Barbecued chicken with white sauce?? That’s right! I had to do a double-take myself when I came across this recipe by author Chris Lilly in Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book. Big Bob’s Alabama BBQ joint was famous for his chicken dipped in white sauce. Chris Lilly is a world-champion pitmaster who learned the trade at Big Bob’s place. They have won more awards than I could possibly take the time to list so I’ll just say that they’ve won Memphis in May 7 or 8 times and have many more championships to their credit. The notion of the barbecued chicken with white sauce was something a Grillin’ Fool just had to try.
I picked up a couple 4 lb birds at a local market and sped home to begin the process. The birds had to be butterflied or spatchcocked. A pair of cooking sheers really helps here. Don’t forget to remove the giblets, etc. first:
Begin with the drumsticks facing you on the cutting board, grab the tail, and cut along the backbone—staying as close to the bone as possible, then repeat on the other side:
Remove the backbone then and spread open. With a knife, cut through the white spot of cartilage shown in the pic:
Next, run your finger down each side of the breastbone as shown then simply remove the bone:
This will allow the bird to lay flat, cook evenly and more quickly as well as simplify the carving:
The chicken can be cooked whole or simply run a knife through the skin at the middle and you’ll have halves that are much easier to work with:
For the sake of illustration I’m doing it both ways as shown. The one on the right has been split:
The chicken is dusted with salt on both sides and is now ready for the grill. A half cup of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of black pepper are reserved to apply mid-way through the grilling process:
My old Char-Broil was set up for the indirect method with coals on the left and the chickens on the right:
We highly recommend when grilling whole chickens to always position the legs of the bird toward the heat thus keeping the leaner breast meat from cooking too quickly and drying out.
***Editor’s note ~ Even if you are cooking chicken pieces use this same theory. Put the thighs closest to the fire as they are the fattiest and biggest of the dark meat, then the legs followed by breasts and wings. The breasts may be the largest cut but they dry out the fastest***
A large chunk of apple wood was added to the coals, the lid closed on the grill, a cool beverage was opened and it was time to do a little chillin’ prior to preparing the white barbecue sauce. If you don’t have access to apple wood, any light fruit wood would do, but I would avoid cherry as it will really darken the skin making it look unappetizing.
White Barbecue Sauce Ingredients:
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup distilled white vinegar
½ cup apple juice
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp prepared horseradish
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Place the ingredients for the white sauce into a food processor or blender or simply whisk the ingredients together as I did to create the white barbecue sauce:
Big Bob Gibson originated this recipe a long, long time ago and there are quite a few variations out there. I made one change, at Mimi’s urging, and added 4 teaspoons of sugar to the mix. Please note that this sauce is not cooked and it is not applied until the very end after the chicken is thoroughly cooked. The sauce can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for about 2 weeks. Caution here! If the sauce comes in contact with raw or undercooked chicken it should be disposed of. I suggest keeping any sauce for future use totally separate from the dipping process. Hey look, we’re dealing with mayonnaise and poultry here so be careful!
Here’s the barbecued chicken 30 minutes in:
The barbecued chickens are beginning to brown and more wood is needed. Cooking temperature should be 325 degrees for 90 minutes then the olive oil and pepper is applied, the birds turned, and grilled another 90 minutes or until the thigh registers between 165-175 and the breast 160-165 degrees.
I have set up the contraption (thermometer) and as luck would have it the darn thing malfunctioned! Temp reads 000.
I know the Char-Broil tends to reach 350 with this method so the cooking time may be a bit less.
Here’s the barbecued chicken 1 hour in:
I’ve decided to oil and flip the birds. The pepper is then applied to the cavities of the chicken:
More coals and another chunk of apple wood are added
***Editor’s note ~ When you have to open the grill to check the progress of the meat or apply sauce and such, make sure you do all the other maintenance you need at the same time such as adding more fuel or more smoke wood to help cut down on the amount of times you open the grill. The more you open the grill the longer it will take to cook whatever it is you have in it***
The thermometer simply reads “H” at this time. I’m assuming that means I have a hot fire! Seriously, grilling time will vary by grill, fire, and size of the chickens. You can always check chicken by cutting into a portion and see if the juices run clear or use an instant read thermometer. I hate spearing or penetrating anything on the grill but you need to be sure poultry is thoroughly cooked.
Another pic at 90 minutes:
And flipped at a total of 90 minutes of grilling. The drummies have shrunk, there are some cracks in the breast portion, and clear juices are oozing. I’m going another half hour and will check the doneness:
I pulled the birds at 2 hours and cut the whole one in half and dunked 2 halves in the white barbecue sauce and kept 2 plain. The grand kids were here for dinner and I wasn’t sure how they’d like the white barbecue sauce. I poured some reserved sauce into a small bowl to be set on the table to add as desired:
The result was a flavor I wasn’t used to experiencing in this part of the country. We enjoyed a Southern tangy taste totally different from anything we were accustomed to. Mimi and I agreed we’d try this again. We hope you enjoy it as well and would appreciate feedback from your experience. On another note, removing the backbone and breastbone made the birds really easy to carve and I’ll probably do any whole chicken in this manner going forward. The halves were really easy to handle especially when submerging the chicken into the dipping sauce.
Nothing follows a great grilled meal like a pedal boat ride with the grand kids:
If you are looking for other poultry recipes, click here to see other birds we’ve done on the grill.
As usual, if you have any questions or comments about the barbecued chicken with white sauce recipe, feel free to email me or simply leave a comment below.
- 2 chickens approximately 4 lbs each
- course salt and black pepper
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- ½ cup apple juice
- 4 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp prepared horseradish
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- Butterfly or spatchcock the chicken and dust on both sides with salt
- Reserve the olive oil and black pepper for later
- Set up the grill for indirect/two zone grilling with coals and smoke wood on one side and nothing on the other
- Target temperature of the grill is 325 degrees
- Place the chickens on the side with no coals with the legs toward the fire and the breasts away
- Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, apple juice, sugar, horseradish, black pepper, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper and blend together
- Reserve the sauce for later
- After 1 hour, brush with the oil and black pepper and flip over and brush again
- After another 30 minutes, brush with oil and pepper, flip and brush the other side
- Remover the chicken from the grill when the internal temperature reaches 160-165 (about 2 hours)
- Allow the chicken to rest for about 5 minutes and then slice down the middle and dunk in the white sauce and serve
- Place some of the sauce in a bowl on the table for dipping