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Easy Root Beer Barbecue Sauce: Take Everyday Chicken to the Next Level!

While there are a lot of regional varieties of barbecue sauce, in most of the country, people know it as the sweet, thick Kansas City style. As someone who grew up with Carolina-style barbecue, this has always seemed alien to me. But for barbecue chicken on the grill or in the broiler, I think it’s the best. Unlike a vinegar-based sauce which needs to penetrate the meat to really impart its full flavor, a Kansas City-style sauce is intended for the outer surface of the meat, making it a great choice for something like chicken which you prepare and cook quickly.

This sauce is based in root beer and ketchup and the sweetness of both really comes through. The lemon, lime, and ginger give it a little bit of zip, though, and the Worcestershire sauce lends the whole sauce a great complexity. We used Virgil’s root beer, which is sweet but not cloying and really recommend that you use a high-quality root beer, if possible.

Chicken with Root Beer Barbecue Sauce (adapted from Bon Appetit)

12 pieces chicken parts
1 cup root beer
1 cup ketchup
juice of one lemon
juice of one lime
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced

Put a little oil in a pot and saute the onion over medium heat until it starts to become translucent, about 4 – 5 minutes.

Add all the other ingredients and bring to a boil, giving an occasional stir. Turn the heat to medium low and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken (about 25 minutes give or take). Remove from heat and place in the fridge to cool.

Lay the chicken parts out on a broiling pan. Turn the broiler to high. Brush sauce on both sides of the chicken parts. Place in the broiler, after about 5 – 6 minutes, flip all the parts and broil for another 5-6 minutes. Remove and check temperature (we aim for 170 degrees). Return to the broiler if they need a little longer. Serve on the bone with plenty of sauce.

Looking for more root beer recipes? Check out these root beer-braised ribs, these root beer baked beans, or a classic root beer float.

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