Kevin Gillespie's Barbecue Chicken with Alabama White Barbecue Sauce

June 24, 2014
6 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

The struggle of barbecued chicken has always been in getting it to cook through without going dry or burnt first. This recipe from Top Chef Kevin Gillespie combines classic barbecue techniques (Robert C. Baker's Cornell Chicken plus Big Bob Gibson's Alabama-style white barbecue sauce), ensuring the chicken will stay juicy and flavorful despite any of our own failings. If you're nervous about food safety, you can try doctoring up prepared mayo for the sauce to serve on the side, but otherwise you should be clear with this recipe, as long as you've handled the chicken and eggs safely (buy good eggs, keep the sauce in the fridge until you're ready to use it, make sure to cook the chicken -- including the last round of basting -- through to 165° F). But really, after the marinade and basting have done their work -- the extra sauce is a nice, but unnecessary, bonus. Adapted slightly from Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking (Andrews McMeel, 2012). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • For the Chicken
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning (or make your own -- we used 1 1/2 teaspoons each of dried marjoram, oregano, thyme, and rosemary, plus 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)
  • 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 3 1/2 teaspoons fine salt)
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil
  • 6 chicken leg/thigh quarters
  • 1 1/2 cups Alabama White Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)
  • For the Alabama White Barbecue Sauce
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 1 1/8 teaspoons fine salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil
  1. For the Chicken
  2. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, blend the egg yolks, vinegar, water, poultry seasoning, and salt until the yolks fluff a little, about 30 seconds. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil; the mixture will blend, emulsify, and resemble mayonnaise. You will hear the sound change to a whop, whop; it should take about 1 minute. Spoon the marinade into a large zip-top bag, add the chicken pieces, and massage until the chicken is completely covered with the marinade. Zip the top closed, pressing out any air as you seal the bag. Set the bag in a bowl in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 24 hours.
  3. Pour 3/4 cup of the Alabama White Barbecue Sauce into a bowl to use for basting. Heat a grill for indirect medium-high heat. On a gas grill, just leave one side of the grill unlit. On a wood or charcoal grill, rake the coals to one side. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat completely dry. Scrape the grill clean and coat with oil. Place the chicken, skin side down, over the unheated part of the grill and cover with an aluminum pan or tent with foil. After 10 minutes, flip the chicken pieces, moving them to a hotter part of the grill, but still over indirect heat. Cover again with the pan or foil. After 10 more minutes, baste the chicken with the sauce, flip so the skin side is down, and baste again. Cover with the pan or foil, cook for another 10 minutes, and then baste, flip, and cover one last time, for a total cooking time of 40 minutes, or until the chicken -- including the last round of basting -- reaches 165° F. Discard the basting sauce. Remove the chicken from the grill and rest, tented with foil or a foil pan, for 10 minutes. Serve with the remaining sauce on the side.
  1. For the Alabama White Barbecue Sauce
  2. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, garlic powder, cayenne, and black pepper and process until the yolks fluff a little, about 30 seconds. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil; the mixture will bend and emulsify but won't be as thick as the marinade used for the barbecue chicken. You will again hear the sound change to a whop, whop; it should take about a minute.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Suzy
  • David Poulsen
    David Poulsen
  • joelle
  • Susan Schwaller
    Susan Schwaller
  • CristyLeeNYC
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

45 Reviews

Julia S. July 18, 2023
I made this for dinner tonight, and everyone enjoyed it. We are on vacation and don't have a food processor available, but I had no trouble making the marinade and sauce in a blender instead. I only marinated the chicken for 10 hours, rather than overnight, but it was still very tender and flavorful.
staceymanela July 11, 2022
I enjoyed this recipe a lot. I followed it precisely and it came out very moist and delicious. I added a dash of sugar to the reserved sauce to tame the acidity slightly for my guests. It was hit and everyone asked for the recipe. I served with a roasted vegetable salad with shallot vinaigrette, white beans and Samin Nosrat's tahdig: It was a perfect summer meal!
mlsjazz June 13, 2022
For those non-fans of dark meat chicken… Could boneless, skinless chicken breasts be used instead?
Rose June 12, 2022
I have a question--why grapeseed oil? Is is a flavor enhancer, a high-temperature oil, or? Just wondering, since it's not something I normally have in my pantry.
kathryn J. September 2, 2022
My guess is that grapeseed oil is very neutral - without a strong taste on its own. This sauce and marinade is just seasoned mayonnaise and I suppose they want the seasoning to shine through, rather than a strongly flavoured oil. I'm sure you could use any oil that stock your pantry with.
Suzy July 7, 2018
Oh yum! If I want to pre-make the marinade & sauce, how long will they keep in the fridge? I'm thinking 3 days to a week, depending on the freshness of my ingredients & heartiness of my gut! :-)
Leslie May 23, 2018
Is grapeseed oil necessary for taste, etc. or is it recommended just for it's high smoke point? Would the recipe taste the same with another oil, and if so, what would you recommend? Thanks.
Kristen M. May 23, 2018
Any neutral-flavored oil (safflower, vegetable, canola, you name it) or even a lighter olive oil would work just fine.
David P. August 24, 2017
This looks very much like the Cornell BBQ sauce invented during the 1950s by Dr. Robert Baker of Cornell University, about 30 years before Kevin Gillespie was born
joelle August 4, 2016
Despite being a vegetarian, I'm a big fan of Kevin Gillespie. In addition to looking exactly like my brother, he has some terrific vegetable recipes -- especially for a guy with a pig tattoo! I made the marinade and sauce, which my friends put on their grilled chicken, and I used the sauce on my grilled tofu and vegetables.

