How To Marinate Chicken With Bbq Sauce


I’m here today to teach you how to marinate chicken with bbq sauce. I’ll be teaching you how to make the best homemade barbecue sauce ever. This recipe is so simple, I’ll bet you already have the ingredients in your pantry. Let’s get started! If you have baked chicken breast, and you want to use it for BBQ chicken sandwich or wrap, then read this article to learn how to marinate chicken with barbeque sauce.

How To Marinate Chicken With Bbq Sauce

Who doesn’t love a piece of grilled chicken that’s been marinated in a delicious marinade? While BBQ chicken grilled with a few spices is good, one that’s been marinated steps up the taste a few bars. If you’re wondering how to marinate chicken in BBQ sauce, it’s good to know a few tricks in using BBQ sauce as a marinade.

BBQ sauce is an eclectic combination of seasonings, spices, sugar, and flavorful liquids.  Most cooks use it to baste their meat towards the end of grilling or cooking. It adds a delectable taste while forming a sticky, dark coating.

BBQ Sauce: As a Marinade or Not That’s the Question

Basting your meat with BBQ sauce turns the meat from a Plain Jane into a mouthwatering taste sensation. And that’s the best way to use BBQ sauce, but have you been tempted to marinate your chicken with BBQ sauce because it seems like a good idea?

how to marinate chicken in bbq sauce

Why we Marinate BBQ Chicken

Marinade is used to not only add flavor and taste but to tenderize tougher cuts of meat. Marinated meat ends up being moister and more palatable when cooked. Chicken does well when marinated especially the breasts.

Marinades include ingredients such as vinegar or lemon juice. These acids not only enhance the flavor of the meat, but they soften the surface texture. Oil is added to help with the transfer of flavors from the spices and herbs.

Salt draws out the meat liquids before it’s reabsorbed again with flavors drawn from the marinade ingredients such as garlic and onions. This brining process helps to break down the muscle texture of the meat.

When you marinate chicken, you can expect it to not only be full of flavor, but it’ll be juicier, tenderer and an all-round delicious experience.

BBQ Sauce as a Marinade

Marinating BBQ chicken requires leaving raw chicken in a marinade for a few hours or even overnight. To get the most benefit out of marinating the right balance of ingredients need to be included. Think of a ratio of acids, oils, and seasonings as ingredients for the best marinade.

BBQ sauce contains a lot of sugar. Which is fine and well until you start cooking with it! It burns quickly and with chicken needing a bit of time to cook, this can be a disaster. If your BBQ sauce cooks before your chicken does you’ve got a problem on your hands.

how to marinate chicken in bbq sauce

If you decide to use BBQ sauce straight out the bottle as a marinade, then consider washing it off before grilling your chicken. This will prevent the chicken burning before it’s ready to eat. But this way of using BBQ sauce as a marinade seems wasteful.

And if you like your chicken to be crispy especially the wings and drumsticks, soaking in BBQ sauce overnight is going to kill any crispiness from happening. This applies to any type of marinade so if you want the crackle, then avoid marinating chicken before grilling.

But if you get innovative with BBQ sauce you can use it as a marinade. Let’s talk about turning this sauce into a concoction with other ingredients so it can marinate your chicken before grilling.

Marinating Raw Chicken with BBQ Sauce Before Grilling

By using BBQ sauce as part of a marinade you’ve got yourself a recipe that’ll not only enhance the marinating process but will enhance the flavors. It’s all about balance. This balance is easier to reach when you make your own barbeque sauce. You’ve more control over the amount of sugar being used.

With store-bought BBQ sauce it’s likely to be loaded with sugar. The thicker the consistency the more sugar you can expect to find in the sauce. So, the secret to using this kind of sauce in a marinade is to thin it down with other ingredients.

So, what you’re doing here is using BBQ sauce as a component of the marinade not as the marinade itself. Here are some nifty ways of using BBQ sauce in a marinade for chicken.

