Bolen’s Barbecue Chicken


Barbecue is a quintessential American meal dating back to the days of George Washington yet it is probably one of the most controversial.  Most people will agree that barbecue involves slow cooking meat over low heat for long periods of time.  From there the  controversy extends to the question of what exactly constitutes barbecue and how does one go about doing it properly?  The answers are as varied as the regions of the United States and how you answer depends upon where you are coming from.

As a New Englander, my idea of barbecue has always involved chicken or perhaps the occasional rib covered with a slightly sweet and spicy tomato based sauce.  In my mind, anything else that is cooked over open flames is considered grilling.  Imagine my surprise when I was newly transplanted to southern Virginia and I learned that the local idea of barbecue involved meat (either beef, pork, or chicken) that had been grilled then shredded and was served on a hamburger bun.  The adding of a sauce, and perhaps coleslaw, was then optional.  This shook my northern roots to the core.

And just as there are different types of barbecue, there are different styles of sauces and seasonings that get put on top of the meat.  The southern part of the United States seems to lay claim to barbecue but even here cooking styles vary by region or state.  Memphis barbecue is pork based and starts with either a dry rub or sauce base known as “dry” or “wet” then the meat is shredded or chopped before serving.  Carolina style is also made of pork that is shredded but tends to be slow smoked with a dry rub with a “wet” vinegar liquid added later during the cooking process.  Kansas City style meat is also dry cooked but served with a thick and sweet tomato and molasses based sauce on the side.  Other states have their own versions on proper barbecue and everyone insists that their version is the only real kind.

To this day, in my mind barbecue is still chicken with a spicy tomato based sauce on top.  This recipe was passed down to me by my mother-in-law.  Although a southerner at heart, this was what her family considered to be barbecue.  The recipe originated with an old family friend and it has been a family staple through the generations ever since.  I was a bit skeptical when I first saw the ingredient list but Glenn assured me that it was the best barbecue sauce he had ever eaten so I agreed to at least try it. I am now a convert and always have a stash of it in our freezer for quick barbecue dinners.  We’ve served it to numerous guests as part of a “traditional American barbecue” experience and they have all loved it as well.  Try it; you won’t be disappointed and you won’t go back to bottled sauce again.


For the Sauce:

1 small can crushed pineapple

42 ounces tomato ketchup

1/3 to 1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 pound dark brown sugar

12 ounces French’s yellow mustard

  • Place all of the ingredients in a large sauce pot.  Using a stick blender puree until smooth.
  • Stirring occasionally, bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
  • Remove from the heat and use immediately.

Yields:  1 gallon

The sauce can be stored covered for up to one week in the refrigerator or can be frozen for up to six months.  I like to freeze the sauce in individual meal sized portions for later use.  Simply defrost in the refrigerator for one day before using.

For the Chicken:

1 – 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce

8 pieces of chicken, depending upon your preferences

  • Generously oil a grill and pre-heat to high.
  • Reduce the grill temperature to medium-high and place the chicken over direct heat.
  • Grill for 4 minutes then flip.  After the first flip, bush the chicken with sauce.  The amount of cooking time needed will depend upon the size and thickness of each piece of chicken.
  • Continue to brush the chicken with sauce and flip every 4 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  The chicken is done when a small knife inserted into the chicken yields clear juice.

Serves 4

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2 thoughts on “Bolen’s Barbecue Chicken

  1. […] the prep time is a bit longer for this dish but the extra effort is worth it.  I served it with a barbecue chicken and a green salad for dinner then ate the leftovers by themselves the next day for lunch.  It was […]

  2. […] ribs, and of course barbecue chicken topped with an old family recipe for a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. Naturally there will be the traditional side dishes, salads and desserts as well. What would a […]

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