Smoked Chicken Thighs


Smoked chicken thighs give you a mouth-full of delicious dark meat.  Their high-fat content renders nice in a smoker.  Chicken thighs are naturally moister than other parts of a chicken.  Get the best quality chicken thighs that you can buy.  Chicken thighs are inexpensive and take a short time to smoke.  They are a great change from smoked beef or pork. 

Smoked Chicken Thighs

Prepping the Chicken

There are many ways in which you can prepare chicken thighs for the smoker.  One way you can do this is to brine them.  When you brine the chicken thighs you do not have to remove the skin but can remove the excess fat.  You can also:

  • Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and set aside or leave it attached and peel the skin back.
  • Remove any excess fat from the thighs
  • Once this is done, you can do the rub on it.  You can use a pre-made rub or make your own.
  • After rubbing it into the chicken thigh, take the chicken skin and wrap it back around the thigh if you took it off, or just pull it back over the thigh.  This will hold in the moisture.  Add some more rub on the chicken skin

Brine Chicken Thighs

One brine recipe you can use includes:

  • 6 cups of water
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 12 ounce can of beer (any type)
  • ¼ cup of brown sugar

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix it up.  Add the chicken thighs and stir them into the brine.  Put the lid on and put it in the refrigerator overnight.  When you are ready to smoke them, take them out of the brine, pat dry, and put in the smoker.

Before you put them in the smoker, you can use a rub on them.  Since these chicken thighs still have the skin on them, snip an edge of the skin, and pull it back.  Apply the rub and pull the skin back down, putting some rub on the skin also if you want.

Preparing the Smoker

  • Pre-heat your smoker to get it to 225° F
  • While you are preheating your smoker, start to soak the wood chunks or chips that you are going to use in the smoker
  • For the wood, a good choice would be apple, oak, hickory, or maple.

Smoking the Chicken Thighs

  • When you put the chicken thighs on the grill rack in the smoker, make sure that they are not touching each other.
  • Shut the door or lid to the smoker ad let them smoke for three to four hours at 225° F.
  • Once an hour, add some more wood
  • To keep it at a consistent temperature, do not open the door or lid unless to add more wood or water to the trays.
  • Rotate the chicken after two hours
  • To make sure that the chicken thighs are done, use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh to make sure the internal temperature is 165° F

If you want, you can cook the chicken thighs for an hour at 180°.  Turn up the temperature to 350° F and cook for another forty-five minutes.  During the last twenty minutes of cook time, you can brush each chicken thigh with BBQ sauce but you do not have to.  The meat will still be flavorful with the rub and the brine if you used the brine.

Smoked Chicken Thigh Herbal Recipe

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Mix everything and season the entire chicken thigh.  This includes the skin.  Before putting them in the smoker, let them rest for an hour in the refrigerator. 

Tips and Tricks for Delicious Smoked Chicken Thighs

  • Choose chicken thighs that are about the same weight and size to help ensure that they all cook evenly and will all be done at the same time
  • Make sure that you remove any fat under the skin, using a sharp knife to cut off the fat pockets.  To get to them, pull back the skin, leaving one side attached.  Pull the skin back in place after removing the fat pockets
  • To help crisp up the skin, make sure that all the extra fat is removed.  Put a little butter under the skin and on top.
  • After they are smoked, you could put them under the broiler for four to six minutes to crisp up the skin.  If the skin is a little crispy, it will help the chicken from being rubbery.
  • If you want to have a milder smoky flavor and be a lighter color, smoke the chicken thighs in a loaf pan instead of directly on the grill rack.
  • If you are using the broiler to crisp up the thighs, wait until they are out of the broiler before adding BBQ sauce.  After adding the BBQ sauce, return them to the smoker and smoke another ten minutes to give the chicken thighs a smoky taste. It will help the sauce to stick to the thighs.

Smoking chicken thighs is a creative and fast way to get dinner on the table.  Prep time can be done in less than an hour unless you are using a rub or marinade.  Then the chicken should sit for at least thirty minutes to give the rub and marinade time to penetrate the meat for a juicy, rich flavor. In addition to just using rubs and marinades, you can also wrap them in bacon.  You can also stuff them with a mixture of mushrooms, spinach, and a small piece of cheese with an herbal mix rubbed on top.  If you stuff your chicken thighs, keep the skin closed by fastening it down with some toothpicks.  Then you would just smoke them as normal. 

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