Smoked Chicken Thighs

Best Smoked Chicken Thighs Recipe in 2023

So, you’ve got yourself a hankering for some smoky, delicious chicken thighs, but your grill’s seen better days? Maybe it’s coughing out more rust than smoke, or perhaps you’re afraid it’ll go on strike if you ask it to cook one more meal? Fear not, fellow BBQ aficionado, because we’re about to embark on a culinary adventure that’ll transform those cluckers into smoky masterpieces and learn about Smoked Chicken Thighs, no matter the state of your ancient grill.

Now, you may think that Smoked Chicken Thighs requires a top-of-the-line BBQ pit or some kind of culinary wizardry, but guess what? It doesn’t! In fact, with a little bit of love, patience, and my not-so-secret tips, you can turn those plain old thighs into the star of your next dinner party. Oh, and you don’t have to take out a loan to buy a fancy smoker; we’ll make that old grill work like it’s fresh off the showroom floor.

Imagine biting into a juicy, tender piece of chicken thigh, the rich, smoky flavor dancing on your taste buds, as friends and family look at you with awe, wondering how you pulled off such a BBQ miracle. Picture the satisfaction of knowing that you conquered the culinary challenge with a grill that’s probably a historical artifact. Yeah, that’s what we’re aiming for.

So grab that rusty grill, those plump chicken thighs, and a sense of culinary adventure. Together, we’re going to smoke those thighs to perfection and make your taste buds sing praises. Ready to rock that BBQ? Follow me, and let’s get those chicken thighs smokin’!

What are Smoked Chicken Thighs?

Smoked chicken thighs refer to the art of infusing bone-in or boneless chicken thighs with a delightful smoky flavor and tender texture by slow-cooking them over wood chips, charcoal, or other smoking mediums. This process imparts a unique taste profile that’s a fusion of succulent meat and the aromatic essence of smoldering wood. Whether you’re a seasoned grill master or a novice in the world of smoking, mastering the technique of creating smoked chicken thighs can elevate your culinary repertoire and impress your taste buds and those of your guests. From backyard barbecues to indoor gatherings, these delectable delights are sure to steal the show and leave a lasting impression.

Tools and Ingredients to use in Smoked Chicken Thighs

You’re gonna need some hardware and tasty bits to turn those chicken thighs into smoky masterpieces. Here’s the shopping list that’ll have you channeling your inner BBQ maestro:


  1. Chicken Thighs: Bone-in, skin-on, preferably air-chilled. These are your canvas.
  2. Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil: For massaging those thighs and making them feel special.
  3. Dry Rub: Salt, garlic powder, paprika (smoked, if you’re feeling fancy), Italian seasoning, ground mustard, brown sugar, black pepper, onion powder, and a touch of cayenne if you like some heat. Feel free to mix and match here.
  4. Optional Sauces/Glazes: BBQ sauce, bourbon glaze, or any other liquid love you want to slather on those thighs.


These are the tools of the trade for smoked thigh mastery. Now go, embrace the smoke, and let those flavors sizzle and swirl like a symphony for your taste buds!

Smoker or Grill: The star of the show. A smoker is the traditional route, but a grill set up for indirect heat can also work wonders.

Wood Chips: Hickory, applewood, mesquite – pick your flavor wood and let it smoke.

Thermometer: You’ll need this to make sure the chicken reaches a safe 165°F (74°C). No guesswork here, folks!

Tongs: For flipping, turning, and looking professional.

Basting Brush: If you’re getting saucy, this will be your best friend.

Aluminum Foil or Drip Pan: To keep things clean and catch those precious drippings.

smoker for smoked chicken thigh
Smoking with Different Wood Varieties
tongs, thermometer for smoked chicken thigh

Gather these tools and ingredients, put on your favorite apron, and you’re ready to embark on a chicken thigh adventure that’ll make your tastebuds do a happy dance. Just remember, the real secret ingredient is you and your passion for all things smoky and delicious. Happy smoking!What’s the Smoking Time for Chicken Thighs?

Temperature Guide in Smoked Chicken Thighs

They’re like the metronome of the BBQ world, guiding us to juicy, tender perfection. Whether you’re a BBQ rookie or a pitmaster pro, this temperature guide for smoking chicken thighs will have you cooking with confidence. Let’s dive in!

Smoking Temperature:

225°F (107°C): This is the sweet spot. Slow and steady wins the race. Maintaining this temperature allows the chicken to cook evenly without drying out, letting those flavors marinate in smoky harmony.

Internal Chicken Temperature:

Start Checking at 160°F (71°C): Once the internal temperature of the thighs reaches this point, you’re getting close. This is when you might start basting with sauce if that’s your thing.

Resting Temperature:

Rest for 5-10 Minutes: After cooking, let those thighs rest for a bit. They’ll continue to cook a little, and the juices will redistribute, ensuring each bite is succulent and satisfying.

