Chicken thighs make the juiciest, most flavorful BBQ chicken. These grilled BBQ thighs are incredibly easy – simply seasoned with a dry spice rub and glazed with tangy-sweet BBQ sauce. The dry rub melts into the meat creating succulence, while the sauce lacquers the outside with smoky, caramelized perfection. Finger-licking good and no utensils are required!

For maximum smokiness, grill over charcoal and add wood chips. But don’t worry, these BBQ thighs are equally delicious made in the oven or air fryer. The key is achieving a nicely caramelized exterior without burning. For this, we sauce the chicken during the indirect heat stage. That sweet, slightly charred glaze is what makes unforgettably delicious BBQ chicken.

Advantages of Using Chicken Thighs

Using chicken thighs for BBQ chicken has several advantages over other cuts:

  • Thighs cook evenly because they are all the same size.
  • Super Affordable! The thighs are inexpensive.
  • Thighs are forgiving. Unlike chicken breasts, if you overcook them by a little, they will still be great.
  • No need to brine. The meat will be super juicy and flavorful.
  • Thighs are the most flavorful part of the chicken.
  • They are easy to manage on the grill.
Chicken Thighs with marinade for bbq chicken

What You’ll Need


  • Chicken Thighs – Bone in and skin on thighs will work best, but boneless skinless will work as well. You can also use breasts or other parts of the chicken if you have those as well.
  • Dry Rub – Use your favorite rub or make this simple chicken rub that contains kosher salt, dark brown sugar, smoked paprika, ground black pepper, dark chili powder, a little cayenne pepper, celery seeds, ground cumin and granulated garlic.
  • BBQ Sauce – Homemade sauce is the best because you can customize it to your taste preference. You can also use your favorite store-bought brand like Sweet Baby Ray’s.


A few basic grilling tools make the process super easy.

  • A Grill – Any type of grill you can set up with a hot side and a cooler side will work, but I prefer a charcoal grill for the most flavor.
  • Grill Tongs – I love the OXO 16″ tongs for grilling.
  • Basting Brush for brushing on the BBQ sauce.
  • Meat Thermometer to verify doneness.

Jump down to the recipe card for all the specifics and instructions.

How to Make BBQ Chicken Thighs on the Grill

  1. Season the thighs with kosher salt and a dry rub at least 45 minutes before cooking, but preferably the night before. If seasoning the night before, refrigerate uncovered.
  2. Prepare the grill for medium-high heat grilling (325° – 350° F). A Two-zone grill setup is key for perfect BBQ chicken without burning it. If using charcoal, keep the coals on half of the grill. If using a gas grill, turn on only half of the burners and leave the other side off for indirect heat cooking.

    Tip: Clean the grill grates to help keep the chicken from sticking. Just before grilling, dip a rolled-up paper towel into some canola oil and rub it onto the grill grates.
  3. Grill the thighs. Place the chicken thighs skin-side down on the grill over the direct heat and close the lid. Grill for about 3 to 5 minutes until browned, then turn the thighs and grill for another 2 to 4 minutes.
  4. Transfer the thighs to the cooler side of the grill (indirect heat). Brush on about half the BBQ sauce on both sides chicken, then close the lid.
  5. Continue to cook for about 20 more minutes, then baste on about 1/4 cup more BBQ sauce.
  6. The thighs are done when the internal temperature reaches 175° F, about 40 minutes total.
  7. Rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board or serving dish before serving with the reserved BBQ sauce.

Grilling Times & Finished Temperatures

Grill the thighs for 6 to 10 minutes over direct heat, then move them over to the indirect side of the grill. Overall, it will take about 45 to 50 minutes to fully cook the thighs to an internal temperature of 175° F in a barbecue that is around 350° F.

With all the variables of cook time, including the temperature of the barbecue, the size and the starting temperature of the chicken thighs, it’s always best to cook to temperature instead of time. Always verify the temperatures with an instant-read probe thermometer.

Pro Tips for Success

  • A Dry Rub Rub is the Best BBQ Chicken Marinade – Marinating the chicken with salt (as a dry bine) and the dry spice rub the day before cooking will infuse wonderful flavors. Let the rub sit on the chicken for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight uncovered in the refrigerator.
  • Avoid marinating the chicken with a wet sauce that contains sugar, because the sauce will burn on the grill before the skin gets crispy when you grill it over direct heat.
  • Make it Extra Smoky! If you are grilling with charcoal (which I highly recommend), there will already be some delicious smoke flavor infused into the chicken during the cook. But to kick up the flavors even more, you can add some applewood chips to the coals to really boost the smokiness. And if you really want it smoky, try making smoked chicken thighs.
  • Don’t Apply the Sauce Too Early: If you marinate the chicken in your preferred BBQ sauce or apply it while the chicken is cooking over direct heat, it can burn because of all the sugar in the sauce. Wait to apply your sauce until you have transferred it to the indirect heat side of the grill.

