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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 without a doubt need a probe thermometer for smoking.  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
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, BBQ
Keyword: BBQ Chicken Thighs, How to Smoke Chicken Thighs, Smoked Chicken Thighs, Smoker Chicken Recipes, Smoker Recipes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 425kcal

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

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

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.