BBQ Chicken Breast vs. BBQ Chicken Thighs: Which Reigns Supreme in 2024?

BBQ Chicken Breast vs BBQ Chicken Thighs Which Reigns Supreme in 2024

BBQ Chicken Breast vs. BBQ Chicken Thighs: Which Reigns Supreme in 2024?

Grill masters, fire it up! Breasts or thighs for BBQ? It’s a battle for the ages. Breasts: lean, quick, but predictable. Thighs: juicy, flavorful, steal the show. We’re all about the thighs of life – go for the bold, smoky flavor, the one everyone remembers. Don’t settle for boring, reach for greatness! Time to grill.

Ever fired up the grill and stared down the chicken aisle, torn between juicy BBQ chicken breasts and flavorful BBQ chicken thighs? You’re not alone. This age-old barbecue battle has been sizzling for years. Both cuts have their devoted fans, but which truly reigns supreme in 2024? 

Die-hard health nuts might champion the leanness of BBQ chicken breasts. But then, there are those who swear by the decadent taste and moisture of BBQ chicken thighs. Today, we’ll settle the score with a deep dive into both contenders. We’ll explore their unique strengths, potential downfalls, and grilling tips to turn you into a backyard BBQ champion, no matter your chicken preference. So, grab your tongs, folks, it’s time to get grilling

BBQ Chicken Breast 

BBQ Chicken Breast

BBQ Chicken Breast is simply boneless, skinless chicken breasts seasoned and cooked with barbecue sauce. It’s a popular dish likely inspired by the classic combination of barbecue and chicken, both of which have rich histories. 

How to Grill BBQ Chicken Breast 

First, prepare your chicken. Pounding them to an even thickness (around 1/2 inch) ensures even cooking. Marinate them in your favorite BBQ sauce for extra flavor, or create a simple rub with spices like paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder. Oil the grill grates to prevent sticking. 

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat (around 400-450°F). Sear the chicken breasts for 3-4 minutes per side, creating beautiful grill marks. Then, move them to a cooler zone of the grill or reduce heat. Baste with BBQ sauce during the last few minutes of cooking, flipping occasionally, until the internal temperature reaches 160°F for safe consumption. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before digging in – this allows the juices to redistribute for a more tender bite. 

Preparation Time 

5 to 6 minutes on each side. 


  • 4 (6-8 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed 
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1-2 tablespoons BBQ rub seasoning 
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, plus extra for serving 


  • Preheat the barbecue to medium high heat. 
  • Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and BBQ rub seasoning. 
  • Grill the chicken breasts for 6-8 minutes on each side, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. 
  • Brush the barbecue sauce over the chicken breasts during the last few minutes of grilling. 
  • Serve with extra barbecue sauce on the side. 


  • Total Calories: 450kcal 
  • Carbs: 10g 
  • Proteins: 40g 
  • Fats: 25g 

Enhance BBQ Chicken Breasts Flavors with Marinades & Sauces 

While BBQ chicken thighs offer more fat for flavoring, chicken breasts can still be delicious when marinated and sauced properly. Here’s what you can use for BBQ chicken breast: 


  • Classic BBQ Marinade: Like thighs, a classic marinade with ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, spices (like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder) is perfect. You can adjust the sweetness with the amount of brown sugar used. 
  • Lighter Marinades: Since chicken breasts tend to be leaner, marinades with some oil or yogurt are helpful. Marinate in Italian dressing, Greek yogurt with lemon juice and herbs, or a vinaigrette with Dijon mustard for added moisture and tang. 


  • Thinner BBQ Sauces: Since breasts can dry out faster, use thinner BBQ sauces for basting during grilling. You can also brush with a sauce thinned with some water or apple cider vinegar. 
  • Mustard BBQ Sauce: A mustard-based BBQ sauce adds tang and depth of flavor that compliments chicken breast well. 
  • Fruit-based BBQ Sauces: Sauces with fruits like peaches or mangoes can add a touch of sweetness and brightness to chicken breast. 

BBQ Chicken Thighs 

BBQ Chicken Thighs

BBQ chicken thighs are a culinary delight consisting of chicken thighs flavored with barbecue sauce or a spice rub, then cooked using a barbecue grill, smoker, or even an oven. This cooking method infuses the chicken with smoky, savory, and sometimes sweet flavors, depending on the chosen barbecue sauce or rub. 

How to Grill BBQ Chicken Thighs 

Grilling BBQ chicken thighs is similar to grilling breasts, but with a little extra time due to their thicker size. Here’s a quick guide. 

