The Ultimate Guide to Sauces and Glazes for Grilled Chicken

Gebs BBQ Chicken


Grilled chicken reaches its full flavor potential when paired with mouthwatering sauces and glazes. The right sauce adds a flavor boost, keeps chicken juicy, and creates irresistible caramelization on the grill. This comprehensive guide will explore amazing sauce options to elevate your grilled chicken.

Why Sauce Grilled Chicken

Saucing grilled chicken provides a few key benefits:

  • Extra flavor – Sauces infuse chicken with more complex, dynamic taste.
  • Prevents drying – Sauces baste and moisturize chicken on the grill.
  • Promotes browning – Sugars in sauces speed up caramelization for color and texture.
  • Contrasting textures – Viscous sauces provide a nice contrast to the chicken’s meaty texture.
  • Visual appeal – Sauces coat chicken in an appetizing, glistening sheen.

Popular options like barbecue, teriyaki, and buffalo sauce take boneless, skinless chicken from bland and boring to restaurant-worthy with little effort.

Sauce Types for Grilled Chicken

There are several sauce categories suitable for grilled chicken. Consider these options:

Thin, Watery Sauces

– Juices, vinaigrettes, thin marinades
– Often used for marinating chicken beforehand
– Soak into meat and provide lots of flavor

Viscous Sauces

– Ketchup, barbecue sauce, Asian sauces, salad dressings
– Classic sauces for basting during grilling
– Tend to caramelize and thicken on chicken

Relishes and Salsas

– Pico de gallo, chimichurri, chutneys
– Made with chunky vegetables and spices
– Provide flavor pop and texture contrast

Compound Butters

– Whipped butter blended with herbs, citrus, garlic, etc.
– Offer rich flavor when melted on chicken
– Won’t burn quickly like some sauces


– Sweet, sticky glazes made with sugars, fruits, spices
– Brush on during last few minutes of grilling
– Caramelize to a shiny, tacky coating

With endless options, you can serve up chicken with a different sauce every time.

Grilled Chicken Saucing Techniques

Follow these techniques to sauce grilled chicken perfectly:

Marinate first– Let chicken soak in thin, acidic marinades for added flavor that penetrates the meat.

Direct heat sear – Develop nice sear on chicken before saucing to prevent burning.

Brush on glazes late – Only brush on sweet glazes during the last 5 minutes to avoid charring.

Use sauce sparingly – Don’t drown chicken or the sauce will make it soggy.

Apply with a brush – Use a high-heat silicone brush to evenly coat chicken.

Save some sauce – Reserve a portion of the sauce or glaze to brush on after grilling.

Let chicken rest– Letting it rest 5-10 minutes lets the sauce set so it doesn’t run off.

With the right technique, sauces provide a flavor and texture boost without compromising the chicken.

Top Barbecue Sauces for Grilled Chicken

Classic barbecue sauces pair perfectly with chicken off the grill. Try these top options:

Sauce Features
Kansas City Classic Tomato-based, sweet and tangy
Carolina Mustard Mustard-based, tangy and pungent
Texas Mop Sauce Vinegar-based, spicy and thin
Alabama White Mayo-based, tangy and creamy
Korean Bulgogi Sweet soy and sesame

The regional American barbecue sauces all provide a sticky coating and balanced sweet-tangy flavor. Korean bulgogi sauce boasts Asian flavors like soy, garlic, ginger and sesame. Offer barbecue chicken platters with a few sauces for tasting and dipping.

International Sauce Ideas

Think beyond classic barbecue and incorporate global flavors with these international sauce ideas:

Mojo – Citrusy Caribbean sauce with garlic, orange, cilantro.

Chimichurri – Herby Argentine green sauce packs a flavor punch.

Zhoug – Spicy cilantro, chili and garlic sauce hails from the Middle East.

Romesco – Spanish roasted red pepper and almond sauce.

Yakitori – Sweet and salty Japanese tare sauce.

Jerk – Spicy, herby Jamaican sauce, usually made with scotch bonnets.

Satay Peanut Sauce – Creamy Thai sauce with toasted peanuts and coconut milk.

The possibilities are endless when drawing sauce inspiration from around the world. These globally inspired sauces bring exciting new dimensions to grilled chicken.

