Crisping up bacon, cooking onions and garlic in the fat, and adding a shot of bourbon gives this barbecue sauce a smoky base. Slather it on whatever kind of chicken you like and grill until the sauce has turned into a thick, dark shellac. Serve with a Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad to round out your summertime meal.
Special equipment: You’ll need a pastry brush or barbecue basting brush for this recipe.
Game plan: You can make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
- 1/2 cup small-dice bacon (about 3 ounces)
- 1/2 cup finely diced red onion (about 1/2 small onion)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- 2 tablespoons dark or robust molasses (not blackstrap)
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Place the bacon in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a small bowl; set aside. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the onion to the pan, and cook it in the bacon fat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 to 60 seconds.
- Whisk in the remaining measured ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the reserved bacon, increase the heat to medium high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly and holds a line on the back of a wooden spoon when you drag a finger through it, about 25 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Equally divide the sauce between 2 small bowls and set it aside to cool to room temperature (1 bowl will be for serving, the other for brushing onto the chicken while it cooks on the grill).
- Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium (about 350°F to 450°F). Meanwhile, if you’re using chicken breasts (either boneless or bone-in), cut them in half crosswise. Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and place on a baking sheet. Coat them all over with the oil and season with salt and pepper.
- When the grill is ready, place the chicken on it (skin-side down if using skin-on), cover the grill, and cook until grill marks appear on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken pieces, cover the grill, and cook until grill marks appear on the second side, about 5 minutes more.
- Flip the chicken again and generously brush the pieces using the bowl of sauce set aside for the chicken. Cover the grill and cook for 5 minutes. Flip and brush the chicken, and then continue to flip and brush every 5 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest piece reads 160°F to 165°F and the meat near the bone is no longer pink, about 10 to 15 minutes more (about 25 to 30 minutes total cooking time). Remove the chicken to a clean serving platter and pass the remaining bowl of barbecue sauce on the side.