Marinate your chicken thighs in your favorite BBQ sauce or a homemade rub for maximum flavor. Unlike breasts, chicken thighs don’t need pounding as they’re naturally tender. Preheat your grill to medium heat (around 350-400°F). Sear the thighs for a few minutes per side to lock in juices, then move them to an indirect heat zone or reduce heat.  

Baste with BBQ sauce regularly during grilling, flipping occasionally, until the internal temperature reaches 180°F for safe consumption. The thighs will take roughly 20-25 minutes to cook through – you can check for doneness by piercing them with a fork; the juices should run clear. Rest the chicken for 5 minutes before serving for the most tender and juicy results. 

Today, BBQ chicken thighs are a popular and versatile dish, enjoyed worldwide. They can be served with various sides and sauces, making them a staple for casual gatherings and backyard barbecues. 

Preparation Time 

30 to 40 minutes 


  • 6 bone-in chicken thighs 
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder 
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder 
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika 
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper 
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce 


  • Preheat the barbecue to medium heat. 
  • In a small bowl, mix garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, kosher salt, and black pepper. 
  • Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken thighs, ensuring they are evenly coated. 
  • Place the seasoned chicken thighs on the barbecue and cook for 30-35 minutes, turning occasionally, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. 
  • During the last 5 minutes of cooking, baste the chicken thighs with the barbecue sauce, allowing it to caramelize and form a smoky glaze. 
  • Remove the chicken thighs from the barbecue and let them rest for a few minutes before serving. 


  • Total Calories: 420 kcal 
  • Carbs: 15g 
  • Proteins: 45g 
  • Fats: 18g 

Marinades & Sauces to Enhance BBQ Chicken Breasts Flavors 

BBQ chicken thighs offer more flavor flexibility than breasts due to their dark meat. Here’s a breakdown of marinade and sauce options: 


  • Classic BBQ: Combine ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. This marinade adds smoky sweetness and tang. 
  • Honey Chipotle: For a sweet and smoky kick with a touch of heat, use honey, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, lime juice, olive oil, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. 
  • Asian-inspired: Soy sauce, brown sugar, grated ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and sriracha create a savory and slightly sweet marinade with a hint of spice. 


  • Sticky Glaze: Brush the chicken with a thickened BBQ sauce during grilling for a caramelized and flavorful exterior. You can thicken store-bought sauce with cornstarch or brown sugar. 
  • Spicy BBQ Sauce: Use your favorite BBQ sauce and add a kick with hot sauce, cayenne pepper, or chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. 
  • White BBQ Sauce: This tangy Alabama-style sauce is perfect for those who prefer a lighter option. It’s made with mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, horseradish, and spices. 

The Key Differences Between BBQ Chicken Breast and BBQ Chicken Thighs 

The main difference between BBQ chicken breast and thighs comes down to the cut of meat itself, not necessarily the BBQ sauce or cooking method. Here’s a breakdown: 

Chicken Breast 

  • Meat Type: Leaner, white meat 
  • Flavor: Milder flavor 
  • Moisture: Can dry out if overcooked 
  • Fat: Lower in fat 
  • Cooking: Needs more attention to avoid drying out. Marinades or brines can help. 

Chicken Thighs 

  • Meat Type: Darker meat with more marbling 
  • Flavor: Richer, more intense flavor 
  • Moisture: Stays moist and juicy due to higher fat content 
  • Fat: Higher in fat and calories 
  • Cooking: More forgiving, harder to overcook 

In terms of BBQ 

  • Chicken breast: Might benefit from being bone-in, skin-on to retain moisture. May require a shorter cooking time. 
  • Chicken thighs: Can be cooked with or without skin. It is more flavorful due to the fat content. 

Which Is Better BBQ Chicken Breast or BBQ Chicken Thighs? 

For flavor and ease, chicken thighs reign supreme. Their higher fat content delivers richer taste and makes them harder to overcook, perfect for BBQ’s sometimes unpredictable heat. Plus, the skin crisps up beautifully, adding another layer of deliciousness. 

However, if you value lean protein, chicken breasts are the way to go. They’re lower in fat and calories, making them a healthier choice. But be mindful of drying them out – use marinades or brines to keep them moist and watch your cooking time. 


In the battle of BBQ chicken, both breasts and thighs have their strengths. For those seeking a leaner option with a milder flavor, chicken breasts are the way to go. However, if you prioritize juicy, flavorful meat, chicken thighs are the undisputed champions. Ultimately, the victory depends on your individual preferences. Consider trying both cuts to determine your personal BBQ chicken supreme.

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