Skillet BBQ Chicken

5.0
(1)

Add more hot sauce or cayenne pepper for a bit of heat, but this is a kid-friendly dish as is.

bbq chicken in a skillet
Photo: Alison Miksch
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
30 mins
Servings:
4

Turn inexpensive chicken thighs and a few pantry staples into a family-friendly chicken dish so easy you'll want to cook it every week. The best part? You can customize the homemade barbecue sauce to your family's preferences. If you like heat, increase the hot sauce or cayenne pepper. If you've got a few kids at the table, scale back—let the maple syrup and brown sugar make it a sweeter sauce.

Once the skillet BBQ chicken is cooking, you need only round out the dinner plate with some simple sides. We personally love Oven-Roasted Corn on the Cob and Old-School Squash Casserole, but you could pick from any of these great BBQ side dishes.

How to Make Skillet BBQ Chicken

You'll need about 30 minutes to make skillet BBQ chicken for four people (with a serving size of about five ounces apiece).

If you're using chicken breasts, place them on a cutting board between two sheets of plastic wrap. Use the flat side of a meat mallet to pound the protein until it is about 3/4-inch thick. (If you're using chicken thighs, you can skip this step). Rub the chicken with garlic salt and pepper.

Next, stir together ketchup, vinegar, sugar, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and the rest of the garlic salt in a small bowl.

homemade barbecue sauce in a clear glass bowl
Alison Miksch

Set the bowl aside for now while you heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet. Add the chicken and cook until it's lightly browned on one side.

cooking chicken thighs in a cast iron skillet
Alison Miksch

Now flip it and pour in the ketchup mixture. Bring it to a simmer and cook it uncovered while spooning the liquid over the protein until it thickens into a sauce. A thermometer inserted into the protein should read at least 165°F for breasts, or at least 170°F for thighs. Now you're ready to serve the chicken with the sauce.

bbq chicken thighs in a cast iron skillet
Alison Miksch

Skillet BBQ Chicken Ingredients

For this recipe, you'll need boneless chicken, either thighs or breasts as you prefer. In addition, you'll need black pepper, garlic salt, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, light brown sugar, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, Mexican-style hot sauce (like Cholula), and olive oil.

How Do You Grill Chicken Without a Grill?

In this recipe, you'll get all the taste of BBQ chicken with no actual grill required. This version calls for browning and simmering the protein in a large, cast-iron skillet.

However, there are many other ways to achieve the grilled chicken vibe without firing up the BBQ. Impart a smoky flavor with smoky spices, Liquid Smoke, or barbecue sauce that's heavy on spices like smoked paprika. Cook your chicken on a plank, or use the broiler to gently char the skin.

How Do I Make Crispy BBQ Chicken?

If you're making BBQ chicken on the grill, get the skin nice and crispy with an appealing char by grilling skin side down. Don't be afraid to cook it even hotter than you might intuit: High temperatures will dry the skin to produce a crisp result, but the skin itself will protect the meat underneath from overcooking. Just be sure to avoid direct flame.

How Do I Make Barbecue Sauce for Chicken?

Homemade BBQ sauce is simple to make by blending your chosen ingredients in a pan and letting the sauce simmer. The details are all in the flavor profile you prefer. For something on the sweet side to top chicken, try our ketchup-based Sweet-and-Spicy BBQ Sauce. Or try the simple mayonnaise-based Alabama White BBQ Sauce. For some regional appeal, try this recipe for Texas-style BBQ sauce or this Kansas City BBQ sauce recipe.

Editorial contributions by Alesandra Dubin.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs

  • ½ tsp. black pepper

  • 1 ½ tsp. garlic salt, divided

  • ¾ cup ketchup

  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar

  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup

  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 tsp. Mexican-style hot sauce (such as Cholula)

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions

  1. If using chicken breasts, place chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap on a cutting board. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, pound chicken breasts to about 3/4-inch thickness. (Skip this step if using chicken thighs). Rub chicken with pepper and 1 teaspoon of the garlic salt.

  2. Stir together ketchup, vinegar, sugar, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt in a small bowl; set aside.

  3. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add chicken, and cook, undisturbed, until lightly browned on one side, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip chicken, and pour in ketchup mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium, and cook, uncovered, stirring and spooning ketchup mixture over chicken occasionally, until sauce thickens and darkens and a thermometer inserted into chicken breasts registers 165°F (at least 170°F for chicken thighs), 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with chicken with sauce.

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