  • Add two tablespoons of BBQ sauce to a combination of olive oil, beer, pepper, cayenne, onions, garlic, and parsley. You can also use ginger beer instead of beer.
  • Mix BBQ sauce with an Italian salad dressing. The dressing contains the oil and vinegar components while the BBQ sauce has all the seasonings. This is such an easy marinade combination that works well. Plus, you’ll end up with a sweet and sour BBQ chicken which is an amazing flavor.
  • Add BBQ sauce to a combination of lemon juice, olive oil, mustard powder, and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Thin down BBQ sauce using apple cider or white vinegar and toss in onions, garlic, and your favorite seasonings.
  • A combination of soy sauce, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar together with BBQ sauce creates a tantalizing taste explosion when the chicken has been grilled.
  • Try adding BBQ sauce to yogurt or buttermilk for a flavorful ultra-tenderizing marinade. This is a good combination when marinating breasts.

If you’re not sure about quantities, it’s good to follow a recipe. What you need to be careful of is turning your chicken into a mush overnight. This happens when you’ve added too much acid in the marinade so go easy with the vinegars or citrus juices. An overly acidic marinade can also toughen meat even more!

You may also decide to not marinade a whole raw chicken before grilling. Instead, opt to marinade the breast meat which is the tougher parts of the chicken.

A word of warning: when you’re done with marinating the chicken don’t be tempted to keep the marinade sauce. The risk of salmonella is high so unless you intend cooking the sauce, toss it out.

how to marinate chicken in bbq sauce

Best Ways to Marinate Chicken

With any of the combinations mentioned above, you can get the best results from your BBQ sauce marinade when you use the following ways of marinating chicken:

  • Toss the marinade into a sealable plastic bag. Cut up the chicken into pieces and add them to the marinade. Seal the bag, give it a few shakes to make sure the chicken is coated in the marinade. Leave in the refrigerator for up to two hours or overnight. If you want to marinate a whole chicken using this method, simply get a big enough plastic bag to hold a whole chicken.
  • Using the method above, you can freeze the raw chicken in the marinade. This is a great idea if you want to prepare your chicken a few days before cooking it. Take it out of the freezer the night before you intend grilling the chicken, so it thaws out properly.
  • Mix the marinade up in a large dish or casserole. Toss in the chicken pieces or whole chicken. Make sure the chicken is completely submerged in the marinade. Cover the dish with cling wrap and place in the refrigerator. Leave to marinate for up to two hours or longer. By the way, raw chicken can sit in a marinade, in the refrigerator, for up to two days.
  • Some cooks will remove the skin from the raw chicken before placing into a marinade. They believe the flavors will penetrate flesh better without the skin. Other cooks, however, feel the skin adds flavor while keeping the chicken moist during grilling. Either way, marinades mostly give surface flavor rather than a deep in-the-flesh kind of flavoring.
  • When marinating chicken breasts with the skin on lay them in the marinade with the top side down. You could also pierce the breasts a few times with a fork to allow the marinade to seep into the flesh. But you could end up losing juices in the process so go easy on how often you pierce. Chicken breasts can be marinated from anyway between 30 minutes and three hours.

The key to marinating raw chicken before grilling is to not have too much acid in the recipe if you’re leaving it to marinate for a long time. You’ll end up with either very tough chicken or chicken flesh that’s turned soft.

how to marinate chicken in bbq sauce

Other Ways of Adding BBQ Sauce to Chicken

If you decide to not use BBQ sauce as part of your marinade before grilling, consider using it in other ways to still benefit from the flavor of these sauces.

  • Marinate raw chicken in a marinade without BBQ sauce. Place on the grill and in the last 10 minutes of cooking baste the chicken with BBQ sauce. This will give your grilled chicken a sticky, delicious taste.
  • Instead of marinating chicken before grilling opt to coat the chicken with melted butter or olive oil. Sprinkle on spices, salt and pepper and even some dried herbs. Grill and in the last 10 minutes of cooking baste the chicken with BBQ sauce.
  • Use the BBQ sauce as a dipping sauce. Simply put a dollop onto your plate and dunk grilled chicken pieces into it as you eat.
  • Another way to use BBQ sauce on raw chicken before grilling is to cut thin strips of chicken and coat with the sauce. Grill by turning the strips over every four minutes to prevent the BBQ sauce from burning. Add more sauce as you grill until the strips are done.

Final Thoughts

Grilled BBQ chicken must be one of the most delicious meals enjoyed by many. And it seems to make sense to marinate chicken in BBQ sauce before grilling. But unless you’re using a homemade BBQ sauce with less sugar, you run the risk of burning the chicken  before it’s cooked.

