Instead of boneless chicken, use bone in, but cook it longer, initially on indirect grill heat. Also try pork chops, pork tenderloin or flank steak (marinate the flank several hours at least).
- Other ways to use this marinated BBQ chicken: Chop it into a salad; Make a chicken sandwich; Add it to a fresh vegetable pasta.
- In a pinch, I skip the marinating altogether. This means dinner on the table in 20-30 minutes.
- Instead of fresh garlic, use minced garlic from the jar, a frozen cube or a pinch of garlic powder.
Make Ahead Grilled BBQ Chicken
- The recipe can be made a day ahead and grilled just before serving.
- Alternatively, grill the chicken ahead and serve it at room temperature or chill it and serve it cold. You can warm it up if you like in the microwave or oven. If you do, I suggest, under cooking it a bit.
Grilled BBQ Chicken
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed (or boneless breasts)
- salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp French dressing (or Catalina or California dressing)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium is fine)
- 2 tsp prepared mustard
- 2 tsp brown sugar or to taste (if you like it sweeter, add 3 tsp)
- 1/2 tsp garlic, minced (one small clove)
- Optional: 1/4 tsp sriracha; 1/4-1/2 tsp dried thyme or oregano.
- MAKE MARINADE/SAUCE: Put all marinade ingredients into a small measuring cup and mix well. Taste and adjust flavors. You will have between 1/4-1/3 cup.
- MARINATE CHICKEN: If chicken thickness is uneven, pound to even thickness. No need to make the chicken thin (just even for even cooking). Tip: I do this with the heal of my hand on a cutting board. Combine marinade and chicken in a bowl or ziploc bag, reserving about 3 tbsp to use as a finishing sauce. Marinate for 20-30 minutes at room temperature. If marinating for longer - up to a day - refrigerate chicken, covered.
- HEAT GRILL: Spray grill with oil or grease grill with a paper towel dabbed with oil. Heat grill to medium high - about 450-475F.
- GRILL CHICKEN AND SERVE: Grill chicken with lid closed 3-4 minutes depending on thickness. Turn chicken pieces over. Baste with reserved marinade/sauce. Close lid. Grill for another 2-4 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Instant thermometer will read 160F. Temperature will rise as chicken rests for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Other marinated chicken recipes you might like: