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Competition Style BBQ Chicken Thighs

Any BBQ fans out there? 


We've got a recipe that packs on some serious flavor while elevating your presentation. Serious Eats put us on to this recipe, a go-to for barbecue competitors, and we thought we'd share the love!


For the rub:

  • 1/2 cup of kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons of turbinado sugar 
  • 4 teaspoons lemon pepper
  • 4 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons powdered citric acid 
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard 

For the chicken:

  • 12 chicken thighs (about 5 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup of white grape juice
  • 12 tablespoons of margarine, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
  • 2 cups of competition style bbq sauce (ex: Blues Hog)
  • 3/4 cup of agave nectar
  • 2 small chunks apple wood 


Okay, my mouth is already watering with these ingredients! Let's get to cooking:


  1. Combine salt, sugar, white pepper, lemon pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, powdered citric acid, and dry mustard in a small bowl to make the rub and set aside.
  2. Carefully remove the skin from chicken thighs and lay thighs side-by-side and trim each into uniform, trapezoid shapes, removing excess fat. Turn thighs over and cut away muscle along the back of the thigh bone.
  3. Carefully scrape excess fat from chicken skins and trim them slightly smaller than the thighs (the skin should wrap around the thigh, fully covering the front and about half of the back). Reattach skins by threading toothpicks on both sides of the bottom of the thigh, securing meat and skin together. Refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight. (Good things come to those who wait!)
  4. Using a marinade injector, inject 1/2 ounce of chicken stock into the left and right sides of thigh meat, then pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the back of each thigh with 1/2 tablespoon of bbq rub and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  5. Fire up your grill or smoker to 250°F and begin adding smoking wood chunks when at temperature. Next, place 6 tablespoons of margarine in each pan and rest one chicken thigh on top of each piece of margarine, skin-side up. Sprinkle tops of thighs with 1/2 tablespoon of bbq rub—place in smoker and smoke for 1 hour. (Halfway there!) 
  6. Cover each pan with aluminum foil and continue to cook for 1 hour more.
  7. In a medium saucepan, combine barbecue sauce and grape juice. Heat sauce over medium heat until warmed through.
  8. Remove thighs from smoker or grill and remove toothpicks. Using tongs, submerge each thigh into warm sauce. Shake off any excess sauce and place thighs back directly on the grill grate. Cook until sauce is caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes more.
  9. Spread out a large sheet of aluminum foil. Squirt 12 swirls of agave nectar onto foil and sprinkle a pinch of bbq rub on each swirl.
  10. Remove thighs from the grill and place each skin-side down on an agave swirl. Let rest for 10 minutes, then serve.


This recipe takes patience, but dang, is it worth it!

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