By using some of my suggestions in this article, you’ll still benefit from adding BBQ sauce to your grilled chicken, either before grilling it or after it’s cooked. Give them a go and see which way turns your Plain Jane chicken into a scintillating piece of BBQ chicken.

BBQ Chicken Marinade

Nothing says summer grilling quite like BBQ Chicken Marinade. It’s tangy, juicy, and has just the right amount of char, thanks to the sugars in the BBQ sauce. This recipe calls for fancying up a bottle of ready-made sauce, but if you want to make your own, there are many directions to go in. You can take the classic Kansas-city style BBQ sauce or the Carolina BBQ sauce routes, or go wild with a can of soda for a Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce.

Serve marinated BBQ chicken with classic summer BBQ sides like coleslaw, corn salad, or potato salad.

Marinating the chicken in BBQ sauce before grilling infuses every bite with flavor. At least two hours will do the trick, though the longer the chicken gets cozy with the marinade, the better it will be. Plus, an overnight stint in the refrigerator doesn’t just make for tastier chicken, it helps you get ahead on prep. 

If you’re not in the habit of cleaning your grill grates before cooking, this is the time to start. Clean, oiled grates ensure the chicken skin will get crispy rather than stick. 

The recipe is flexible enough to use any type of bone-in chicken. Or, use a whole chicken cut into parts to please all parties. All this means that this is the time to pull out your instant-read thermometer. Since the sizes of pieces vary and bone-in chicken can take a while to cook, a precise digital read will tell you when each piece of chicken is 165º.  

Save Recipe





  • 1 c. BBQ sauce
  • 1/4 c. neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable, plus more for the grill
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 lb. bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces


  1. In a large bowl, whisk BBQ sauce, oil, garlic, soy sauce, smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Reserve ¼ cup of the sauce in a small bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to grill. Add chicken to the large bowl and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.
  2. Preheat grill to medium high for 3 minutes, and clean and grease the grates with oil. Add chicken, skin side-down, and grill, flipping often and basting with the reserved BBQ sauce, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 165º, about 20 minutes total. Serve immediately.

BBQ Chicken Marinade

Say hello to the most delicious BBQ chicken marinade! It’s ready in 5 minutes with just 7 simple ingredients, and will leave your chicken juicy and delicious every time.

Never use a store-bought marinade again with this BBQ chicken marinade!

The #1 BBQ Chicken Marinade

This easy and deliciously savory BBQ chicken marinade is our go-to! We try to keep these 7 ingredients on hand at all times, so we’re ready to marinade BBQ chicken to perfection at a moment’s notice!

What You Need for this BBQ Chicken Marinade

All you need is 7 ingredients for this perfect BBQ chicken marinade. You’ll need to round up:

  • BBQ sauce: Any kind will do! Grab your favorite BBQ sauce or whatever you have on hand in the fridge.
  • Olive oil: The perfect amount of olive oil will help keep this chicken moist and delicious during the marinating and cooking process.
  • Smoked paprika: Smoked paprika gives this marinade a delicious smokey flavor.
  • Chili powder: Give your BBQ marinade a little savory kick!
  • Garlic cloves: Don’t skimp on the garlic, friends! We keep a tube of minced garlic in the fridge at all times.
  • Salt and pepper: So simple, but adds such great flavor!

Easy Ingredient Swaps

  • Garlic cloves: Don’t have fresh garlic on hand? Sub half the amount of garlic powder.
  • Smoked paprika: Regular paprika will work!
  • Olive oil: Prefer avocado oil or vegetable oil? Most oils will work in this marinade.

How Long to Marinate BBQ Chicken

The biggest piece of advice we have when marinating chicken is the longer the better! If you can marinate your chicken for 2-4 hours, do it! If you just have 30 minutes, that is okay too.

a few marinating tips

  1. Feel free to use either a baking dish or gallon-size plastic bag to marinate your chicken in.
  2. Make sure your chicken is fully submerged in the marinade. If you’re using a baking dish, flip your chicken halfway through.
  3. Make sure to marinate your chicken in the fridge and not on the countertop to prevent food-borne illness.

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