My Competition Thigh Recipe

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Process: Hands-On
Cooking: Chicken, Game & Fowl
Preparation: Medium Cook (up to 2 hours)

Serves: 8

16 bone- in, skin- on chicken thighs
2 cups bottled Italian salad dressing

Note: You’ll notice that I call for Accent, which contains MSG. Although monosodium glutamate has acquired a bad reputation, numerous studies have concluded that it has no effect on most people— well, unless you count happiness, because of the extra blast of deliciousness it offers. Still, if you’re skeptical, leave it out of this dish. It’ll be great either way.

Barbecue judges wisely take just a bite or two of each entry— otherwise, how could they
eat through hundreds of them— so as a competitor, you have to impress them right away, which is why I go all out and hit them with an especially intensely flavored seasoning blend and BBQ sauce. This strategy works just as well in the contest for backyard bragging rights. An added bonus: My method gives you skin that’s not only packed with flavor, but
is also super tender, meaning a neat piece comes off with each bite of juicy meat.


Seasoning Blend
3⁄4 cup mild chile powder, preferably Chimayo, Ancho, or Hatch
3⁄4 cup sweet paprika
1⁄2 cup Sugar in the Raw, or other
turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons garlic salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano,
preferably Mexican
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

Pan Ingredients
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons Accent, (optional) (see Note)

BBQ Sauce
21⁄4 cups APL BBQ Sauce, or your favorite BBQ sauce
3 tablespoons apricot preserves
3 tablespoons pineapple preserves
3 tablespoons honey, preferably
orange blossom
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
11⁄2 teaspoons Japanese soy sauce
11⁄2 teaspoons Accent (optional)

Techniques Used

Add Texture
Add Texture
Optional Savory Herb Brush
Optional Savory Herb Brush
Season "Like Rain"
Rest in Foil
Rest in Foil
Kiss With Smoke
Kiss With Smoke
Season Soak Saturate
Season Soak Saturate
Tighten With Glaze
Tighten With Glaze
Watch Coarseness Spice
Watch Coarseness Spice
Wrap With Foil
Wrap With Foil


1. Place the thighs in an extra- large resealable plastic bag (or divide between two smaller bags) and pour the dressing over the top. Squeeze out any excess air from the bag, and roll to coat all of the meat. Refrigerate for 3 hours.

2. Preheat an indirect barbecue with a drip pan and a combination of hardwood and fruitwood (preferably hickory and apple), a ceramic cooker with deflector plate and a combination of hardwood and fruitwood (preferably hickory and apple), or a charcoal and gas grill with a box or packet with a combination of hardwood and fruitwood (preferably hickory and apple) to 300°F.

3. Combine the seasoning blend ingredients and grind in a coffee or other small grinder that is dedicated to spices. Depending on the size of the grinder, it may need to be done in batches. In two baking dishes or two disposable aluminum pans, preferably 131⁄2 × 95/8 × 23⁄4-inch lasagna pans that will hold the thighs in a single layer, spread the butter (2 tablespoons in each) in the bottom. Divide the water, salt, and Accent, if using, between the pans.

4. Remove the chicken from the dressing, letting any excess remain in the bag, and lightly pat dry with paper towels. Place the chicken, skin side down, in the pans, keeping in a single layer. Using about 1 teaspoon of the seasoning blend on each thigh, sprinkle the top flesh side with the blend. Cover each pan with heavy- duty aluminum foil, and crimp the edges to seal.

Cooking Method

5. Place the thighs in the cooker, stacking the pans on top of each other, if needed, to fit in the cooker, and rotate them from top to bottom halfway through the cooking. Cook for 45 minutes.

6. Remove the thighs from the cooker and let rest in the pans, covered, for 15 minutes.

7. Transfer the thighs to a sheet pan or work surface and lightly pat dry with paper towels. Season on all sides with the seasoning blend; there may be some unused blend. Place back in the cooker, skin side up, and cook for an additional 45 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the BBQ sauce. Pour into a baking dish or disposable aluminum pan, preferably a 131⁄2 × 95/8 × 23⁄4-inch lasagna pan.

9. Remove the thighs from the cooker and carefully dip each one in the sauce, dredging to coat on all sides and making sure the skin side, especially, is evenly coated. Being sure to tuck the skin under to make the skin taut, place the thighs back in the cooker, skin side up, for 30 minutes.

10. Transfer to a platter and serve.

© 2009 APL Creative Inc from Serious Barbecue

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