Bonus Tips:

  • Optional Overcooking to 175°F (80°C): Some folks like their thighs cooked a little more to break down the connective tissue further. Feel free to go up to this temperature without fear of drying them out. Just keep an eye on them.
  • Safe Eating Temperature 165°F (74°C): Ding ding ding! The chicken is done! At this temperature, your chicken thighs are cooked through, safe to eat, and hopefully juicy as a summer peach.
  • Use a Meat Thermometer: Don’t play the guessing game. A good meat thermometer will guide you to perfection.
  • Avoid the Bone: When checking the temperature, make sure the thermometer isn’t touching the bone, as this can give a false reading.

How long does it take to smoke chicken thighs?

Well, dear friend, allow me to unravel this smoky mystery. Smoking chicken thighs is a game of patience, love, and a little bit of toe-tapping to your favorite tunes. You’ll want to smoke those beauties at a steady 225°F (107°C), and here’s the breakdown:

  • 1.5 to 2 hours: That’s the magic window. Enough time for the smoke to whisper sweet nothings to the chicken, infusing it with flavor, but not so long that it dries out and starts to sulk.
  • Final 30 minutes (optional): If you’re getting saucy with it, this is when you might want to baste with some BBQ sauce or that fancy bourbon glaze I know you’ve been eyeing.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Smoked Chicken Thighs

Alright, fellow BBQ enthusiasts, grab your apron and a notepad because we’re diving into the step-by-step guide to smoking chicken thighs. Buckle up, because we’re about to turn ordinary chicken into a smoked sensation that’ll have your neighbors knocking on your door with empty plates!

Step 1: Prepping the Chicken

  • Rinse the chicken thighs and pat them dry.
  • Massage them with olive oil (or your preferred vegetable oil) like you’re on a second date.
  • Apply the dry rub generously. Don’t be shy; this is where the flavor comes to party!
Smoked Chicken Thighs Prepping the Chicken
Credits to Smoked BBQ Source

Step 2: Preparing the Smoker or Grill

  • If using a smoker, preheat to 225°F (about 107°C for our metric pals). If you’re working with a grill, set it up for indirect heat at the same temperature.
  • Add your chosen wood chips for smoking (hickory or applewood works wonders).
Preparing the Smoker or Grill Smoked Chicken Thighs
Credits to Popular Mechanics

Step 3: The Smoking Dance

  • Place those lovely rubbed thighs on the smoker or grill, skin side up.
  • Close the lid and let the smoke do its magic dance. Play some smooth jazz if it helps set the mood.
The Smoking Dance smoked chicken
Credits to Pinterest

Step 4: Patiently Wait (and Maybe Enjoy Some Bourbon)

  • Smoke the chicken thighs for 1.5 to 2 hours. Patience, young BBQ Jedi, perfection takes time.
  • Feel free to baste with some BBQ sauce in the last 30 minutes if you want to make them extra saucy.
Smoke the chicken thighs for 1.5 to 2 hours. Patience, young BBQ Jedi, perfection takes time. Brushing-sauce
Credits to Mad Backyard

Step 5: Check for Perfection

  • The thighs are done when they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
  • Probe with a thermometer, or just gaze deeply into the meat and ask if it’s ready. (But seriously, use a thermometer.)
 Check for Perfection The thighs are done when they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Probe with a thermometer, or just gaze deeply into the meat and ask if it's ready. (But seriously, use a thermometer.) smoked chicken

Step 6: Let’s Eat!

  • Remove the thighs from the smoker/grill and let them rest for a few minutes. They’ve had a tough day getting all delicious for you.
  • Serve with your favorite sides and watch as people fall in love with your cooking skills.
Smoked Chicken Thighs
Credits to Quiche My Grits

Key Considerations For Successfully Understanding How to Smoked Chicken Thighs

Think of these considerations as the wise whispers of a BBQ guru guiding you on your smoky journey. Ready? Let’s get into it.

  1. Choose the Right Chicken: Look for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. The bone adds flavor, and the skin helps retain moisture. Air-chilled is a nice touch if you want the thighs to have a spa day before meeting the grill.
  2. Rub-a-Dub-Dub: Your dry rub isn’t just a suggestion; it’s a flavor manifesto. Experiment with different spices to find your signature flavor. Make that rub your own!
  3. Wood Choices Matter: Hickory, applewood, mesquite – each wood imparts a unique flavor. Match the wood to your rub or just follow your heart (or nose).
  4. Temperature Control: Smoking is a low and slow game. Keep that temperature steady at 225°F, and don’t rush. It’s like BBQ meditation.
  5. Don’t Peek Too Much: Every time you lift that lid, you’re letting out precious smoke and heat. Trust the process, and keep the lid-peeping to a minimum.
  6. Sauce or No Sauce? Some folks love a basted thigh; others like ’em pure and smoky. Experiment to find your saucy sweet spot.
  7. Let Them Rest: After smoking, give those thighs a few minutes to rest and soak in their own juices. They’ve earned it.
  8. Clean Your Equipment: A happy grill/smoker makes for happy thighs. Keep it clean for the best flavor and performance.
  9. Practice, Practice, Practice: Your first thighs might not win awards, but keep at it. Like a fine bourbon, your skills will only get better with time.
  10. Have Fun: Most importantly, enjoy the process! You’re not just cooking; you’re creating memories, flavors, and maybe a few new friends who smell the smoke from down the street.

