Finger licking BBQ chicken doesn’t always have to happen on the grill. Get the full guide to roasting perfectly juicy BBQ chicken right in your oven with all your favorite smoky flavors.
If you didn’t think delicious BBQ chicken could happen year round (or without a grill), you’re wrong! With this fool proof recipe in hand, you can have a perfectly smoky, sticky, sweet barbecue sauced chicken baked in your oven anytime.
While I am an avid griller and smoker (you can see this guide to grilling chicken here for example), sometimes the cold weather months mean staying inside and warming up the kitchen instead. This recipe is amazing for a whole chicken (with skin and bones), but is very versatile as well to use on any individual cut as well.
Read through the outlined guide below to help you understand the best ways to prep your chicken, season it, and how to perfectly bake and sauce your chicken every time. Let’s dive in!
- Baking Sheet
- Cooling Rack
- Paper Towels
- Basting Brush
- Aluminum Foil
- Meat Thermometer
As a culinary arts educator, I always find that it’s helpful to have recipe notes and answer commonly asked questions. You’ll find all of that and more below. If you’re ready to getting baking, just jump to the recipe and the bottom of the page and get started.
How to prep barbecue chicken:
While I prefer bone in, split chicken pieces from a whole bird for this recipe, you can easily use chicken breasts, chicken thighs, drums, or even wings. I like to use chicken with the skin intact as well, but boneless skinless chicken will work (and cook faster) if desired.
The best way to begin preparing your chicken, is to remove as much moisture from the pieces as possible by patting it dry with a paper towel. Moisture creates steam and prevents browning the meat.
Here are a few tips for removing moisture from chicken:
- Use baking powder or cornstarch in your rub to help absorb excess moisture and aid in drying out the skin.
- If you plan ahead, you can place the chicken on a baking sheet uncovered in your fridge. The air will naturally help dry out the exposed skin and won’t impact your finished product.
- Use a cooling rack over a baking sheet when roasting. Elevating the chicken allows air to flow and any natural juices to prevent the meat from steaming while baking.
BBQ Dry Rub:
I find that the best way to make BBQ chicken is to impart it with both a dry rub seasoning and a good quality barbecue sauce. Both layers add a lot of flavor when you’re not grilling or smoking.
I love my sugar free (keto) all purpose BBQ dry rub for this recipe. While mine is sugar free, you could also add some brown sugar (or low carb brown sugar) for a more traditional rub. Don’t skimp on the smoked paprika either, I find this gives the base rub a lot of natural smokiness without the grill.
Tips for applying your dry rub:
- Add 2 tbsp. of baking powder or cornstarch to 3-4 tbsp. of dry rub.
- Apply this directly to the chicken skin. You won’t need any olive oil unless you air dried your chicken skin in the fridge per the note above.
- For best results, let the rub sit for a few hours. While this adds a lot more flavor, you can still bake it right away if needed.
- Be sure to add the rub both under the chicken and on the skin side as well.
What temperature should you bake BBQ chicken at?
When you’re cooking a whole bird (even if the pieces are split) the difference in thickness will require longer baking times. I try to balance this with finding a great method for getting crispy skin as well.
Bake your seasoned BBQ chicken at a higher temperature of 425 F. in a fully preheated oven. I like to use a foil rimmed baking sheet with a cooling rack over the top (for easy clean up). I like a higher temperature to render the fat with skin on chicken without drying it out.
If you are cooking smaller pieces only (like a thigh or drumstick) or you are cooking a boneless, skinless chicken, reduce the cooking temperature to 375 F. instead.
When do you put BBQ sauce on your chicken when baking?
Place your chicken pieces on the cooling rack and bake for about 45 minutes and check your baked BBQ chicken breast (usually the thickest piece) for an internal temperature to reach about 155F. before saucing. Check all your pieces to be safe!
Once they hit that 155 F. mark, you can begin to sauce your chicken. Make sure to flip the chicken and sauce the bottoms as well as the skin over the top.
I usually do this around the last 30 minutes of baking. Sauce once and let it cook for about 15 minutes and then sauce again. While total cooking time may vary depending on the size of your chicken, my whole pieces take around 60-75 minutes or until it reaches a final temperature of 165 F.
Serving and Storing:
I like to serve the chicken on a platter family style with these delicious crispy roasted potatoes (they can cook at the same time as the chicken which is great). I also love other classic healthy BBQ sides like these keto corn muffins or my dill pickle coleslaw too.
Store leftovers for up to a week in the fridge. Reheat in a 350 F. oven until heated through as desired or shred the chicken leftovers and make a BBQ sandwich, wrap, or add to mixed veggies for a repurposed meal!
- 4 tbsp. All Purpose BBQ Dry Rub
- 2 tbsp. Baking Powder (optional, see post notes above)
- 1 Whole Chicken (split into 8 pieces, or see notes above)
- 1/2 cup BBQ Sauce
- 1. Remove your split chicken pieces from the packaging. Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry.
- 2. Read the post above to decide how to approach getting crispy skin. If you're shorter on time, add the dry rub ingredients and baking powder together and coat the chicken pieces all over. Place back in the fridge for up to 2 hours (for best results).
- 3. Place foil on baking sheet and a cooling rack over it. Place each piece of chicken on the rack and into a 425 F. preheated oven. *NOTE- If you're using skinless, boneless chicken then bake at 375 F. *
- 4. Bake for about 45-60 minutes. You want your thickest piece to reach an internal temperature of 155 F. before saucing (saucing too early could cause it to burn).
- 5. Sauce all sides of your chicken and allow it to bake another 10-15 minutes, and sauce again and continue baking until it reaches 165 F.
- 6. Remove and serve with additional sauce family style on a platter and enjoy!
Baking powder or cornstarch is a great way to help absorb extra moisture on the skin of your chicken. This works best when it's mixed with your dry rub and added to the chicken a few hours before baking.