This easy smoked chicken breast recipe is so quick that you can make it even on a busy weeknight. It’s also so dang delicious that you can put it on the menu for your next backyard BBQ.
If you have never smoked a boneless chicken breast before you might be surprised to know it is one of the easiest ways to make an unforgettably good piece of chicken. Before you tell me, ‘hey I can just throw it in the oven and it’s good enough’ I’m going to stop you right there.
There’s just no comparison when it comes to the juicy, smoky goodness of a smoked chicken breast. When you do it right, smoking a chicken breast will beat a baked chicken breast on texture, and most importantly flavor, every. single. time.
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Smoked Chicken Breasts Recipe
Smoking chicken breasts could not be easier: simply season and smoke. If you can grill or bake chicken – you can smoke chicken. This is a recipe that is as easy as it is delicious, you’ll find yourself coming back to it again and again.
If you are new to smoking or just looking for a quick smoker dinner recipe, this is it. Your friends and family, even your pickiest kid will love the flavor that smoking chicken breast brings to the table.
Prep And Fire Up Your Smoker
The toughest part of this recipe is hoping that the wind gods are looking on your favorably today for consistent smoking temperatures.
Fire up your smoker to 225°F and gather up your seasonings and wood chips or pellets. We will use only a spice rub and smoke to create the flavor profile of the chicken. The natural flavor of the chicken always plays well with apple, hickory, maple, or cherry wood.
When planning flavor combinations, choose rub, smoke, and meat flavors that play well together.
Play around with different combinations of flavors, each rub and smoke mix can give you vastly different flavors of smoked chicken. You can experiment with different rubs, seasonings, and wood mixes – even try it out brined and not brined (more on that later).
Season The Chicken
Fresh chicken breasts don’t need time to rest or acclimate to new environments (unlike me) so you can start prepping them right out of the refrigerator.
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Gently pat each breast dry with a paper towel. Then drizzle them with a little olive oil so the rub will have something to stick to, and massage them gently to evenly distribute the oil.
Next, grab the new spice rub you picked up just for this recipe (no judgment – I love a new spice mix or rub as much as the next guy) and coat the chicken breasts on all sides.
I chose to go with some heat and picked up the Chicka Licka Bam Bam Bird Rub from Fire & Smoke on my last grocery run. If you like strong flavors with a bit of a Cajun vibe, I highly recommend it.
I’m also looking forward to making this recipe with the Traeger Pork and Poultry Rub I picked up for the Easy Smoked Chicken Thighs Recipe. The apple and honey flavors would just sing with applewood smoker pellets or wood chips.
Back to seasoning your chicken – you can’t do this wrong unless you don’t season enough. Shake the seasoning over all parts of the chicken, and rub it in a bit. The goal is to not see any chicken – only spices.
Smoke The Chicken Breasts
Double-check that your smoker is steady at 225°F, and the smoke looks wispy rather than heavy. Avoid adding meat and foods to the smoker too early when it is putting off a bunch of heavy smoke – this is known as ‘dirty smoke and can cause bitterness in your foods.
When the temperature is right and the smoke is wispy, toss the chicken breasts on the grates and forget about them for the next hour or so.
When cooking chicken it’s important to reach an internal temperature of 165°F for food safety. If you have thermometer probes, definitely use them. If not, you’ll need a high-quality digital thermometer.
Resist checking on the chicken before it has the opportunity to reach 165°F. Opening the smoker repeatedly is a common mistake that can have severe effects on the quality of your dinner. In opening the smoker you allow the smoke to escape rather than infuse into the meat which also impacts the time it takes to accurately smoke what you’re cooking.
Let The Chicken Breasts Rest
Once the chicken has reached 165°F pull it out of the smoker and bring it inside with a foil blanket to rest and redistribute. I like to let all of my smoked meat rest for ten minutes to allow the juices (aka flavor) to redistribute evenly. When cooking, the moisture is pulled into the center of the piece of meat. Allowing it to rest creates the opportunity for a more balanced and flavorful experience in every bite.
Tenting foil over the top of the chicken will preserve moisture and keep the breasts juicy rather than sad and dry. If you are team-no-brine this step is extra important.
Serve and Enjoy The Easiest Smoked Chicken
That’s it! Season, smoke, rest, and eat! This whole meal came together so easily, I could pull it off on a random weeknight. It looked and tasted so good I would be happy to serve this to friends or at a weekend get-together.