Armed with these key considerations, you’re more than ready to conquer the world of Smoked Chicken Thighs. Go forth, dear BBQ adventurer, and may your grill always be smoky, your bourbon smooth, and your chicken thighs a triumph of taste!

Taking it to the Next Level: How to Transform Your Smoked Chicken Thighs into Culinary Artistry

Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to elevate those Smoked Chicken Thighs from tasty to transcendent. We’re about to go from BBQ backyard fun to gourmet gastronomy. Hold onto your spatulas; here’s how to take it up a notch:

1. Experiment with Brining

Before you even get to the rubbing stage, consider marinating or brining those thighs in a mixture of salt, sugar, and your favorite herbs and spices. It’s like sending the chicken on a flavor vacation before their smoky spa day. The result? Juicier, more flavorful thighs that’ll make your taste buds sing opera.

2. Play with Gourmet Glazes and Sauces

Think beyond traditional BBQ sauce. How about a bourbon-infused glaze? Maybe a spicy mango salsa? The world of gourmet sauces and glazes is vast and thrilling, just waiting for you to explore. Elevate those thighs to a culinary masterpiece with some saucy creativity.

Play with Gourmet Glazes and Sauces Smoked Chicken

3. Pair with Unexpected Sides

Forget coleslaw and baked beans (though they’re delightful). Try pairing your smoked thighs with roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon or a tangy cucumber salad with fresh herbs. Sophisticated sides will transform your meal from BBQ to fine dining – all in the comfort of your backyard.

 Brussels sprouts with bacon Smoked Chicken
Credits to Food Network

With these extra touches, you’re not just cooking; you’re crafting an experience, a flavor adventure that transcends the everyday. Welcome to the next level of Smoked Chicken Thighs.

Alternative Ways to Smoked Chicken Thighs

Maybe you don’t have a smoker, or perhaps you’ve run out of wood chips (it happens to the best of us). Fear not! There are still ways to get that juicy, flavorful chicken without the smoke. Here’s how:

1. Oven-Roasting with Smoked Paprika

No smoker? No problem! Rub those thighs with a mixture that includes smoked paprika, and you’ll get a hint of that smoky goodness. Slow roast in the oven at a low temperature, and finish with a quick broil for a crispy skin. It’s like a smoky hug without the smoke.

2. Grilling with Indirect Heat

You can achieve similar tenderness to smoking by using indirect heat on your grill. Keep one side of the grill hot and the other side cooler. Place the chicken on the cooler side and cover. It’s a more approachable method but still gives you succulent, flavorful chicken. Add some wood chips to the hot side if you want a touch of smoke.

Grilling with Indirect Heat smoked chicken thighs
Credits to Vindulge

3. Slow Cooker Magic

If you’re all about that set-it-and-forget-it life, a slow cooker can be your chicken thigh’s best friend. Add your seasoned thighs along with some liquid smoke (a little goes a long way) and let the slow cooker do its thing. You’ll end up with fall-apart chicken that’s infused with a smoky flavor.

Slow Cooker Magic smoked chicken thighs
Credits to Cully’s Kitchen

Remember, the BBQ world is a flexible, forgiving place. Even if you can’t smoke those thighs, you can still create a culinary masterpiece that’ll make your palate dance. Keep those taste buds guessing, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Innovation and BBQ – they go together like coffee and, well, more coffee!

Wrapping Up

Well, fellow flavor-chasers, we’ve journeyed from the basics of Smoked Chicken Thighs to the dizzying heights of culinary innovation. We’ve rubbed, smoked, glazed, and even found some creative alternatives for those smoke-free days. We’ve laughed, we’ve learned, and we’ve probably drooled a little (just me?).

So what’s next? The grill’s still warm, the bourbon’s still smooth, and there are endless culinary adventures ahead. Try these techniques, mix ’em up, make ’em your own, and most importantly, have fun with it. Because that’s what BBQ, coffee, and bourbon are all about – enjoyment, creativity, and the joy of sharing something delicious with the people you love.

Now go forth and BBQ like you’ve never BBQ’d before. And don’t forget to drop a comment or send a pic of your smoked masterpieces. I’ll be here, tongs in hand, ready for the next tasty adventure. Until next time, keep those fires burning, and may your chicken always be smokin’!


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