Smoked chicken thighs are packed with flavor and the prep time is quicker than choosing your next tv show. About ten minutes of prep, five ingredients, and one hour in the smoker and you’ve got succulent smoked chicken thighs so tender you can cut ’em with a fork!
The sweet BBQ sauce mixed with the smoke and spice flavors are so delicious, no one will believe how easy and quick this recipe truly is. With some simple sides, this can be a go-to weeknight dinner you can make between the kids’ afterschool activities.
Plus, this recipe can also easily be scaled up – making it an easy crowd-pleaser for your next get-together.
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Smoked Chicken Thighs Recipe
Smoking chicken thighs is easy and simple, you’ll find this to be a recipe you can fall back on again and again. If you are new to the world of BBQ and smoking or just looking for a new quick chicken dinner recipe, this is it!
Prep And Fire Up Your Smoker
Choose your wood chips or pellets (more on that later) and fire up your smoker to 225°F. This recipe uses a combination of spices, smoke, and sauce to create a flavor-packed chicken dinner.
When choosing your flavors for the spice, smoke, and sauce, think about how the flavors will work together during the cooking process. Experiment with different rubs, sauces, and wood mixes – even try it out brined and not brined (more on that later too!)
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Season The Chicken
Fresh chicken thighs can be prepped right out of the refrigerator without the need to acclimate. First, trim off any excess skin – but leave the skin on, trim just any extras. And also remove any fat blobs or other extras.
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Then I like to gently pat each thigh dry with a paper towel to remove any residual skin and fat pieces and remove the general moisture.
Next, grab your olive oil, drizzle about ½ tablespoon onto each thigh and rub it all over, top to bottom. This helps seal in the juiciness and gives the spice rub something to hold onto.
For the spice rub, I chose Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub because of its apple and honey flavors to pair with my apple wood chips, it was a solid choice. I am guilty of picking up a new spice and/or sauce for new recipes so no judgment if you’re right beside me in the spice aisle at the grocery store.
Back to seasoning these thighs, you can’t overdo it – but you can under-season them. Generously cover every inch of those thighs in the seasoning. Then rub it in a bit to ensure a good amount stays put. You should not be able to see any chicken thigh, only a chick thigh-shaped blob of spice.
Smoke The Chicken Thighs
Confirm your smoker is at 225°F, and that your smoke looks wispy rather than heavy. Heavy smoke is dirty smoke. It will cause foods to have a bitter taste that you just can’t overcome with any amount of bbq sauce. If your smoke looks heavy, just wait it out until the smoker is burning clean and wispy.
Then, roll the chicken into uniform pieces to prevent the smaller edges from overcooking, place them on your smoker greats, and forget about them for the next 45 minutes.
Slather On The Sauce
Resist taking a peek before at least 30-45 minutes. Every time you open the smoker, the smoke and heat escape, impacting both the flavor and the cooking temperature.
Pull the thighs out and cover each one in a solid coating of BBQ sauce. I picked up a bottle of Hoosier Daddy Sweet and Sassy Sauce at the local section of my store and I am absolutely going back for more. The headliner ingredient is brown sugar and I cannot tell you how well it paired with the apple and honey flavors of my spice rub and wood chips.
This sauce is flavorful enough to stand on its own, I’ve been dipping everything in it and I have yet to be disappointed.
This step is also an opportunity to do a temperature check. When cooking chicken it’s imperative to reach a temperature of 165°F in the densest part of the meat to avoid food poisoning. You also don’t want your thighs to exceed about 175°F because they will start to get dry and tough. Which is bad and worse.
A high-quality quick-read digital thermometer is your best tool in staying in the sweet spot of fully-cooked flavorfully moist chicken.
Let The Chicken Rest
As soon as the chicken has reached 165°F pull it out of the smoker. As much as you’re tempted, do not dig in just yet. It’s so important to let cooked meat rest for about ten minutes to allow redistribution of the juices.
If you cut into a hot-off-the-smoker chicken thigh before the juices have had the opportunity to redistribute, all that moisture and flavor will be lost to your plate.
While not required, gently covering the chicken with foil will prevent even a bit of moisture from being lost to steam evaporation. If you don’t brine your chicken for this recipe (like me) I highly recommend a foil tent.
