Food + Wine

Nama Recipe #3- Tennessee BBQ Chicken

The smell of this chicken cooking is my earliest food smell memory.  I can remember my mom making it in her electric dutch oven… I can remember being so short that I couldn’t see, only smell.  It’s such a big part of my early childhood and I am so damn happy I got my hands on the original recipe.  This is another one from Nama’s recipe book by way of her childhood best friend, Ninnie, who last brought you Caramel Fudge Cake.  Nama and Ninnie grew up in Tennessee and although they never referred to this as ‘Tennessee Barbecue Sauce’, that’s what mom and I call it.  And when I opened the book and saw a recipe titled ‘Sauce for Barbecued Chicken’, I knew exactly what it was.  As I read the ingredient list, my adult culinary mind knew immediately that this was what my childhood palate had enjoyed so much.This isn’t the prettiest dish, but it is so dang good.  It’s also really easy to make… you’re marinating the chicken in the sauce that you’re cooking it in on the stove top.  It’s as simple as that.  You have to make it.  You just have to.  It’s like barbecue sauce…but different.  The chicken becomes so tender too…it really begins to fall apart as you’re thickening the sauce.  It’s rich and buttery and sweet and tangy and savory and you will not be able to stop eating once you start.  The smell alone is worth cooking it.  When I told my mom that I was making it, she got so excited for me.  She kept texting me and asking me about how it was coming along and how good my house was smelling.It’s so wonderful to have found something that has graced the mouths of so many generations.  Isn’t that such a magical idea?  The smell of it cooking in my grown-up house that day was something I cannot describe properly.  Taking that first slurp of the sauce took me back to those electric dutch oven days.  And watching my children gobble it up, sauce all over their smiling faces made me one happy mama.

Please make it.  Please.  And tell me when you do.  It will make me so so happy.



This recipe makes enough sauce for 1 whole chicken, cut up.  I do not recommend scaling it back, I only recommend making the entire batch.  And we always ate it over rice with some kind of green veggie.In a large bowl (big enough to house an entire bird cut up), add the following ingredients to make your sauce…1/2 cup butter, melted (I only use unsalted but I’m sure both Ninnie, Nama and my mama used salted… and I melted it in my big glass bowl first, then added the following ingredients to it)
5 T worcestershire sauce 
2/3 cup ketchup (although Nama wrote catsup)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T (heaping) brown sugar (I only use light and I’m pretty sure heaping tablespoon really means 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup vinegar (mom says either apple cider or white- I used white)
garlic powder and salt to taste (Nama said garlic salt, but I don’t generally keep that around)
dash of tabascoMix well and add in your chicken pieces…

Nama says it’s good to marinate the chicken for several hours before cooking.  I was short on time and only had about an hour or so to let it sit in the fridge and it was awesome… I’m sure longer would be even better.

Heat an extra large skillet with high sides (or large dutch oven) on med-high heat until it’s super hot.  Carefully add your chicken pieces, skin side down.  Reserve sauce in the bowl.

Allow the skin to brown well, then pour in your sauce….


Bring to a boil and then cover.  Reduce the heat so the sauce is simmering well.Check after an hour, but it may not be ready to uncover until after 2.  Once it looks like the picture below- chicken fully cooked, sauce deepened in color,  etc., crank up the heat and leave the lid off so the sauce bubbles until it reduces a bit and thickens to a syrupy glaze.
Serve over rice and something green 😉


Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply