There’s Nothing Like a Homemade Sauce for Your Barbecued Chicken

BY JeanMarie Brownson TIMEJuly 18, 2023 PRINT

Creating your own barbecue sauce delivers rewards every time. Packaged in pretty containers, friends and neighbors may even encourage you to start a business. After decades in the highly competitive sauce industry, I’m now happy to simply putz around in my own kitchen perfecting a personal 2023 barbecue season sauce.

This summer’s rendition relies on dried apricots for texture, bulk, and a bit of fruity tanginess. The hefty dose of honey adds a lovely funky sweetness; two spoonfuls of crushed red pepper creates a nearly pulsating heat. Tomatoes, usually in the form of paste or ketchup, form the backbone of most red barbecue sauces while Worcestershire contributes the complex spicing that pairs so well with meat and the smoke of a grill. Vinegar proves essential to cut the richness while sweet spices, such as cinnamon and cloves, round out the heat and bitter notes.

A slow simmer, with plenty of stirring to prevent scorching, creates a velvety texture and moderately thick consistency. Double the batch, if you wish, for this sauce is excellent slathered on pork chops, ribs, cut up chicken, and sliced eggplant. A modest coating applied to salmon and tofu turns those lean proteins into crave-worthy eats.

To store, simply cool the sauce and tuck into the refrigerator for several weeks. To bottle the sauce, make sure to boil it hard before ladling it into hot, clean canning jars and cover with new lids according to manufacturer’s directions.

Grilled chicken, slathered in barbecue sauce, just may be the quintessential summer meal. It’s terrific hot off the grill or chilled for picnic fare. I always cook extra; you can reheat the chicken pieces on a sheet pan in a 400-degree-F oven for 15 minutes. Serve extra sauce, warmed, on the side.

Three to four pounds of chicken parts will need about 1 to 2 cups of sauce. To prevent the sauce from burning, move nearly-cooked chicken to a cooler section of the grill and then apply the sauce to one side. Turn the chicken over and apply more sauce in several applications.

When I have time, I like to cut up a whole chicken into pieces so I have an assortment of light and dark meat. You can use 3 1/2 to 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on cutup chicken parts with skin-on here. If using boneless, skinless chicken, reduce the cooking time by about 1/3.

Spicy Honey Barbecue Sauce With Apricots

Makes 4 cups

  • 1/2 cup, about 12 pieces, dried apricot halves (3 ounces total)
  • 1 1/4 cups ketchup
  • 1/3 cup (about 1/2 of a 6-ounce can) tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon spicy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Put 2 cups of very hot water into a blender container. Add apricots and let soak until very soft, about 30 minutes. Then blend smooth. Add remaining ingredients. Blend smooth.

Transfer to a deep, large saucepan. Heat to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to very low and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, 30 to 45 minutes.

Cool. Refrigerate covered up to two weeks.

Barbecued Chicken With Hot Honey Barbecue Sauce

Note: To save time, swap 3 1/2 to 4 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken parts for the whole chicken.

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 small young chicken, about 5 pounds
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Green onions, chopped
  • Spicy Honey Barbecue Sauce with Apricots

To cut up the whole chicken, use a sharp knife or kitchen shears and cut the wings away from the body at the joint. Cut the legs off the chicken at the joint where they join the body; separate the drumsticks and thighs at their joint. Use shears to remove the backbone (save it for use in stock). Split the breast down the middle in half. You will have 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, and 2 breast halves.

Arrange the pieces in a baking pan and smooth the skin over the pieces nicely. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Refrigerated loosely covered for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Preheat a gas grill to high. Or prepare a charcoal grill and let heat until coals are covered with gray ash. Put the cooking grate in place and let it heat for 5 minutes. Clean the grate with a wire brush or scrunched up aluminum foil. Reduce heat to medium (325 degrees F if you have a grill or oven thermometer). If using a charcoal grill, adjust the air vents to have a medium grill.

Place the chicken, pretty skin-side down, on the hot grill. Cook, covered, without turning for 12 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken, cover the grill. Cook without turning for 10 minutes. Chicken should be mostly cooked and slightly firm when pressed with a finger.

Start saucing the chicken by coating one side with sauce and turning the pieces over. Cook covered 5 minutes. Baste again with sauce. Then cook, covered, another 5 minutes. Repeat to glaze the chicken and until juices run clear, 5 to 10 more minutes.

If chicken starts to brown too much, move it to the cooler part of the grill. Serve garnished with chopped parsley and green onions.

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JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and the recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, “Dinner at Home.” JeanMarie, a chef and authority on home cooking, Mexican cooking and specialty food, is one of the founding partners of Frontera Foods. She co-authored three cookbooks with chef Rick Bayless, including “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed developing recipes and writing about food, travel and dining for more than four decades. ©2022 JeanMarie Brownson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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