Making Your Own Signature Sauce

Crafting your own unique sauce for grilled chicken allows you to customize the flavors. Follow this formula:

Pick a Base

Tomato sauce, ketchup, mustard, mayo, yogurt, etc. This provides the sauce’s foundation.

Add Seasonings

Garlic, onions, herbs, spices, hot peppers. Tailor to your taste preferences.

Include Flavor Elements

Soy sauce, vinegar, citrus, honey, sesame oil, etc. These provide depth.

Finish with Texture

Chopped veggies, seeds, nuts, or crunchy inclusions like bacon.

Adjust Consistency

Thin with broth, water, or oil. Thicken with tomato paste or cornstarch slurry if needed.

Making your own signature sauce means you can tweak and customize until you have the perfect match for your grilled chicken. Get creative!

Grilled Chicken Glazes

For finger-licking caramelized chicken, glazes are the way to go. Brush them on during the last few minutes of grilling to set the coating. Try these yummy glaze recipes:

Brown Sugar Bourbon Glaze

– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 cup bourbon
– 2 tablespoons maple syrup
– 1 tablespoon chili powder
– 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Spicy Honey Glaze

– 1/2 cup honey
– 2 tablespoons sriracha
– 3 cloves minced garlic
– 2 teaspoons lime juice
– 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Coke Cola Glaze

– 1 cup Coca-cola
– 1/4 cup ketchup
– 2 tablespoons molasses
– 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
– 1/2 teaspoon salt

The sugars caramelize, the spices add warmth, and the meat stays juicy with these sticky, finger-licking glazes.

Sauces that Play Well with Chicken

Not all sauces pair equally well with chicken. Here are some that provide delicious results:

Sauce Category Best Sauce Options
Fruit-based Apricot, peach, plum, cherry, pineapple
Savory and herby Chimichurri, pesto, tapenade, salsa verde
Spicy Buffalo, sriracha, harissa, chili garlic
Asian Teriyaki, sesame, hoisin, sweet chili

The fruity options provide sweet tanginess. Herby green sauces give fresh flavor. And spicy and Asian sauces deliver a flavor punch.

Sauce Safety Tips

Improperly handled sauces can lead to contamination and foodborne illness. Follow these safety guidelines:

– Refrigerate sauces promptly after opening.

– Discard if left at room temp more than 2 hours.

– Discard marinades used on raw chicken. Don’t reuse.

– Bring sauce to a boil when simmering to kill bacteria.

– Wash brush and utensils after saucing raw chicken.

– Cook chicken thoroughly until 165°F minimum internal temperature.

– Discard sauces that look or smell strange. Don’t taste.

With some basic safety measures, you can sauce grilled chicken worry-free.

Storing Leftover Sauces

Leftover homemade sauces keep for 5-7 days refrigerated and several months frozen. Follow these storage tips:

– Let sauces cool completely before storing.

– Transfer to airtight containers vs. original jars.

– Refrigerate within 2 hours of cooking.

– Label container with name and date.

– Use oldest sauces first when rotating stock.

– Freeze extras in recipe-sized portions to pull out as needed.

– Allow frozen sauces to thaw overnight in fridge before using.

Proper storage keeps sauces fresh and safe for multiple uses. It prevents waste and saves you time.

FAQs About Grilled Chicken Sauces

Get answers to common questions about saucing grilled chicken:

When do I apply the sauce during grilling?

– For thin marinades, before. For thicker sauces and glazes, during the last 5 minutes of grilling.

How much sauce should I use on the chicken?

– Brush on a light coating. Too much will make it soggy and overwhelmed.

How do I get nice grill marks with sauces?

– Sear chicken over direct heat first. Then move to indirect heat, sauce, and finish cooking.

My sauce burned on the grill. How do I prevent that?

– Avoid sugary sauces over direct heat. Baste during indirect grilling instead.

Can I sauce chicken a day ahead of grilling?

– Yes, marinating chicken in fridge up to 24 hours adds great flavor.

Saucing and glazing infuses grilled chicken with complex flavors. With so many delicious sauce possibilities, you’ll never get bored grilling chicken again! Master proper techniques and safety for irresistible chicken hot off the grill. Get creative exploring global flavors, or whip up your own signature sauce to wow guests. Pick up a brush and happy saucing!

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About the Author: Staff Reporter