Smoked Chicken Thighs: Our Recipe, How to Smoke, & How Long

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I’m a big fan of easy smoker recipes.  Even though I love firing up the smoker for a long brisket or rib smoke, sometimes is’s nice to fire it up for a food that’s a little easier and doesn’t take quite as long.

Today I’m going to share with you a delicious smoked chicken thighs recipe that’s simple and sure to please the crowd.  All of the rub ingredients that you need for classic, year-round BBQ smoked chicken thighs recipe can be found in the pantry.

In addition, I’ll share all of the knowledge you need to know to help you become a bona fide chicken thigh smoking expert.  Let’s get into it!

Smoked Chicken Thighs – Overview

First it’s important to understand what makes chicken thighs one of the best meats to smoke.  Compared to chicken breast, chicken thighs are naturally much higher in fat content, and as such remain moist and are much more flavorful than chicken breast.

When we put thighs on the smoker, the goal is to bring out as much of the flavor as possible while retaining as much juice as possible.  Chicken thighs absorb flavor really well, so they can be infused with that delicious smokey BBQ flavor on the smoker in a relatively short amount of time.

The other component to delicious smoked chicken thighs is your rub.  A rub is simply a mix of seasoning and flavoring ingredients that are combined and applied to the outside of your meat before it goes on the cooker.  Our rub recipe is simple, to the point, and delicious, but more on that later.

Lastly, it’s important to have an understanding of the role that the skin during the smoking process.  When you buy your chicken thighs at the store, they will more than likely have the skin still attached.

Whether or not you prefer to remove the skin before eating, you’ll want to cook your thighs with the skin on.  The reason is because the skin helps to absorb and impart flavor onto your food, and also helps to retain moisture levels.

If you want to take your smoked chicken thighs to the next level of flavor, you can also place them in the oven for a few minutes on high heat at the end to crisp the outer skin!

How to Make Smoked Chicken Thighs

Before you get started preparing your chicken, it makes the most logistical sense to get your smoker started.  Light your fire and preheat your smoker to 250°F.  If you’re unsure of which type of fuel to use, we recommend using hickory, apple, or cherry wood (or any combination thereof) to help flavor your smoke.  All of these types of woods work beautifully with chicken.

Lump charcoal is also a great option to fuel your fire, which comes in different types of wood flavors.  Lump charcoal is great because it burns incredibly clean and is considered the most “organic” type of fuel for your smoker.

While your smoker preheats, it’s a great time to trim a little bit of fat off of your chicken thighs, if necessary.  Remember, we don’t want to take off the skin – just any excessive overhanging sections of fat.

From there, it’s time to put together your spice rub.  We’ll share our favorite rub below that uses common pantry ingredients, but you can also feel free to use your own!

It’s very important that you generously apply your rub to your chicken thighs!  One of the mistakes many beginners make is under doing it – remember, chicken thighs can absorb a lot of flavor and the goal is to get the most out of the meat.  Rub both sides of the meat and get some under the skin too.

After your chicken has been thoroughly seasoned, it’s time to go on the smoker.

Things You’ll Need

There are a few different pieces of equipment you’ll need to smoke chicken thighs.  First and foremost, you’ll obviously need a smoker if you don’t have one already.  There are quite a few different types of smokers out there, many of which are capable of smoking delicious chicken!

Personally, my favorites are kamado smokers or offset smokers, but you can also make delicious food with a pellet smoker, electric smoker, or gas smoker.

You’ll also want to use a probe thermometer to help you gauge when your thighs are done.  If you don’t own one, now is the time to pick one up!  It’s an incredibly important tool for any pit master.

Since you smoke foods with low temperatures, it can be hard to tell exactly when food is safely cooked all the way through.  Typically chicken thighs cook on the smoker for an hour and a half to two hours, but really you’re cooking them until they reach a safe internal temperature of 165°F.  The only way to know for sure is by utilizing a probe thermometer.

Smoked Chicken Thighs Recipe

BBQ Smoked Chicken Thighs

Easy and delicious smoked chicken thighs
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, BBQ
Servings 4 people
Calories 425 kcal

Equipment

  • Smoker

Ingredients
  

  • 6 pcs Chicken Thighs
  • Olive Oil to baste chicken

Rub Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Paprika
  • 1 tbsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Salt
  • 1 tbsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tbsp Mustard Powder
  • 1/2 tbsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar light

Instructions
 

  • Preheat smoker to 250°F. Add hickory, apple, or cherry wood for extra flavor, if desired
  • Thoroughly combine rub ingredients in a bowl
  • Apply a thin outer coat of olive oil to all of the chicken thighs
  • Apply a generous amount of rub to each chicken thigh. Be sure to coat both sides and under the skin with rub
  • Put your seasoned thighs on the smoker
  • Smoke thighs until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Measure internal temperature with a probe thermometer. Cooking time will typically between 1.5 to 2 hours
  • Remove from smoker. If you want to crisp the outer skin, place thighs on a baking sheet and place in 400°F oven for 3 to 4 minutes
  • Let thighs rest at room temperature for 20 minutes
  • Serve and enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 425kcal
Keyword BBQ Chicken Thighs, How to Smoke Chicken Thighs, Smoked Chicken Thighs, Smoker Chicken Recipes, Smoker Recipes
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about smoking chicken thighs:

How Long Do You Smoke Chicken Thighs?

