At the backyard barbecue

Summers, dad would barbecue chicken. Probably also sausage and steak and — later on — veggie burger for the nonconformist teen, but what sticks in memory is chicken. I didn't like it.

I liked the idea of it — of chicken sauced sticky and grilled crispy and seared sticky-crispy, best pressed directly onto a sticky-crispy face while standing barefoot in the grass, in a swimsuit, near the sprinkler.

What we got was this: burnt.

Maybe the adults considered it singed, flambe or well done but I, age 6 and opinionated, knew it was burnt. "I don't like burnt chicken," I would explain. Dad, patient, but not that patient, replied: "When you grow up, marry someone who doesn't burn the chicken."

A shocking retort.

Me? Grow up? Get married? To someone who barbecues? It was all so unlikely I shrugged and bit into the sweet smoky char.

I did grow up. And get married, though not to someone who barbecues. I learned to burn my own chicken. Face to face with leaping flame and dripping chicken I came to understand Dad's predicament: Chicken needs time to crisp. Sauce, given time, burns. The idea of saucing, then grilling, is flawed.

I decided to separate the tasks, grilling first, saucing later and searing at the last minute. The technique worked. And it's delicious. Though I wish I had Dad around, to burn it.

BBQ chicken

Prep: 20 minutes
Wait: 3 or more hours
Grill: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

1 pound bone-in, skin-on drumsticks (about 5)
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts (each halved again — ask the butcher — to yield about 10 chunks)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Apricot barbecue sauce (see recipe below)

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