how to make Alabama-style bbq | kelly’s kitchen

Welcome back to Kelly’s Kitchen! I am happy you’re here. Today is National BBQ Day, and what better way to celebrate than by grilling out. Alex and I have spent a fair amount of time so far this spring practicing grilling and smoking on our Big Green Egg. We have had some hits and some misses (read: the brisket a couple weeks ago!), but we are learning a lot and enjoying it all the way. But we had a hit this week and wanted to share with you how to make Alabama-style bbq

When we were still in California, we lived in an apartment which had a balcony, and we had a very crappy gas grill. We grilled all the time; struggling though its very small size and keeping a consistent temperature. And then it finally just broke. Right at the beginning of last summer. Since we were planning to move to Athens at the end of the summer, we didn’t bother to replace it and instead just longed for the day we’d be in our new home, with a proper grill. 

That time has finally arrived and we couldn’t be happier! Alex has become interested in regional BBQ styles and suggested we try an Alabama-style white BBQ sauce this week. This white BBQ sauce is mayonnaise-based, traditionally served on smoked chicken. Alex is a mayo-fanatic so, to really satisfy his mayonnaise crush, I went maybe one too far and made an Elote-style sauce (featuring mayo!) for corn on the cob.

How to Make Alabama-style White BBQ Sauce

We chose to spatchcock a whole chicken, but you can do your favorite cuts of chicken, if you like. We are smoking the bird to capture the traditional experience, but you can just grill it if you’re not able to smoke it. 

Spatchcock Step 1: Using kitchen shears, cut along each side of the chicken spine and remove the spine.

Spatchcock Step 2: Flip the bird over, breast side up and pull the two sides out to flatten the chicken. Season with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic salt. 

Spatchcock Step 3 (optional): Lay a pile of fresh herbs on a wire rack and place your chicken on the herbs. We used fresh rosemary and thyme. You can do this if you are using pieces too, it just adds a fresh herby flavor to the chicken that goes nicely with the smoke from the grill. 

This will be an indirect cook, meaning the chicken will not be directly over the flame. You can easily do this in a gas grill by only firing up one side and placing the chicken on the opposite side. Or if you have a cast iron griddle, you can place that on the grill and put your wire rack and chicken on top of it. Alex uses a cast iron plate* which goes above the flame, but below the grill, this plate radiates the heat from the flame, without the flames hitting the bird. 

*Editor’s note: This plate is actually ceramic! It’s so blackened I assumed it was cast iron. Anywho….

Spatchcock Step 4: Get your grill up to 315 degrees. We will hold this temp and cook the bird for 90 minutes. 

Spatchcock Step 5: Place your wire rack with the herbs and chicken on the grill.

Spatchcock Step 6: Rotate the wire rack and bird 90 degrees, halfway through the cook. 

Meanwhile, let’s make the sauce

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Alabama-Style White BBQ Sauce

Course dinner, Main Course, Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Brown Mustard
  • 1 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp Prepared Horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

Sauce Step 1: Whisk all ingredients together!

This style of white BBQ sauce was created sometime in the early 1920’s by Bob Gibson in Decatur, Alabama. It is speculated that the mayonnaise-based sauce came about as a way to keep the chicken moist after it came off the pit, the fat in the mayo would act as a buffer. At Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q restaurants, they dunk the whole chicken into the sauce when it comes out of the pit. The white sauce has gained popularity on grilled vegetables and as a chip dip. 

Side Dish

Elote is a Mexican street food: an ear of corn on a stick grilled, then coated in a creamy, cheesy sauce with spices and cilantro. 

Earlier, I referred to the corn topping as an Elote-Style sauce because typically Elote is made with equal parts sour cream and mayonnaise with grated Cotija cheese. Well, I didn’t have sour cream and I had queso fresco, not Cotija. Cotija is a sharp salty cheese, while queso fresco is more mild. Not to be deterred by missing ingredients, I simply made some modifications! 

