Try this BBQ chicken, then check out our BBQ chicken wings, jerk chicken and homemade BBQ sauce.

olive’s cookery writer Adam says…"Anyone can chuck some chicken thighs and drumsticks on the BBQ and get reasonable results – but here’s how to cook the whole chicken perfectly, from juicy breast meat to super-crispy skin."

How to make the best BBQ chicken

How long do you need to cook chicken on the BBQ?

Chicken has two types of meat – white and dark – which need different cooking times to get them right. dark meat has more flavour but takes longer to cook, while white will quickly become dry if overcooked.

Why should you rest BBQ chicken before serving?

After the ferocious heat of the BBQ, resting the chicken helps redistribute the juices inside the flesh. Factor in at least 15 minutes before serving.

How do you make crispy BBQ chicken?

Covering the meat in a flavoured salt prior to cooking draws out moisture, making crispier skin, plus the salt and aromatics permeating the meat means perfectly seasoned chicken. Putting butter under the skin will trap it against the meat and baste it during cooking – this helps to keep the meat juicy

Why should you cook BBQ chicken on the bone?

Bones conduct the heat and then push it through the bird – they also stop the meat drying out. The breast lacks fat so cooking it with the underside of the breastbone facing the coals cooks the meat slowly and evenly. Then, just flip over to crisp the skin.

BBQ chicken recipe


  • 1.5kg whole chicken


  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • a few sprigs thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested and ½ juiced


  • 1 tbsp sea salt flakes
  • 1 tsp soft light brown sugar
  • crushed to make ¼ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp garlic granules
  • a few sprigs thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped


  • corn on the cob
  • coleslaw
  • potato salad
  • green salad


  • STEP 1

    Remove the legs from the chicken by cutting down either side of the main body, popping through the thigh joint and cutting round to release the leg and thigh in one piece. Next, use a sharp pair of kitchen scissors to remove the spine by turning the chicken upside down and cutting through the ribs on either side of the spine, leaving the breasts and wings attached to the breast bone. (For a tutorial on how to joint a chicken, click here.) Ease your hand under the skin on the breasts, being careful not to pierce the skin, so that you have a large pocket.

  • STEP 2

    Mix together the soft butter, garlic, thyme and lemon zest and juice with a little seasoning. Push the butter underneath the skin of the breast, so it’s in an even layer.

  • STEP 3

    Mix together all of the rub ingredients and sprinkle it over the chicken breasts and legs.

  • STEP 4

    Cover and chill for 2-4 hours. Remove from the fridge 1 hour before cooking.

  • STEP 5

    Heat the barbecue to medium (around 220C), with either the coals banked up on one side or one side of the gas burners turned off (see right). Put the chicken legs and the chicken crown (with the underside of the breast bone facing down and with the thickest part facing the coals) over the edge of the coals. Be careful, the dripping butter may flare up. Cook for 25-30 minutes with the lid down, checking and turning the pieces regularly until lightly caramelised and cooked through.

  • STEP 6

    Now put the chicken breast and legs, skin-side down directly over the coals and cook for 2-3 minutes until the skin is really crisp, moving everything now and again.
    To cook in an oven, heat to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Cook the legs on a baking tray for 10 minutes, then put the crown in to roast alongside for 50 minutes.

  • STEP 7

    Rest, covered with foil, for 15 minutes, then squeeze over the juice of the remaining ½ lemon, carve and serve.


Adam Bush Chef Portrait
Adam BushDeputy food editor

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