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Grilled Bourbon BBQ Chicken

With the warm weather here, we’ve been giving our grill a workout, preparing for Memorial Day and summer cookouts. We’ve been grilling salmon, steak, lemon chicken and tequila-marinated shrimp, but nothing can match our favorite dish so far this year: Grilled Bourbon BBQ Chicken.

This is a far cry from the take-out bourbon chicken you order from barbecue restaurants. Our version contains real bourbon, so it has a little kick of spice and a hint of deep sweetness. It’s combined in the marinade with brown sugar, soy sauce, molasses, cloves and red pepper for a combination that will knock your socks off.

We use a whole chicken, which is affordable, and with a little practice, it’s quick and easy to break down into 8 separate pieces yourself. Double bonus: you’ll not only save a few dollars per pound for a few minutes of effort, but you’ll end up with leftover parts perfect for a simple and delicious slow cooker chicken stock. You won’t have to buy stock the next time you need it, so it’s really like saving money twice. Can’t beat that!

Once bourbon-marinated chicken hits the hot grill, the sugars in the marinade start to caramelize on the skin, creating a gorgeous brown, crispy skin that has a sweet and smoky flavor you can’t quite describe, but definitely can’t put down.

So as it turns out, Mac from The Whisky Grill was onto something when he talked to us about cooking with bourbon. It adds a lot to the flavor and texture of the chicken – so juicy! – and combined with the rest of the ingredients in this marinade, it’s a home run. We can’t wait to grill this bourbon chicken again on Memorial Day… and 4th of July… and probably again soon after that. Who even needs a holiday? If it’s nice out and we’re hungry, this is it.

Grilled Bourbon Chicken

Yield: Serves 6
Author: Hamilton Beach Test Kitchen


  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 (3 to 3 1/2 pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces


  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, add soy sauce, bourbon, brown sugar, molasses, vegetable oil, garlic and crushed red pepper. Seal and shake bag to blend mixture.
  2. Add chicken pieces to resealable bag. Seal and shake to coat chicken. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. Heat grill to ORANGE zone (Medium-High heat).
  4. Drain chicken, reserving marinade. In a 2-quart saucepan, cook over medium heat, about 20 minutes or until reduced to 3/4 cup. Set aside to serve with chicken.
  5. Grill pieces, turning occasionally for 18 to 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked to 165°F.
  6. Serve chicken with sauce.

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  1. I want to make this Tuesday night, August 8th, 2017 – however, above in the top you state it has cloves, but in the recipe it states garlic cloves. I can where a couple of cloves might fit nicely. Please clarify if it garlic cloves and cloves and you forgot the cloves, or if the top half has a typo! Thank you.

  2. This looks like a great recipe but I was always told not save the marinade to always throw it out…Is the marinade good after it’s been cooked on the stove top and not contaminated?

  3. Hi Cindy, it’s truly one our favorite grilled chicken recipes – so delicious! Cooking down the marinade should kill any bacteria, but if you feel unsure about the food safety (as many people do!), you could certainly make another batch for basting/dipping. Hope this helps. Enjoy!

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