Serve and Enjoy The Easiest Smoked Chicken
Serve it up with sides of your choice and enjoy! I threw some diced potatoes and broccoli florets on the grill for our sides, making this one of the easiest dinners.
This has become my go-to recipe for smoking chicken thighs. The super simple steps mean I can’t really mess it up, even if I’m multitasking or in a rush. The thighs come out juicy and tender in under an hour – with super simple prep. I couldn’t ask for more!
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.
EASY SMOKED BBQ CHICKEN THIGHS RECIPE
- 4 whole Chicken Thighs Boneless, skinless
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil A drizzle
- 1/2 cup Dry Rub Pick your favorite
- 1 cup BBQ Sauce Again, your favorite
- Add your pellets or wood chips and preheat your smoker to 225°F.
- Trim off any excess skin, fat, and thin chicken areas, but do keep the skin on.4 whole Chicken Thighs
- Gently pat the thighs dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.
- Drizzle with olive oil and rub the oil to cover all sides of the thighs.1 tbsp Olive Oil
- Season heavily with the spice rub or blend of your choice, making sure the chicken is covered on all sides, including the underside of the chicken.1/2 cup Dry Rub
- Roll the seasoned thighs into more uniform pieces and place them directly on the smoker grates, position your thermometer probes, close the lid, and smoke for about 45 minutes.
- Pull the thighs out, cover the tops with BBQ sauce, and return to the smoker until the chicken is cooked through.1 cup BBQ Sauce
- Remove the chicken once the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat reaches 165°F. Don't let the chicken heat past an internal temperature of 175 degrees to prevent it from becoming dry or chewy.
- Let the thighs rest for 10 minutes before cutting. Tent with foil for maximum juiciness.
- Serve with your favorite sides and enjoy!
How Do You Keep Chicken Thighs Moist When Smoking?
Keeping the meat moist and tender is key when cooking any chicken. Overcooking or getting impatient can turn your chicken thighs from juicy and flavorful to dry and chewy. Avoid a tragedy like that by doing two easy things:
- Don’t overcook the meat. 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. I know you want to dig right in but wait! Resting chicken under tented foil will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, locking in all the flavor and keeping the meat tender.
You can also brine your chicken to add an extra level of moisture, but the dark meat is naturally so tender and juicy that I skipped brining and I have no regrets.
How Long to Smoke Chicken Thighs at 225
Smoking chicken is always about the temperature rather than time. Chicken must reach 165ºF internal temperature to be considered safe to eat. You can get reckless with your seasonings but play it safe when it comes to food safety.
A high-quality instant-read digital meat thermometer is a must-have tool when smoking chicken or other poultry. It’s the best way to track the accurate temperature of your chicken so you can pull it out of the smoker juicy and cooked to perfection, rather than under – or even worse, overcooked.
With that said, you still want to have an idea of the time investment. Smoking chicken thighs will take 40-60 minutes of smoking if your smoker is holding a consistent temperature.
Plan for wiggle room for variables in thigh sizes, the type of smoker you’ve got, and any other factors that can impact the heat consistency (like temperature, humidity, and such).
What Type Of Wood Should I Use With Chicken Thighs?
When smoking poultry and especially chicken, choose a type of wood that will add flavor without overpowering the chicken. Fruit tree woods are always a first choice for me when smoking chicken. The subtle sweetness of fruit tree-based chips or pellets balances the smokiness for a more rounded chicken flavor profile.
A few of my favorite wood options to pair with chicken are apple, cherry, hickory, and maple.
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What Makes Chicken Thighs So Good?
Chicken thighs can be picked up from about any supermarket, but I recommend visiting a local butcher for the best cuts. Chicken thighs are considered dark meat, which usually equates to more flavor due to a higher concentration of fat when compared to light meat.
As a result, you’ll notice darker cuts of meat like these smoker chicken thighs will be more tender and even juicier than chicken breasts. Because chicken thighs are dark meat I personally didn’t brine them.
If you would like a crash course on brining chicken, check out the Easy Smoked Chicken Breasts Recipe.
What To Serve With Smoked Chicken Thighs?
This simple smoked chicken recipe is fast and easy, packed full of flavor, and has become a family favorite staple in our home. It’s a perfect choice for a weekend BBQ, and easy enough when served up with simple sides like coleslaw, baked beans, or cornbread for a quick weeknight dinner.