Making BBQ Chicken Thighs in the Oven

If you don’t have access to the grill, you can still make BBQ chicken in the oven. Here’s how:

  1. Season the thighs with salt and dry rub ahead of time.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400° F and place the thighs skin-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake for about 20-25 minutes then remove the chicken from the oven and crank up the oven temperature to 450° F. Brush on about 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce on both sides of the thighs. Then place the chicken back in the oven with the skin side up. Roast for about 10 minutes, then brush on more BBQ sauce. Back in the oven until it finishes cooking and reaches an internal temperature of 175° F. Enjoy!

Inspiration for the Leftovers

Leftover BBQ chicken is just the best! It actually gets even better the next day (or up to 3 days after you make it). You don’t even need to bother reheating it to enjoy. Make a sliced or shredded BBQ chicken sliders or sandwiches, crisp up and add to tacos, add on top of your favorite salad, melt some slices in a cheesy quesadilla or make BBQ chicken pizza!

bite of BBQ Chicken Thighs close up

More Delicious Chicken Recipes to Try

Browse all the Chicken Recipes →

Grilled BBQ Chicken Thighs

Get ready for juicy, tender BBQ chicken thighs with a sweet, caramelized exterior after just 45 minutes on the grill. With a simple blend of spices and your favorite BBQ sauce, these smoky, delectable thighs deliver the perfect grilled BBQ chicken texture and taste.
5 from 12 votes
Print Pin Save Rate
Course: Main
Cuisine: American
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Marinate Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 4



  • Season and apply the dry rub to the thighs and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 45 minutes before cooking.
  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator to bring them up to room temperature while you set up the grill for two-zone cooking with the direct side on medium-high heat (325° to 350° F).
  • Lightly oil the grates, then place the chicken thighs skin-side down over the direct heat with the lid closed until browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn thighs over and cook on the second side until browned.
  • Move the thighs over to the indirect heat side of the grill and use a heatproof basting brush to apply about 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce to both sides of the chicken (finishing with the skin side up).
  • Close the lid and cook for about 20 minutes before brushing both sides again with about 1/4 cup more BBQ sauce.
  • Continue to cook until the internal temperature of the thighs reaches 175° F, about 20 minutes longer. (Verify with a meat thermometer)
  • Transfer the chicken to a cutting board or serving platter and rest uncovered for 10 minutes before serving with more BBQ sauce.


  • This recipe serves 4, but can easily be scaled up to any quantity. 
  • Temper the chicken (bring to room temperature) before grilling for quicker and more even cooking.
  • Season with plenty of salt if your dry rub doesn’t contain any. Want to skip the dry rub? No problem. You can substitute simple kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • If the chicken is sticking to the grill grates, don’t touch it yet! It needs to cook a little longer and it will release.
  • Watch for flare-ups. If the rub contains sugar it can easily burn on the grill during a flare-up. Be ready to move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill if needed.

5 from 12 votes (3 ratings without comment)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe three times now. I followed the instructions and the chicken came out perfectly each time. So tender and juicy.

    I had incredible bbq chicken thighs at a cookout recently and I was searching for a recipe that was similar. These might be better!

    Thanks so much for this tasty recipe!

  2. 5 stars
    Just got a bunch of thighs, and will adjust my process to this! Really like your site.

    Now, I GOT to your site by installing the Shop Page WP and realizing it’s perfect for some affiliate stuff we’re doing. Way less of a footprint than Woo. So, I would like to do some bulk product imports to it. Any chance you could guide me on that one?

    Thanks and I know I’ll be back this site!

  3. 5 stars
    Well I confess. I was using a new bbq and I burned the skin of some of the breasts black! Still, rest of the cook was great and the taste amazing…so will be trying this again in a couple of days!

    1. So glad to hear it tasted amazing. I can definitely confess that I have done the same thing using my Weber charcoal grill that was way too hot. Luckily it was just the chicken skin and the rest was still delicious. 😛

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe is simple and delicious. The chicken browned and crisped up perfectly. I used boneless thighs so the cooking time was slightly less but the instant read thermometer takes care of that. This is a repeat recipe for sure.

  5. 5 stars
    These are the BEST chicken thighs ever! The dry rub is amazing (make a batch and use it on everything) and that sauce is incredible. Thank you for another great recipe, Justin!

  6. 5 stars
    Great for a summer BBQ…thanks COVID. But so delish and brings back memories of getting together with family and friends which will happen again 🙂