BBQ Hoisin Chicken Thighs
I have a friend who is known for his chicken thighs. If you go over to his house on any given weekend, there’s a good chance that there will be a delicious smell of BBQ coming from the grill and most of the time the grill will be filled with chicken thighs. It’s a cheap cut of meat, but as with a lot of cheap cuts it can be the best if you cook it correctly.
He’s a great cook in general, but he’s really mastered chicken thighs. Over the years, I watched him cook them many times and finally got the okay to share some of his tricks with the Macheesmo crew.
These BBQ hoisin chicken thighs are my attempt to reproduce his deliciousness!
1) Stir together hoisin, ketchup, rice wine vinegar, honey, soy sauce, sriracha, and black pepper until smooth. Divide the BBQ sauce in half. Use half while the chicken cooks and half as a sauce for serving later.
2) Brush chicken thighs lightly with the hoisin BBQ. Place them on a grill over low heat (indirect heat is best) skin-side up. Cook for about 30-40 minutes.
3) Check chicken thighs for scorching or if they are getting too black. If necessary, flip the chicken thighs so they don’t get too black on one side. Brush the thighs with more BBQ sauce 2-3 times as they cook. They will need to grill for at least two hours to be cooked through, but you could let them go as long as four hours if you have a nice low heat.
4) Optional ways to control heat: stack the chicken thighs in a big pile in the center of the grill. Rotate them around top-to-bottom every 15-20 minutes, but this will keep them warm without drying them out. You can also crank the heat up to medium-high near the end and cook the chicken thighs over high heat, skin side down for 2-3 minutes to crisp up the skin even more.
The chicken thighs should reach 165-170 degrees F. in the thickest part when they are done. Serve thighs with extra sauce on the side and garnish with scallions if you want.
Hoisin Chicken Thighs
This is a really basic BBQ sauce that requires no chopping and no cooking. You could fancy it up with some onions, garlic, or bourbon, but it’s really great as-is. Just stir the ingredients together and you’re ready to rock.
Before you start slathering this on the chicken, I recommend dividing it into two. Use one for basting the chicken as it cooks and the rest of the sauce for serving later. This ensures that you don’t get any raw chicken in the sauce you want to serve later.
Chicken Thigh Tips
Chicken thighs are the cheapest cut of chicken you can buy in the stores. They won’t always work in a lot of recipes because they have a lot of fat and big bones. But we can use that to our advantage on the grill.
A few tips to remember for chicken thighs:
- Don’t fall for the boneless ploy. You can find boneless chicken thighs, but they are really inferior and cost more. The bone actually helps the chicken thighs cook more evenly and you’ll end up with a better finished product if you just learn to work with them.
- Don’t worry about fancy BBQ recipes. If you ask a BBQ competitor, they get crazy with their chicken thighs. They debone them in a special way and meticulously trim the skin down. This is a crazy amount of work. Keep it simple and don’t worry about doing any of that.
- Low heat is you friend. Don’t make these if you are in a rush. They legitimately need at least two hours to cook. Cooking them low and slow allows a lot of the fat to break down and render out and also crisps up the skin. Rush it at your own peril!
Starting the Thighs
Before you put the thighs on the grill, brush them lightly with the sauce to get some flavor going. You could marinate them in this sauce for a few hours if you had the time.
Start the thighs skin-side UP over low indirect heat on your grill. You can use gas or charcoal. On my gas grill, I turn off the middle burner and turn the front and back burners on low and that about does the trick.
Keep an eye on these as they cook, especially in the beginning to make sure your temperature isn’t too hot. After 30-40 minutes, you should start to notice some of the fat rendering out and you may even see some blackening around the edges.
If you have a good, low temperature on your grill, you can just let these go for 2-3 hours until the skin starts to brown. You don’t even need to flip them or anything (but you can). Brush them with sauce a few times throughout the cooking process!
Temperature Issues and Fixes
The biggest problem with these (especially since we are using a sauce) is that it’s really hard to avoid some blackening and flare-ups on the grill. That’s okay! Don’t freak out about it if it happens. Your thighs will be fine as long as you control it a bit.
After about 45 minutes, mine started to get a little blacker on the bottom then I would like.
So I gave them a flip! I know it sounds easy, but it’s important to start the thighs skin-side up to let some of the skin render down. When you flip them, they won’t stick then. If you start the thighs skin-side down, they can easily scorch and stick to the grill and make a mess.
Assuming you have low heat though and they have been cooking for 45 minutes or so, there’s no harm in flipping them.
After another 30 minutes or so, I finally got my temperature where I wanted it and flipped the thighs back over. They were looking really good after a second hit of hoisin BBQ sauce.
But they aren’t done! Let them keep cooking. They will cook and cook and cook and every time you open the grill they will just look better and better.
This ended up being my close to done chicken thighs after about 2 1/2 hours of cooking and three glazes of BBQ sauce.
Two Fun Tricks
Here are two fun tricks that my friend Matt uses when he is making these for a crowd. If people aren’t quite ready to eat yet, or he just wants to keep some thighs cooking for longer, he piles them up in a huge pile on the grill (still over low heat). Doing this will basically prevent them from drying out. Assuming you rotate the pile occasionally, you could keep them on the grill like this for hours and they would just get more and more delicious.
The second trick he uses right before he serves the thighs. He calls it Blasting them. Basically, he cranks up the heat (probably to like medium-high) and quickly sears the chicken thighs skin-side down. This makes the skin really nice and crispy. Be careful though as they can burn quickly. Just a minute or two of blasting is all it takes.
Serve the thighs with extra sauce on the side and you are in business.
Embrace the chicken thigh, people. It’s definitely good (and easy) grilling!