Sticky, juicy and melt in your mouth tender you’ve never had grilled chicken like this before. A wet braise combined with a long cook over low heat turns this Korean BBQ grilled chicken into a magical feast for your mouth and your eyes. This recipe is worth the effort!
I love watching cooking shows and Country Cooks by America’s Test Kitchen is one of my favorites. They are always my go-to source for learning how to make southern classics. They explain not only the how, but the why which makes it possible to take the basic framework of the recipe and make it your own.
I previously made their recipe for BBQ chicken for a group of friends and we were blown away by how incredible the chicken tasted. It might have been the best chicken I’ve ever had. Using that recipe as my base I worked on it to make a Korean BBQ version that would capture the sweet and spicy flavors that it is known for, but maintain that juicy, succulent texture.
After a lot of research and experimentation, I have created the absolute best grilled chicken recipe ever. I would tell you to invite your friends over to enjoy it with you, but you might not want to share. It’s a little bit of work, but I promise it is all completely worth the effort.
Why use chicken thighs for grilling?
Despite chicken being one of the most popular proteins for dinner in households across the US, it is relatively difficult to cook well on the grill. Often in my experience it turns out dry and overcooked. Leading to most people skipping it for the boring burgers and hot dogs routine.
This is most likely due to cooking chicken too hot and with the wrong cuts. Chicken breasts, while a quick and easy solution for dinner are not well served being cooked on the grill. They lack the fat and bones to protect the meat from the heat and allow them to cook for a long time without over-cooking.
When it comes to grilling chicken thighs are your best friend. A long slow cook allows the fat from the skin to render into juicy and tender meat and the bone keeps the meat from cooking too fast. Give grilling chicken thighs a try and I promise you won’t go back. This Korean BBQ grilled chicken can also be made with drumsticks if you still aren’t convinced of chicken thighs magical properties.
Why grill over low heat?
When people think of grilling it often conjures up pictures of people standing in front of a huge open flame with the lid off. Occasionally poking the meat with a spatula. While this looks great for Old Navy commercials, it’s not a great way to get an even cook and juicy meat. If you only remember one thing about grilling it is that the lid belongs on the grill as much as possible! You wouldn’t hold your oven open while trying to cook. And that’s because you lose all of the heat you are building up. Holding up the lid of your grill does the same thing. It causes your temperatures to change wildly, interrupting your meat cooking. Now, I will climb down from my soapbox.
Grilling this Korean BBQ chicken over the cool side of the grill allows it to cook and render all that savory fat, without burning. While you want crispy, well cooked skin there is nothing tasty about charred and black skin. Cooking this chicken on the side without direct heat allows it to get that smokey grilled flavor without drying out and burning up. It takes a little extra time, but it adds a lot of extra flavor!
If you try this recipe out please share your pictures with me on Instagram with #thesimplesupper. It always makes my day to see people enjoying my recipes!
Korean BBQ Grilled Chicken
- 2 lbs Chicken Thighs Bone-In, Skin-on
- 1/2 Tbsp Korean Chili Powder (Gochugaru) Substitute 1/2 tsp of Cayenne
- 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Salt
- 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
- 2 Cups Chicken Broth
- 4 Cloves Garlic Cloves Sliced
- 2 Tbsp Scallions White part only, about 3 green onions
- 1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar Substitute Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger Minced
- 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
- 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
- 1/2 Cup Ketchup
- 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar Substitute Apple Cider Vinegar
Preheat the grill on high for at least 10 minutes and make sure that the grates are clean and oiled if necessary. If using a charcoal grill allow more time for coals to preheat.
Mix chili powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, and salt to create a spice rub. Sprinkle the rub over all of the chicken both top and bottom. Place the chicken in the pan skin side down. Make sure they are in a single layer and are not stacked. You will want them to be in a heatproof container to go on the grill. I like using cheap, aluminum pans.
Prepare the garlic by slicing the cloves into thin pieces, slicing the whole scallions and mincing the fresh ginger. Reserve the dark green parts of the scallions to use later in the recipe.
In a medium bowl mix together all the ingredients of the braising liquid. Chicken broth, garlic cloves, ginger, scallions, and rice vinegar. Pour over the prepared chicken.
In a separate bowl prepare the glaze of sesame oil, soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, and rice vinegar and mix thoroughly. Set aside to use when grilling chicken.
Turn off half of the burners on the grill or push the hot coals to one side. Place the tray of chicken over the side that does not have direct heat. This will allow the chicken to braise and for the fat the render. Do not lift the cover for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes have passed, remove the pan from the grill using thick oven mitts or grilling gloves. Set the pan on a heatproof surface. Using tongs place each piece of chicken on the cool side of the grill, skin side up. Make sure no pieces are touching.
Using a brush or large spoon spread half of the prepared glaze over each piece of chicken. Close the grill cover again and do not open for another 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes open the grill again and apply the remaining glaze to the chicken. Cover for the last time and let cook another 20 minutes or until internal temperature has reached 175 degrees.
Once the chicken is cooked all the way through very carefully remove the chicken from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Garnish with sliced green scallions and sesame seeds and enjoy!
Feel free to use substitutions as written in the ingredients as necessary. No need to buy lots of ingredients you don't have on hand.
Drumsticks can also be used in place of thighs. It is important that the chicken is bone-in and skin-on or else it will overcook if using this method.