This is a funny recipe; when I tasted the sauce while making it, I wasn't feeling very confident about the final product. However, once the tangy, creamy sauce makes its way to the plate and pairs with the charred bits of grilled meat or vegetables, it really shines.
Jill F. July 5, 2016
I used a whole fryer, cut into pieces. It was outstanding! I marinated it more than 24 hours, and the flavor was so delicious. I will make this all summer! I cannot wait to have the leftovers for dinner tonight.
Susan S. July 3, 2016
Made this a couple months ago and died a death. SO DAMN GOOD. It's on tap for our Fourth Feast tomorrow, likely to become an annual tradition. Thank you, Chef Kevin!
CristyLeeNYC June 24, 2016
This was fantastic! I butchered a whole chicken (have 2 in the group who *think* they don't like dark meat), marinated for a bit over 24 hours, but kept everything else the same. BBQ technique was spot on, was told even white meat was (forgive me) "moist." Don't skip the sauce!
kantcould September 2, 2015
I was born and raised in Alabama and have eaten my share of bbq. But I have never once heard the term "Alabama White Barbecue Sauce". Both the marinade and the sauce are basically mayonnaise so why not just start out with Hellman's (or Duke's in Alabama) and doctor it to spec.. Saves a lotta time and effort. Personally, I like my bbq with a red-eye sauce.
nancy September 2, 2015
There is a clickable link to the white barbeque sauce recipe at the bottom of the ingredients list. It's yummy! I would also use it on fish, with french fries, and on veggies. It tasted great with broccoli! The chicken rub looks good, although we haven't yet tried it. Looks slightly similar to a jerk rub that we love and use regularly.

For those of you looking for the Electric Pressure Cooker Recipes, I believe it is located at this link:
frank August 27, 2015
This was made famous by Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. They sell it in bottles but don't buy it. Here is a good copy-cat. (with no egg)

It has a little more heat than the original but it is really good!
Ro R. May 30, 2023
Thank you for the link for this variation. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks simpler, and I've never before seen a website that will adjust the recipe proportions automatically for output desired. Genius.
rldougherty May 4, 2015
I made this last summer for a party. I might have been too busy to come back and comment, but I made it tonight. I only marinated it for about 8 hours. The chicken was outstanding. A storm suddenly blew in while my coals were getting ready, and despite on and off rain and high wind, this chicken came out just perfect. My guests seemed pleasantly surprised by white barbecue sauce. Love this recipe and the method!
Angela P. April 20, 2015
Oh this was magical! Going into my standby rotation for sure.
TheSlyRaven November 29, 2014
How necessary is it to char the sauce? I'd like to use the white bbq sauce recipe to dress wings, but I just want to toss them after they're already fully cooked.
Kristen M. November 30, 2014
The egg won't be fully cooked if you don't cook them in the sauce on the grill -- if you're concerned about food safety, you might want to use a white sauce that doesn't call for raw eggs, like this:
Mr B. January 18, 2015
Try using pasteurized eggs... no bacterial worries, eh?
MaryDD August 19, 2014
Do you think 8-10 hours is enough to get the value of the marinade? As in, throw chicken in marinade early morning, bbq same night? Or does it need to be more like 16-20?
Kristen M. August 19, 2014
8-10 hours would still be very good!
Susan D. July 13, 2014
Chicken was delicious! A bit salty for me so I will use less next time.
amyeik July 10, 2014
Just made this tonight - delicious! The marinade was slightly less thick than expected, but not strikingly so. The basting sauce was perfectly thick. I felt like a pretty impressive grill master after this, so thank you Kevin G. and Genius Recipes! And, I kept the extra sauce to try with potatoes tomorrow - great suggestion.