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Elote Sauce Step 1: Whisk together ½ cup Mayonnaise, juice from ½ of a lime, ¼ cup crumbled queso fresco and about ½ to 1 tablespoon of Everything But The Elote spice blend. 

A note on the spices: I am using Everything But The Elote, a spice blend made by Trader Joe’s. In place of this you can create a spice blend with 1 teaspoon each of: chile powder, chipotle powder (or try smoked paprika), cumin, garlic powder, grated parmesan cheese and sea salt. Give it a taste and make adjustments as you like. 

By now your chicken should be just about to temp, 165 degrees for the breast, 175 degrees for the dark meat. When you pull your chicken off the grill, tent it with foil and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Throw your corn on the grill while your chicken rests. 

Carve up your chicken and arrange on a platter. Pour Alabama-Style sauce over the chicken and garnish with green onions. 

Pull your corn off the grill. Arrange on a plate and pour the Elote-Style sauce over the corn. Sprinkle with more cheese crumbles and fresh cilantro. 

This was a fun experiment for us since we never had Alabama-style white sauce before. I was skeptical, given my experience with tomato, or vinegar-based BBQ sauce I didn’t feel like a mayo-based sauce could count as a BBQ sauce. But on smoked chicken, it doesn’t lose any BBQ-ness. You still get a nice tang, a little spiciness, and an added richness – which is what makes this a unique flavor experience. We made a double batch of the white sauce and have used it on burgers and I made deviled eggs with it instead of using plain mayo. So go ahead and make some extra, you will find yourself using it for more than smoked chicken!

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Thank you all for joining me this week. I hope you give this recipe a try. If you aren’t up for grilling a chicken, make the sauce and try it out on other things! If you like mayonnaise, I am sure you will like it on burgers, sandwiches and veggies. Have a great weekend everyone, take care and be well. xo Kelly

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24 Comments

  1. Dora Renata Pala wrote:

    Ciao Kelly buongiorno. Bella ricetta spero presto di andare nella mia piccola amatissima casetta in montagna al confine con la Toscana e in tuo onore farò questa gallina grigliata con relativa salsa per noi qualcosa di diverso grazie….. A sabato prossimo!!!

    Posted 5.16.20
    • Ciao Dora, grazie mille! Siamo andati in Toscana due anni fa ed è stato meraviglioso! Penso che ti piacerà questa ricetta. Grazie ancora e stai bene. xo Kelly

      Posted 5.16.20
  2. Deirdre Cerasa wrote:

    5 stars
    Thank you Kelly! This looks really delicious. Looking forward to trying this recipe.

    Posted 5.16.20
    • Thank you Deirdre! It is quite delicious, and the leftovers were great too! Thanks for tuning in today. Have a great weekend! xo Kelly

      Posted 5.16.20
  3. Carley wrote:

    Kelly this looks delicious! I love learning all about the spices you suggest and thank you for the step by step instructions! Please keep on cooking and sharing with us!

    Posted 5.16.20
    • Hi Carley, Thanks so much for stopping by today! I feel so fortunate to be given the opportunity to share my ideas with you. Thank you again, have a wonderful weekend! xo Kelly

      Posted 5.16.20
  4. Hi Kelly, Both recipes look delicious! I’m looking forward to trying them. Would you take a picture of the inside of your Big Green Egg to show how Alex places the cast iron plate for indirect cooking. Sounds like a much easier method than always pulling out the place setter (& then having to clean it).
    Thanks!

    Posted 5.16.20
    • Hi Wendy, Thanks for reading today’s post! You know, I just checked with Alex and the cast iron plate I referred to is actually the ceramic plate setter! It’s so blackened I thought it was cast iron! (I will make an editorial note to correct that info in the post.)

      In the past, we have used my cast iron pizza steel, which works in the same way, deflecting the heat. You could definitely get yourself a pizza steel and use it as a heat deflector. I got mine at Sur La Table, but you can use something like a cast iron griddle: https://rstyle.me/+8de4KeTlG6kPP7M85xznvQ

      I hope that clarifies things for you. Thanks again for your question! Take care, xo Kelly

      Posted 5.16.20
  5. Suzi wrote:

    Love me some Bob Gibson white sauce. Every time I visit my sister in Decatur, Alabama, we go by for some BBQ and sauce. I also found the sauce in Walmart but I will try to make your recipe, especially for the sauce on the corn. YUM!

