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Smoked Chicken Thighs

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Smoked chicken thighs are one of the easiest proteins to smoke on your grill. Sure, you can smoke a whole chicken, but chicken thighs are incredibly flavorful and are a great option for make-ahead meals. This smoked chicken thighs recipe is a must try!

Smoked Chicken Thighs Plated
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Should I use bone-in or boneless chicken thighs?

Use medium-sized bone-in, skin-on thighs for these competition-style smoked chicken thighs. You can use boneless thighs, but make sure the skin is still intact. You’ll need that extra layer of fat to protect the thigh meat from drying out. However, we recommend sticking to the no-frills, skin-on, bone-in version.

What temperature to smoke chicken thighs?

Low and slow is recommended, so plan on a cooking temperature of 250 degrees F. Some folks will smoke chicken thighs at 225, but we’ve found that 250 degrees work bests for tenderness and a good skin texture. Remember that these are just suggestions. We recommend experimenting with this recipe to find what temperatures and techniques work best for you. A pellet smoker will yield different results than a Big Green Egg or a gas grill. 

How long does it take to smoked chicken thighs at 250 degrees?

Plan on a total cooking time of 1 1/2-2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken thighs and the type of equipment you are using.

Smoked Chicken Thighs
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How many chicken thighs per person?

Plan on 1 chicken thigh per person for those with small to moderate appetites and 2 thighs for big eaters. Four chicken thighs weigh roughly 1 1/2 pounds, while 8 chicken thighs weigh about 3 pounds. Each thigh will yield approximately 3-3 1/2 ounces of meat, depending on size. 

Chicken thighs close up
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What is needed to make smoked chicken thighs?

  • Equipment: You will need a smoker (electric smoker or stick burner), a charcoal grill, or a gas grill (supplemented with a wood-burning packet or smoker tube). You will also need the right type of wood, an instant-read meat thermometer, or a temperature monitoring device.
  • Wood Suggestion for smoked chicken thighs: Use mild to moderate wood chunks or wood pellets like apple or cherry wood. Poultry absorbs smoke flavor quickly and can go from perfect to bitter within minutes. So, we advise staying away from robustly flavored woods like hickory and sticking to milder fruitwoods.
  • Brine: While it is not required to use a brine, we highly recommend it. Submerge the chicken thighs for 1 1/2 hours in a wet brine solution. We recommend our Chicken Brine recipe and using it for smoked chicken thighs. Please note that you will need kosher salt for the brine.
  • Air drying for 1 hour: After brining the chicken thighs, we recommend air drying them uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to form a pellicle. Doing this will help achieve crispy chicken skin during the cooking process. One of the problems with smoked chicken is the skin becoming leathery. Pellicle formation (a shiny appearance on the skin) will help mitigate this and create the perfect environment for smoke absorption. 
  • Rub: Another building block of flavor you’ll need for this recipe is a poultry-specific BBQ rub. Our Smoked Chicken Rub has the perfect mixture of spices and brown sugar for the job. Plan on 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of rub per pound of meat. Make sure to get some under the skin too!
  • Sauce: Apply a sweet, vinegar-based BBQ sauce to these smoked chicken thighs. We recommend using our Peach Tea BBQ Sauce. You can also use our Rib Candy recipe if you’d like a spicier finish. If you have a favorite barbecue sauce, you can certainly use that!
BBQ Rub
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How to Make Smoked Chicken Thighs:

  • Prepare the brine according to directions. Brine the chicken for 1 1/2-2 hours in your refrigerator.
  • Remove the chicken from the brine solution, and blot dry with paper towels. Set them, skin side up, onto a clean plate or small baking dish. Place them into your refrigerator uncovered for 2 hours to air dry. Once the chicken skin looks shiny, it’s good to go.
  • Preheat your smoker or grill to 250 degrees F. Add wood according to the manufacturer’s directions. 
  • Trim the chicken thigh skin to form a square patch covering the meat. Please note that the skin should still be attached on one side! Remove excess fat around the edges as well.
  • Apply the BBQ rub evenly on both sides of each thigh and under the skin.
Chicken Thighs in Smoker
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Smoking:

Once your smoker is up to temperature, place the chicken thighs on the grill grate, skin side up. Close the smoker lid, and let them go until they reach an internal temperature of 165, about 1-1 1/2 hours. *Keep in mind that the overall doneness temperature for chicken thighs is 175-180 degrees F. They will be tender and juicy.  However, we begin saucing at 165.

Saucing and Serving:

  • Once they reach 165 degrees, remove your smoked chicken thighs and place them onto a heat-safe wire rack or clean cutting board. Brush a liberal amount of our suggested sauce or your favorite BBQ sauce on them. Place the thighs back on the grill. Close the lid, and let them cook for another 30 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 175-180 degrees F and the sauce has caramelized.
  • Remove the chicken from the grill, and place them on a clean cutting board or platter. Let them rest for 10-15 minutes, and serve.

Storing Leftovers and Rewarming Smoked Chicken Thighs:

Store your smoked chicken thighs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Rewarm in a 325-degree oven until they reach 165 degrees F. You can also rewarm them on your grill, but we recommend placing them into an aluminum pan first. Shred these smoked thighs and make an incredible chicken salad!

Smoked Chicken Thighs Pin
Smoked Chicken Thighs Pin

Recommended side dishes:

Smoked chicken thighs are so easy to make, taste great, and they work well with just about anything side dish. We recommend serving them with one of our Smoked or Grilled Vegetable Sides. They also pair well with our Pellet Grill Funeral Potatoes!

Like these smoked chicken thighs? Try one of these recipes!

Smoked Chicken Thighs

Smoked Chicken Thighs

Smoked chicken thighs are one of the easiest items to smoke on your grill. Sure, you can smoke a whole chicken, but chicken thighs are incredibly flavorful and are a great option for make-ahead meals.
5 from 2 votes
Print Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American BBQ
Keyword: BBQ chicken thighs, chicken thighs in smoker, smoked chicken thighs
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 4 hours
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 329kcal
Author: Derrick Riches and Sabrina Baksh

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Prepare the brine according to directions. Brine the chicken for 1 1/2-2 hours in your refrigerator.
  • Remove the chicken from the brine solution, and blot dry with paper towels. Set them, skin side up, onto a clean plate or small baking dish. Place them into your refrigerator uncovered for 2 hours to air dry. Once the chicken skin looks shiny, it’s good to go.
  • Preheat your smoker or grill to 250 degrees F. Add wood according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Trim the chicken thigh skin to form a square patch covering the meat. Please note that the skin should still be attached on one side! Remove excess fat around the edges as well.
  • Apply the BBQ rub evenly on both sides of each thigh and under the skin.
  • Once your smoker is up to temperature, place the chicken thigh on the grill, skin side up. Close the lid, and let them cook until they reach an internal temperature of 165, about 1-1 1/2 hours.
  • Once they reach 165 degrees, remove your smoked chicken thighs and place them onto a heat-safe wire rack or clean cutting board. Brush a liberal amount of BBQ sauce on them. Place the thighs back on the grill. Close the lid, and let them cook for another 30 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 175-180 degrees F and the sauce has caramelized
  • Remove the chicken from the grill, and place them on a clean cutting board or platter. Let them rest for 10-15 minutes, and serve.
  • Store your smoked chicken thighs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Rewarm in a 325-degree oven until they reach an internal temperature 165 degrees F.

Nutrition

Calories: 329kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 111mg | Sodium: 548mg | Potassium: 346mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 228IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 2mg
Derrick Riches

I began writing about Barbecue & Grilling in 1997 with one mission, to help the backyard chef have the best experience possible.

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