Baked BBQ Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs on white plate FI

Chicken thighs are well seasoned with a smoky spice blend and baked in the oven, then brushed with barbecue sauce and baked again until nice and caramelized! For even more caramelization, you can give these a quick broil at the end!


  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 6 large or 8 small chicken thighs)
  • 2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder 
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup barbecue sauce


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. While the oven is preheating, trim any excess loose skin or fat from the chicken thighs. With paper towels, dry the entire surface of the chicken thighs very well. Then, rub the entire surface of the chicken thighs with oil. 
  3. Mix together the smoked paprika, kosher salt, ground black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder in a small bowl. 
  4. Gently peel the skin of the chicken thighs back, enough that you can sprinkle the seasoning mix onto the meat that lies underneath the skin (you may need to wiggle your fingers underneath the skin to loosen it first). After seasoning, replace the skin and then generously sprinkle the seasoning onto the outer surface of the chicken skin, as well as the bottom and sides.
  5. Place the seasoned chicken thighs, skin side up, on a baking sheet fitted with an oven-proof wire rack. Bake in the preheated oven until the chicken thighs reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees (about 30 minutes). 
  6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Brush the barbecue sauce on the skin and sides of the chicken using a pastry brush. If you want the edges of the skin to remain crisp, avoid brushing the skin edges with the barbecue sauce. If desired, you can also lift the chicken thighs up gently with tongs to brush the underneath surface. 
  7. Return the chicken to the oven and continue to bake until the sauce has tacked up some and the internal temperature of the chicken has reached at least 165 degrees (or 170 degrees, see notes), about 4 - 7 minutes.
  8. If you want a more caramelized surface, position the baking sheet in the oven so the top of the chicken is a few inches below the top broiler (I used the second oven rack position from the top). Then broil the chicken for 2 - 3 minutes, watching carefully during broiling so the chicken doesn't burn. Please note: If your baking rack can't withstand the high direct heat of the broiler (for example, if it has a coating on it), remove it before broiling. 


If you have an empty spice container, place the seasoning in there to make quick work of the sprinkling!

You may have a small amount of the seasoning leftover depending on how generously you seasoned the chicken, I had about 2 teaspoons left over. 

For good caramelization, choose a barbecue sauce with a higher sugar content. I used Sweet Baby Ray's.

The amount of barbecue sauce you need will depend on how thick you spread it on and whether you choose to brush the underside as well. If you would like a thicker application of sauce, spoon it on and use the back of the spoon to spread it around rather than brushing it on with a pastry brush.

If you don't have an oven-safe wire rack, place the chicken directly on the baking sheet, skin side down. Flip the chicken to skin side up half way through the first cooking period.

Chicken is safe to eat once it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees, but I like to bake mine to 170 to help dissolve some of the connective tissue present in dark meat (aka it's more tender!).

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