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Buttermilk-Hot Sauce Brined Chicken

Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

Active time 25 mins
Total time 25 hrs, 25 mins

Serves 6

The secret to extra moist grilled chicken is an overnight soak in a hot sauce-laced buttermilk marinade.


  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 Tbsp. hot sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup packed plus 2 tsp. light brown sugar, divided
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 4 to 5 lb. skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts and leg quarters
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz.) melted salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

How to Make It

  1. Whisk together buttermilk, water, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup of the hot sauce, and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved; stir in lime slices and garlic.

  2. Place buttermilk mixture and chicken in a large ziplock plastic freezer bag; seal bag, and chill 24 hours. Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade; pat dry with paper towels.

  3. Heat a grill to medium (350°F to 450°F) with an area cleared of coals (for charcoal grill) or a burner turned off (for gas) to make an indirect heat area. Place chicken, skin side up, over indirect heat, and grill, covered, until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 165°F, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

  4. Whisk together ketchup, butter, vinegar, and remaining 3 tablespoons hot sauce and 2 teaspoons brown sugar.

  5. Brush ketchup mixture onto both sides of chicken; transfer, skin side down, to direct side of grill, and grill, uncovered, 1 to 2 minutes or until skin is browned and crispy; turn and grill, uncovered, 1 to 2 more minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Cook's Notes

Allow 24 hours for brining.