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Classic AIP BBQ Chicken is great from the grill OR from the oven! Delicious nightshade-free BBQ sauce makes this traditional dinner finger-licking good, and AIP-friendly! Also Paleo and GAPS-friendly.
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The secret to great BBQ chicken: oven to grill
I learned several years ago, on the 4th of July actually, that the best way to make perfectly grilled chicken, without stress, is to bake the chicken first!
Yes: Precook chicken in the oven ahead of time so you know it’s fully cooked and ready for the grill. Cooking it ahead of time lets you cook it slowly, which yields nice, juicy and tender meat.
Common struggle: Perhaps you can relate, but the biggest challenge when barbecuing chicken is under OR over-cooking it. The outside gets charred before the inside is cooked.
The oven to grill technique is now well-loved by many home cooks and restauranteurs — because it works flawlessly. You get all the juiciness of perfectly cooked chicken, with the grill flavor of a short grill time! (Healthier than a long grill time too, with no burned bits!)
Ingredients in AIP BBQ Chicken
BBQ sauces are usually tomato-based. For those of us who enjoy a nightshade-free (and low lectin) diet, we can actually use a no-tomato (or “Nomato”) sauce to create a delicious, gentle alternative.
My favorite No-Tomato Sauce inspired this recipe. But this recipe has some extra special ingredients that give it that distinctive sweet, spicy, tangy, zippy but rich flavor we all love about classic BBQ sauces:
- Carrots, beets and onions are the vegetable base for this recipe. They create a rich red hue, sweet and rich flavors.
- I add bone broth to create the right texture when we purée the veggies + added nutrients.
Then … all the magic happens:
- Apple cider vinegar adds tart and tang.
- Bacon fat adds smokiness. This ingredient is optional if you don’t have any on hand, but recommended!
- Maple syrup adds sweet richness. (Honey for GAPS diet.)
- Coconut aminos add umumi! + a little sweet, rich and salty.
- Fresh ginger adds spiciness.
- Blackstrap molasses adds depth, soul and richness. (Omit for GAPS.)
- Garlic adds spicy, rich flavor.
- Fish sauce is key; it contributes salty, rich, depth and je ne sais quoi. It is not fishy.
- Lastly, sea salt provides the right balance of flavors to season meat.
Regarding the chicken itself: I buy bone-in, skin-on chicken, which yields the juiciest chicken and good skin — for its nutrients and for the sauce to cling to!
I prefer dark meat both flavor and health-wise. Dark meat chicken is higher in omega-3 fatty acids; whereas, chicken breasts are higher in omega-6 fats. I often buy 1 to 2 pounds of organic thighs and 2 pounds of organic drumsticks.
Make the BBQ sauce ahead of time
Yes, you can. Eating should be low stress. So whatever makes this meal come together fast is great. If you make the sauce ahead of time, this dinner is almost no work: Simply slather the chicken, then grill or bake!
AIP BBQ Sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance.
Bake the chicken ahead of time…!
As mentioned, this recipe has you pre-bake the chicken — if you intend to grill.
BAKING — If you’re planning to oven-bake, you can bake the chicken all at once, basting the chicken with BBQ sauce before baking and again about 10 minutes before it’s done cooking. (Or you can prep it ahead of time, if preferred, and follow the reheating directions below when ready to serve.)
GRILLING — Here’s an overview of the pre-cooking and grilling process:
- Up to two days before you intend to serve, season the chicken with sea salt and avocado oil, and bake at 325ºF for about 50 minutes. After 50 minutes, if you wish, test with an instant-read thermometer (like this one). The chicken should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit internally.
- Allow chicken to cool slightly.
- Brush the chicken with AIP BBQ Sauce.
- Refrigerate chicken for up to two days or until dinner time.
- Transfer the chicken pieces to a medium-heat grill that is brushed with oil. Cook, turning occasionally (long tongs like these are important to use to protect your hands from the heat), until there are grill marks on both sides and the meat is heated through, about 8 to 10 minutes total. You can baste the chicken pieces with sauce part way through if you’d like.
