Low and slow with these chicken thighs ensure great flavor, moist meat, and tons of flavor in every bite. Learn how to smoke chicken thighs and deliver perfection every time. I love smoking chicken thighs with this easy method.
Why Smoke Chicken Thighs?
When it comes to poultry, dark meat is my favorite. I find it has the most taste and it stays moist and juicy better than leaner poultry. The dark meat can hold up to any flavor of smoke and they are versatile with rubs, sauces, and marinades. They are easy to grill, but they are also my favorite chicken cut to smoke. Whether you are using a charcoal smoker, a pellet grill, or a stick burner, chicken thighs are a great smoke. If it is your first smoke, it will be an easy one, but you will find yourself smoking them over and over because of the flavor.
Thighs are easy to make and you can get them ready to go on the grill in no time. They don't need much prep, and they are one of the cheaper cuts of meat as well. They check all the boxes when trying to come up with an inexpensive, easy delicious meal.
Chicken - Skinless and boneless chicken thighs is how I like to smoke them. I trim off the excess fat as well. Because we are cooking these low and slow, it is important to have skinless chicken thighs.
BBQ Rub or a Spice Rub - A simple combination of spices. I used kosher salt, onion powder, smoked paprika, and brown sugar.
How to Smoke Chicken Thighs
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are amazing off the smoker dripping with sweet sticky barbecue sauce! Prep time is just about 2 minutes. Cook time is an hour and a half but this is a set-it-and-forget-it recipe. Just flip once and add barbecue sauce near the end.
Step One: Preheat your smoker. You want to cook these between 225 and 250 degrees F. If you have a Trager Grill or pellet smoker, it is easy to set the temp and preheat. If you are using an offset or charcoal smoker, you will need to adjust your vents to make sure the temperature is easy to maintain. Once your smoker is preheated, go ahead and prep the chicken.
Step Two: Prep your chicken. Bone-in is fine. But if you have skin on the chicken thighs, be sure to remove it. Sake some time trimming off any excess fat as well. This should only take a few minutes.
Step Three: Evenly cover thighs with the chicken rub. Use your hands to ensure even coverage over both sides of the thighs. Then place chicken thighs directly onto the grill grate in the preheated smoker.
Step Four: Smoke the chicken thighs directly on the wire rack until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. You can then baste them with your favorite bbq sauce, cook them for five more minutes and remove them and serve.
Seasonings - If you want a heartier and spicier rub, add garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Sometimes we add chili powder too. Or you can just use your favorite store-bought rub. This doesn't have to be complicated.
What Temperature for Smoking Chicken Thighs?
Low and slow will require the temperature to stay under 250°F. When I cook chicken thighs and I am looking for crispy skin, I will cook them on my Trager or gas grill at a 325°F or higher temperature. But for smoking them low and slow in classic BBQ style you will want to cook at the lower temperature and using a meat thermometer, watch that internal temperature to ensure they are cooked through.
I used a combination of hickory and cherry wood pellets for this smoke. You can get the same results with using woods chips or wood chunks in your charcoal smoker or use whatever type of wood you have on hand. The thighs are versatile.
Can I use bone-in skin-on chicken thighs?
You will not get crispy chicken skin cooking these low and slow. If the skin is on, it will just turn tough and rubbery. I will sometimes cook bone-in too, but always skinless for this time and temp. Skin-on chicken thighs work too but the skin won't get crispy when smoking.
How to Smoke Chicken Thighs for Pulled Chicken
The beauty of the chicken thighs is their ability to stay moist and juicy way better than chicken breasts. This also makes them the best candidate for making smoked pulled chicken. Once the smoked chicken thighs reach 160°F, wrap them in aluminum foil with about an ounce of BBQ sauce and put them back on the smoker for about another 60 minutes.
When they are done, let them rest for about 20 minutes, then drop them into a large bowl. They will be so tender, you can easily pull them apart with a couple of forks for the best tasting pulled chicken ever.
How to serve Smoked Chicken
My favorite side dish for anything I am smoking, will also be cooked on the smoker and be done at the same time. If you want to do something quickly, some air-fried french fries work well. If you have the time, I like either Smoked Scalloped Potatoes or Smoked Mac and Cheese. If you are looking for healthier options try Grilled Broccoli or Smoked Cauliflower.
You can also slice it and serve it on top of salads with a simple apple cider vinegar vinaigrette.
How to store leftovers
Store any leftovers of this smoked chicken thighs recipe in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. We love chopping it up and using in cranberry pecan chicken salad.
You can also freeze cooked chicken in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months. Try to get as much air out as possible before freezing or wrap each piece in plastic wrap.
- 2 lbs chicken thighs boneless and skinless
- 2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Trim any excess fat from your boneless skinless chicken thighs.
- Thoroughly cover chicken with spice rub.
- Place chicken thighs on preheated smoker and smoke at 225°F for about 90 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F. Baste with BBQ sauce if desired.
- Remove from smoker and serve.
Don't Forget Dessert
If you have more time try Grilled Peach Ice Cream to satisfy the dessert craving.