The Best Smoked Chicken Thighs Recipe

Last Updated on May 16, 2022 by Anne-Marie

This best smoked chicken thighs recipe is tasty and simple to make. Cook up these competition-style chicken thighs for dinner or a cookout.

Smoked chicken thighs on a wooden cutting board with plates, forks, sauce, and napkins.

Why this recipe works

The secret to making the best smoked chicken thighs? Brine the chicken for maximum juiciness and add a dry rub to give the meat a terrific flavor.

Plus, it only takes 90 minutes to cook on your smoker!

This recipe was cooked on a Traeger pellet grill. Not sure what type of smoker you should cook this on?

Check out my The Best Smoker Grill Guide or my electric smoker review for another preferred smoker.

Chicken thighs cooking on a Traeger smoker grill.

Ingredients

  • chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)

Brining solution ingredients

  • fresh thyme
  • fresh oregano
  • brown sugar
  • boiling water
  • apple cider or apple juice
  • apple cider vinegar
  • soy sauce (Are you gluten-free? Use tamari sauce or a GF soy sauce.)
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper

Seasoning rub ingredients

  • paprika
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • ground black pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • olive oil

How to make smoked chicken thighs

We love using chicken thighs because they're cheaper than chicken breasts, and dark meat is more flavorful.

Keep the skin on to retain moisture as the chicken cooks. (You can remove it after to reduce calories and fat.)

Brining

1. Add all the brining ingredients to a medium-sized bowl. Stir to dissolve the brown sugar and salt.

2. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

3. Place the chicken thighs in a large Ziploc bag. Pour the brining solution over the thighs. Seal bag and place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

(If you don't have a large enough baggie, use a stainless steel stockpot or large non-reactive bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator as directed.)

Smoking the chicken thighs

1. First thing, combine all the dry ingredients for the seasoning rub in a mixing bowl.

2. Remove the chicken thighs from the brine solution and pat dry. Trim any excess fat.

3. Coat both sides of the thighs with olive oil.

4. Sprinkle the seasoning rub on each thigh, pressing the rub into the chicken to evenly coat the outside.

5. Preheat the smoker to 180° F.

6. Place the chicken thighs directly on the smoker and cook for 1 hour at 180° F.

7. Increase the temperature on your Traeger smoker to 350° F. Cook until an instant-read thermometer placed near the thigh bone reads 165 degrees F. Usually takes 30-45 minutes.

8. Remove thighs from the smoker and cover them loosely with aluminum foil. Allow to rest 10-15 minutes before serving.

9. Store leftovers in the refrigerator

Overhead view of cooked smoked chicken thighs on a wooden cutting board with a jar of Alabama sauce, plates, utensils, and red and white cloth napkins.

FAQs

What type of wood to use for smoking chicken?

Here are the best wood chip or wood pellet options for smoking any type of poultry:

Apple wood pellet or chip

Hickory wood pellet or chip

Maple wood pellet or chip

Cherry wood pellet or chip

Pecan wood pellet or chip

How long does it take to smoke chicken thighs?

This recipe takes 90 minutes to smoke the chicken thighs from start to finish.

You cook the chicken thighs directly on the smoker and smoke for 1 hour at 180 degrees F. Then you increase the temperature on your smoker to 350 degrees F for another 30 to 45 minutes.

Cook the chicken until an instant read thermometer placed near the thickest part of the thigh by the bone reads 165 degrees F.

Make sure you use a quality instant-read meat thermometer, so you don't over or undercook the chicken. As long as you don't overcook your chicken, it will be moist and tender.

A plate of smoked chicken thighs with more chicken in the background and jars of white dipping BBQ sauce.

How do I get crispy chicken skin when smoking?

Do a reverse sear over direct heat to get crispy skin on the smoked chicken thighs.

Once the chicken reaches 150-155 degrees F, turn the smoker up to 400 degrees F.

Make sure the chicken is skin side down.

Then sear the chicken thighs over direct heat until the skin is crispy and the internal temperature of the chicken thighs reaches 165 degrees F.

Keep an eye on the chicken to make sure they don't burn! If they're starting to get too dark, turn down the smoker to 350 degrees F and move the thighs to indirect heat until they reach 165 degrees.

Do I need to flip chicken thighs when smoking?

No, you don't need to flip the chicken.

But if you want crispy skin, you'll need to smoke the chicken with the skin side down. (See above.)

A piece of cooked chicken on a fork being dipped into Alabama barbecue sauce with pieces of cooked smoked chicken thighs in the background.

What to serve with your smoked chicken thighs

Serve these sauces:

These delicious side dishes are great options for a tasty meal:

Chicken cooking on a Traeger smoker pellet grill.

More smoked grilling recipes

Love smoking and grilling? Then try these smoked recipes:

Smoked Meatloaf Recipe

How to prepare & cook a spatchcock or butterflied turkey

How to make a smoked turkey breast brine

Smoked Turkey Brine Recipe with Smoked Turkey Rub

How to Make Smoked Trout

Check out these chicken recipes:

Smoked Beer Can Chicken Recipe to make a whole chicken

Smoked Chicken Leg & Thigh Quarters Recipe

What's your favorite dish to make on your smoker?

Yield: 8 SERVINGS

The Best Smoked Chicken Thighs Recipe

Overhead view of cooked smoked chicken thighs on a wooden cutting board with a jar of Alabama sauce, plates, utensils, and red and white cloth napkins.

This best smoked chicken thighs recipe is tasty and simple to make. Cook up these competition-style chicken thighs for dinner or a cookout.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Additional Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 1 hour 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8-10 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)

Brining solution ingredients

  • 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 8 sprigs of fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Seasoning rub ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil

Instructions

Brining

  1. Add all the brining ingredients to a medium-sized bowl. Stir to dissolve the brown sugar and salt.
  2. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  3. Place the chicken thighs in a large Ziploc bag. Pour the brining solution over the thighs.
  4. Seal bag and place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Smoking the chicken thighs

  1. First thing, combine all the dry ingredients for the seasoning rub in a mixing bowl.
  2. Remove the chicken thighs from the brine solution and pat dry. Trim any excess fat.
  3. Coat both sides of the thighs with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle the seasoning rub on each thigh, pressing the rub into the chicken to evenly coat the outside.
  5. Preheat the smoker to 180° F.
  6. Place the chicken thighs directly on the smoker and cook for 1 hour at 180° F.
  7. Increase the temperature on your Traeger smoker to 350° F. Cook until an instant-read thermometer placed near the thigh bone reads 165 degrees F. Usually takes 30-45 minutes.
  8. Remove thighs from the smoker and cover them loosely with aluminum foil. Allow to rest 10-15 minutes before serving.
  9. Store leftovers in the refrigerator

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 348Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 208mgSodium: 283mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 38g

Nutritional information is automatically calculated per the ingredients list. Serving size may not be accurate. Please double-check with your preferred nutritional app for the most accurate information.

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