    Posted 5.16.20
    • Hello Suzi, It’s a delicious sauce. I am so happy we finally tackled this recipe. Such an interesting history about Big Bob Gibson…Thanks so much for reading today’s post! As a Bob Gibson fan, I do hope you give it a try from scratch, let us know how it goes! xo Kelly

      Posted 5.16.20
  6. Nelda Pattillo wrote:

    I am not familiar with a white barbecue sauce, but it looks tasty and simple to make!
    I enjoy your weekly cooking lessons! Keep them coming…And simple!!😇

    Posted 5.16.20
    • Hello Nelda! Thanks so much for tuning in this week. I am so happy you are enjoying my weekly column. I have a habit of not following recipes very well (probably why I struggle with bread so much!), so I definitely prefer to keep it simple. Thanks again! xo Kelly

      Posted 5.16.20
  7. Pat meyr wrote:

    Looks good. I will try this.

    Posted 5.16.20
    • Hello Pat! Thanks for tuning in today, I am sure you will enjoy the recipe. Take care, xo Kelly

      Posted 5.16.20
  8. Suzanne Smith wrote:

    That looks and sounds delicious, Kelly. Several friends of mine have the green egg, (and one has a red egg–not sure what that difference is!) so I’ll have to pass this on to them as well. I’ve not had the white BBQ sauce, and the description sounds yummy. Your photos along the process are great–clear and easy to follow. Thanks for all your efforts!

    Posted 5.16.20
    • Hi Suzanne, the red egg is likely a Kamado Joe, same idea, just a different brand. I think you’ll like the sauce, it goes great with so many things! Thank you for tuning in today! See you soon, xo Kelly

      Posted 5.16.20
  9. Julie Greene wrote:

    Hi Kelly,
    This Alabama bbq sauce sounds good when you think about it. There is a restaurant my husband and I love that serves some kind of white sauce with their fabulous burgers and fries. I think this might be similar so can’t wait to try. It is great for dipping French fries.
    Thanks, Julie

    Posted 5.16.20
    • Hi Julie, yes, I bet the sauce is similar! It would be so delicious with french fries! I read somewhere that there is a restaurant in California that puts the sauce on roasted carrots, which I think sounds amazing. Thanks so much for reading the post today. See you next week! xo Kelly

      Posted 5.16.20
  10. Carroll Niesen wrote:

    This white barbeque sauce sounds like it would be good on anything, especially beef or pork or salmon.

    Posted 5.16.20
    • It definitely would, Carroll! Give it a try and be sure to let us know how you like it! Thanks so much for stopping by today, xo Kelly

      Posted 5.16.20
  11. Terry ryan wrote:

    5 stars
    Hey kelly, this looks really good I’m going this next weekend. The boba sauce looks delicious, the corn also looks great can’t wait to try it 💙❤️

    Posted 5.16.20
    • Hey Mom! Yeah that BBQ sauce will be great on leftover sandwiches too! Love you, xo Kelly

      Posted 5.16.20
  12. Sylvia Espinoza wrote:

    5 stars
    Saturday night greetings, Kelly! Read your post as breakfast was brought to our table this morning. Good thing because these two recipes made me so hungry! Went on to enjoy a long, lovely day. Have settled in and can offer kudos for yet more great recipes! Learning lots from you. The white sauce sounds so good. I love to roast veggies and hope to try it on some soon. The sauce on elote? Yum! You bring so much to our Saturdays now. Keep it coming! Cyber hugs to you~

    Posted 5.16.20
    • Hi Sylvia, Thank you so much! I am grateful for your support and I am so happy to bring some fun ideas and inspiration to your Saturdays. Take care and I will see you again next week! xo Kelly

      Posted 5.17.20

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