What to serve with AIP BBQ Chicken
If you’re already grilling, it’s easy to add zucchini and romaine to the grill as well. If you haven’t eaten grilled romaine lettuce before, it’s super simple and yummy. We just drizzle the lettuce with olive oil, grill until dark in spots, then sprinkle with sea salt and optional apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice.
If you’re eating green beans, it’s hard to pass up Lemon Roasted Green Beans. Easy and delicious.
Green or fruit salads are also great alongside BBQ chicken. Or try this lovely Roasted Broccoli Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette (just omit the pine nuts for AIP).
For dessert, enjoy Paleo Vanilla Ice Cream or Cinnamon Cupcakes with Strawberry “Buttercream” Frosting. 🙂
How to store and reheat leftovers
Leftovers of AIP BBQ Chicken keep great in the fridge for 4 days. Cover well.
To reheat, use oven-safe cover over an oven-safe dish. Place in 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover the chicken for the last 5 minutes of reheating.
You’ll also likely have leftovers of the sauce! You can make a bigger batch of AIP BBQ Chicken (up to 4 pounds). Or you can freeze the leftover sauce for next time. To freeze the sauce or the chicken, simply seal well in freezer-safe container, for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight.
AIP BBQ Chicken (nightshade-free)
- grill or oven
- 1-½ pounds (or up to 4 pounds) chicken bone-in, skin-on thighs and drumsticks, (+ breasts if preferred)
- 4 whole carrots roughly chopped
- 1 small beet roughly chopped
- 1 small onion peeled and roughly chopped
- ⅔ cup bone broth
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup bacon fat optional, to add smoky flavor
- 3 Tablespoons maple syrup or honey for GAPS
- 3 Tablespoons coconut aminos
- 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger grated then measured
- 1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses omit for GAPS
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Place carrots, beets and onion in steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and cook until very tender, about 15 minutes.
- Place steamed veggies in high powered blender with the remaining ingredients: bone broth, apple cider vinegar, optional bacon fat, maple syrup, coconut amino acids, fresh ginger and garlic, sea salt and optional fish sauce and molasses.
- Blend on lowest speed, and increase as motor moves with ease. Blend on medium to medium-high speed for about 45 seconds until sauce is smooth.
- GRILL METHOD — If you plan to GRILL the chicken: The day you intend to serve OR up to two days before, season the chicken with sea salt and avocado oil. Bake at 325ºF for about 50 minutes. After time has elapsed, if you wish, test with an instant-read thermometer (like this one). The chicken should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit internally. Or poke to the bone with a knife; juices should run clear. Allow chicken to cool slightly.
- Brush the chicken with AIP BBQ Sauce. (You'll have sauce leftover unless you make the bigger quantity of chicken.) Cover and refrigerate chicken for up to two days or until dinner time OR proceed with recipe if you're not prepping the chicken ahead of time.
- Heat grill to medium heat.
- Transfer the chicken pieces to medium-heat grill that is brushed (optionally) with oil. Cook, turning occasionally (long tongs like these are helpful to use to protect your hands from the heat), until there are grill marks on both sides and the meat is heated through, about 8 to 10 minutes total. You can baste the chicken pieces with sauce part way through if you’d like.
- BAKE METHOD — If you're BAKING the raw chicken directly before serving (no grill or meal prep. method): Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a large casserole dish or heavy duty baking pan. Brush or coat chicken pieces in BBQ Sauce. Bake 40 minutes. Remove chicken from the oven, and brush again with sauce. Return chicken to the oven for 10 to 15 additional minutes. Chicken is done when juices run clear when poked deeply with a sharp knife OR use an internal thermometer; the chicken should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit internally.
Already have Nomato Sauce on hand? You can use this variation of the recipe instead:
- Use 2 cups Nomato Sauce in place of the steamed veggies and bone broth.
- Add it to your blender, or mix well in a bowl by hand, with remaining ingredients: apple cider vinegar, optional bacon fat, maple syrup, coconut amino acids, fresh ginger and garlic, sea salt and optional fish sauce and molasses.
- If blender, blend on lowest speed, and increase as motor moves with ease. Blend on medium to medium-high speed for about 45 seconds until sauce is smooth.
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