Memphis Style Bbq Chicken

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This is not a traditional Memphis-rubbed chicken. It has not been sitting and juicing up in a smoker for hours. (Don’t start yelling! All y’all calm down!) This dish is inspired by the flavor-rich, dry-rubbed meats of Memphis. The chicken is flavored with a dry rub, cooked on the grill, and served with a sauce that is definitely sweet and tart—all directly influenced by the Memphis, Tennessee barbecue pit sauces. But the kicker here? I kid you not, it’s all served over spaghetti.


Memphis Style Bbq Chicken

  • ½ cup Memphis-Style Spice Rub
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 to 6½ pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts (skin on; see Kitchen Tip)
  • 1 pound spaghetti, for serving
  • 2 to 3 cups Memphis-Style Barbecue Spaghetti Sauce, for serving


  1. In a plastic container or jar with a tight lid, combine the spice rub, oil, and salt, cover tightly, and shake gently until combined.
  2. Place 2 large (quart-sized) resealable plastic bags in a large mixing bowl. Pour half of the spice rub mixture into one. Place half the chicken into it, gently press out any excess air, and seal tightly. Rub the bag between your hands, gently pressing the chicken to coat evenly with the spice rub and oil. Pour the remaining spice rub mixture into the second bag, add the remaining chicken, seal and press to coat. With the bags still in the bowl (to prevent spills), refrigerate for 12 to 16 hours, turning them over once after a few hours.
  3. When you are ready grill, cook the spaghetti following the package instructions. Drain and keep warm.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a grill to medium-high or a grill pan over medium-high heat. Prepare some paper towels and a large sheet of aluminum foil. Open one bag, gently remove the chicken and place the pieces on a large platter or tray. Pat the meat lightly with paper towels, without pushing down or rubbing. Discard the bag (see Kitchen Tips). Repeat with the second bag.
  5. Transfer the chicken to the grill, arranging it skin side down in a single layer. Lightly tent with the foil and cook for 7 to 8 minutes (no need to move it around; you won’t have great grill marks). Remove the foil, turn the chicken over with tongs, and cook, uncovered, for 2 to 5 more minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink. Transfer to a clean platter; do NOT use the same platter that you used to bring the raw chicken to the grill (see Kitchen Tips).
  6. Allow to rest for 1 to 2 minutes before cutting. Serve over the cooked spaghetti with plenty of Memphis-Style Barbecue Sauce.

Kitchen Tips

  • Discard marinades or rubs that have been used for uncooked meat, poultry, or fish when you are ready to cook, as they can harbor dangerous foodborne bacteria. The same is true for drippings that are released from uncooked or partially cooked meat, poultry, or fish, as well as any containers or utensils that touched them. By exposing your cooked food to these uncooked or partially cooked marinades and juices, you can re-contaminate the cooked foods.
  • Always use a fresh plate for fully cooked meat, poultry, or fish that you’ve cooked on the grill; NEVER place it back on the plate that held it when it was raw, as the original plate holds uncooked juices that might carry foodborne bacteria. These microorganisms are killed during cooking, but placing the cooked food back into the uncooked juices can contaminate it and cause foodborne illness.
  • This recipe can be made with either thighs or breasts, but the skin really needs to be on while cooking to protect the delicate meat from the direct heat. Chicken can dry out very quickly and skin (and fat, for that matter) is a protective layer that keeps it juicier. Usually chicken breasts cook faster than thighs but nowadays chicken breasts are so big and thick that the small thighs take about as long as a thick breast. The key is to keep an eye on it—you want it to be done, but not overdone. So peek, cut one, and learn what it feels like when you press on chicken that is done but still juicy. It has a somewhat firm quality but isn’t stiff or hard. Of course, it’s done when it’s no longer pink inside. Just remember: you can put the chicken back on for a minute of you want it more done, but you can’t ever cook it less.

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