A couple of years ago, after brining my first turkey for Thanksgiving, I vowed to brine all of the chickens we roasted going forward.  Let’s be real here: that never happened.  I rarely have enough forethought 12-24 hours in advance of roasting a chicken to put a brine together but when I came across a quick brine for chicken thighs one weekend recently, I was all over it.

A 6 hour brine was perfect for me – I could toss the chicken in the brine at noon, have the entire afternoon to work in the yard while fighting off the ever-present bees (I’m a magnet) and reapplying the sunscreen (yes, I burn in my backyard in May), then run inside to shower and have the grill fired up by 6.

Yes, brining chicken pieces is that easy.  Of course the bbq sauce I made for this chicken was just plain stellar, but it really played a supporting role here.  The brined chicken, much like a brined turkey, was tender and moist (shudder word) and for dark meat, the thighs cooked relatively quickly on the grill.

We served this bbq chicken alongside some revolutionary bacon ranch potato salad and I know our garden Beefsteaks will perfectly round out this meal later on in the summer (just pray we can defeat the blight this year).


Quick-Brined Barbecued Chicken Thighs
source: brine adapted from Gourmet, June 2003; bbq sauce adapted from America’s Test Kitchen via Pink Parsley

For the brine:

  • 1 quart cold water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

For the bbq sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, sugar, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 12 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the brine cool to room temperature.  Once cool, pour the brine over the chicken in a large bowl or sturdy gallon-size zipper bag; seal the bowl or bag and chill for 6 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Whisk the first six ingredients for the sauce in a medium bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Chill until ready to use.  You’ll have about half leftover after cooking the chicken so divide it into separate containers before prepping to cook the chicken – I can assure you that the unused sauce will not go to waste.
  3. Prepare a gas grill (charcoal instructions can be found in the link to Gourmet above): Preheat all burners on high, with the lid down, 10 minutes, then adjust heat to medium-high.
  4. After 6 hours and while the grill is heating, remove the chicken from the bowl/bag and pat it dry with paper towels.  Do not season it with salt before grilling.  Sear the chicken on both sides then turn off 2 burners (if your grill has 3) or 1 burner (if your grill has 2) and move the chicken over the off burners and let it cook over indirect heat for 12 minutes, flipping once about halfway through the cooking time.
  5. After 12 minutes, slather one side of the chicken with the bbq sauce, flip it over, slather the other side and let it cook for 2 minutes.  Flip the chicken one more time and let the other side cook for 2 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes, loosely tented with foil, before serving hot.


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