There is no set time for how long you smoke chicken thighs.  Typically, smoking chicken thighs takes about 1.5 to 2 hours when smoking at 250°F, but you should be cooking until they reach a safe internal temperature without regard to how long they’ve been on the smoker.

Which Type of Wood Should I Use?

The type of wood you use in your fire can make a big difference on the outcome of your flavor.  Each type of wood produces different flavored smoke – some are ideal for chicken and some are not.  Here are some hardwoods that work great with chicken:

  • Hickory (great all purpose BBQ wood)
  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Maple
  • Oak

There are other woods that are suitable, but these are the best.  Also, you should stay away from the following:

  • Mesquite (great for smoking but too strong on smokey flavor – it would overpower chicken)
  • Softwoods (completely unsafe for cooking)
  • Any chemically treated wood

How Do I Get Crispy Skin?

Crispy skin is the perfect compliment to tasty, juicy insides of your chicken thighs.  In order to achieve crispy skin, you’ll need to expose your food to high heat for a small amount of time.

This can be done either on the grill or in your oven after you’re done smoking chicken thighs.  Either way, crank up your heat to 400°F.  Place your chicken on the grill grates or on a baking pan if using the oven.  Place in the heat for about 4 minutes, then remove, serve, and enjoy!

Which Sides?

One of the best parts of any BBQ meal is the sides!  This BBQ smoked chicken thighs recipe is no different.  Here are some of our favorite complimentary side dishes for this wonderful meal:

  • Coleslaw
  • Potato Salad
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Cornbread
  • Green Beans
  • Baked Potato
  • Fries
  • Baked Beans

Can You Overcook Chicken Thighs?

Yes! Chicken thighs, as with any other type of food, can be overcooked. This is easier to do than you may think, and can happen for several reasons. Overcooked chicken does not make for a pleasant eating experience (unless your goal is some chicken jerky, of course).

Often, when chicken thighs are overcooked it is because they have been left to cook for too long. Another reason may be that the heat is too high. It may even be a mixture of both of these reasons!

To avoid overcooking your chicken thighs, ensure they are at the right temperature and cooked for the right amount of time. They can handle longer and hotter than other types of chicken such as the breast, but that doesn’t mean you should just leave them at a high temperature for a long time.

The ideal temperature for chicken thighs is between 175 and 195 degrees Fahrenheit. They can take between 20 to 30 miniatures if they are boneless thighs, or around 15 minutes more if the bone is left in.

How Do You Make Smoked Chicken Skin Crispy?

Smoking meat is a very popular way of cooking. However, with meat such as chicken, people often desire to have the best of both worlds – smoky flavors but crispy outer textures. Luckily this is possible but it can take some practice.

Usually, smoking meat requires a ‘low and slow’ approach. This means that you keep the temperature low and cook it slowly. However, this is not ideal to get a crispy texture. As such, you may find that the best option is to use a higher heat.

You should try and smoke your chicken at a starting temperature of 225 degrees and then raise this to 300 degrees later on.

You should also keep in mind that any moisture will be detrimental to crispiness. As such, avoid using olive oil and other liquids on the chicken. Use only powdered ingredients to rub it, and pat the chicken dry first.

Do I Need to Flip Chicken When Smoking?

The answer to this is: it depends! There is a lot of debate over whether meat needs to be flipped when it is in the smoker. The truth is, much of this is down to personal preference.

As a rule, the bigger the piece of meat, the more it should be flipped. With this in mind, if your chicken is a whole, large chicken, then it may need to be flipped.

The reasoning behind this is that oftentimes, larger pieces of meat will require the wood chunks to be changed, allowing you to flip the meat at the same time to ensure an even cook.

On the other hand, if your chicken is small, or if they are chicken thighs or wings, you will not need to flip them. That being said, you can flip them if you prefer to.

How Do You Keep Chicken Moist When Smoking?

When you are smoking chicken and you want to keep it moist, the best thing to do is to cook it at a low temperature and ensure you take your time. This is called the low and slow technique.

Unlike the actions we recommended earlier for crisping your chicken, cooking low and slow will ensure the moisture stays inside and doesn’t evaporate quickly.

You may also want to consider using marinades and rubs that have moisture-packed ingredients such as olive oil and other sauces.

This will keep it moisturized for longer and keep the meat moist. In turn, the resulting smoked chicken will be falling apart and will taste delicious.

Final Thoughts

Man, my mouth is watering now that I’ve got smoked chicken thighs on my mind!  At the end of the day, smoking chicken thighs is a practical and delicious way to get use out of your smoker.  The ingredients are all cheap, and as far as smoker recipes go – this one takes the least time and delivers tasty results.

Remember, you can substitute your favorite rub or seasonings for ours to customize your experience!  It’s really hard to go wrong with smoking chicken thighs.

Did you try our recipe out?  How’d it go?  We want to hear about it – reach out to us in the comments section below.

If you don’t have a smoker, not a problem!  Check out our guide for how long to grill chicken next.