This chicken tastes delicious right out of the smoker but you can serve it up with some homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce to take it to the next level
EASY SMOKED CHICKEN BREAST RECIPE
- 2 breasts High-Quality Chicken Breasts Boneless Skinless
- .25 cups BBQ Seasoning Blend Of Your Choice
- 1 handful Wood Chips Of Your Choice
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- Add your pellets or wood chips and preheat your smoker to 225°F.
- Gently pat the chicken dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture.
- Drizzle with olive oil and season heavily, making sure the chicken is covered on all sides with the seasoning rub.
- Place the seasoned breasts directly on the smoker grates, position your thermometer probes, close the lid, and smoke for about 1 hour or until the internal temperature of the center/thickest part of the breast reaches 165°F.
- Remove the chicken from the smoker. Tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Serve with your favorite sides and/or sauce and enjoy!
How Do You Keep Chicken Breast Moist When Smoking?
No one likes a dry or chewy chicken breast. You can easily keep your chicken breasts moist, tender, and juicy when smoking them by doing two simple things.
- Don’t overcook them. Pull your chicken out of the smoker as soon as it reaches 165°F.
- Don’t cut into your chicken for ten minutes after it is cooked. Resting your chicken under tented foil will lock in all the juicy flavors and goodness.
You can also brine your chicken to add an extra level of moisture.
Smoked Chicken Breast Brine Basics
Brining chicken is something that many people feel passionate about. If you are on team brine you can simply add a brining step to this recipe.
Personally, I don’t care for the texture of brined chicken breasts when compared to the taste and texture of directly smoked chicken. If you use a high-quality meat thermometer and don’t overcook the meat, your chicken will turn out just as juicy and full of flavor without the extra step of brining it.
Related >> How To Calibrate A Meat Thermometer
Brining is a technique that people use to make their chicken and other poultry juicier during smoking or roasting. During brining, the poultry is soaked in a salt and sugar mixture that changes the cell structure of the meat causing it to hold onto more liquid during cooking.
I highly recommend that you try this smoked chicken breast recipe with a brining step and without it to see for yourself what you personally like best.
To try out a brined smoked chicken breast recipe, you’ll simply add an extra step at the beginning of the process. You do want to plan for extra time for the brining process – at least 4 hours.
Prepare a brine by mixing a 3:1 ratio of Kosher salt and granulated sugar. For the chicken breasts go with 3 T Kosher salt and 1 T sugar in about 4 cups of water in a saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat until the salt sugar dissolves completely.
Remove the pan from heat and allow it enough time to cool to room temperature.
Then transfer the brine to a container that will fit in your fridge but cover the chicken breasts. Go for a food-grade plastic, stainless steel, or glass container – or use a brining bag. Be sure the container will fit in your fridge. If your brining container is your saucepan, that’s totally okay.
Place the chicken breasts in the brine and set it in your refrigerator for four hours. Always keep chicken in the refrigerator at all times possible for food safety precautions – and for the best flavor. Poultry absorbs flavors more efficiently when cold rather than at ambient / room temperature.
Set a timer for four hours and remove the chicken promptly, you can definitely over-brine. If you brine for too long, the process can make the meat too salty, but if you really overdo it on brine time it will make the meat mushy, and there’s no way to fix that.
Once your brine is complete, pull the chicken out, pat it dry, and follow the recipe.
How Long to Smoke Chicken Breast
Smoking chicken is really about the temperature and not the time. A high-quality temperature probe or digital meat thermometer is the best way to accurately keep track of the temperature of your chicken to ensure it is cooked thoroughly without being overcooked.
With that said, you still want to estimate the time invested. Smoking chicken breasts takes about an hour of cook time if your smoker is holding steady at a consistent temperature. Plan for 50-80 minutes of cook time to accommodate variables in the size of the chicken, the kind of smoker you use, and any weather factors that may impact the heat consistency.
What To Serve With Smoked Chicken Breasts?
You can serve it up with an endless variety of sides, from a potato salad and some crunchy coleslaw or mac & cheese (what doesn’t mac & cheese pair well with?), or elevate the meal with garlic grilled mushrooms and grilled corn on the cob.
I like to keep it simple with an easy Smoked Baked Potatoes and a side salad.