Best Smoked Chicken Breasts

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There’s a reason why smoked chicken breasts are a staple of BBQ and grill menus everywhere around the world. The unique blend of smoky and savory flavors, combined with the moist and tender texture of perfectly cooked meat, is an experience that’s hard to beat. From the charred crust to the tender, juicy center, every bite of a smoked chicken breast is a sensory experience. Whether you’re a seasoned smoker or just starting out, we’ve got everything you need to know about smoking chicken breasts to guarantee perfection every time coming up.

Key Takeaways

  • Due to their size, thickness, general contour, and shape, bone-in chicken breasts smoke at a moderate-high heat of 250°F for approximately 1 to 2 hours, depending on the quantity. After smoking for ¾ of the cooking process, turn up the heat to 350°F for the final 10 to 15 minutes of smoking in order to ensure crispy skin without any rubberiness. As a general guideline, 6 to 8 chicken breasts weighing approximately 2 ½ to 3 ½ pounds require 1 ½ hours of moderate heat smoking, followed by around 10 minutes at 350°F. Add an additional 20 to 30 minutes of initial smoking per extra pound of breasts.
  • Brining is the best way to guarantee that your chicken, breasts or otherwise, always come out perfectly juicy with a crispy skin that’s free from any hint of toughness. After brining, allow your chicken breasts to dry completely before proceeding with any other seasoning, marinade, or other advanced preparation technique.
  • A great way to eliminate the risk of overcooked chicken is to remove your chicken breasts from the heat and tent them with foil or butcher’s paper as soon as the internal temperature reaches between 150°F and 155°F. The residual heat will finish the cooking process, taking them to 165°F (fully cooked) within the 5 to 10-minute resting period.

Traditional Smoking – How To Smoke Chicken Breasts In A Traditional Smoker

A dual-zone setup grants optimal results when smoking chicken breasts across any setup. Divide your smoker into two zones, one for direct heat and another for indirect heat. Do this by dividing most of the wood or charcoal into the direct half and putting the result on the other side. Consider using a water pan on the indirect side to regulate temperature, although many skilled cooks skip this step. Cook your chicken breasts over the indirect zone, and transfer fuel from the hot side. 

Here is exactly how to smoke chicken breasts with a traditional smoker.

Get The Chicken Breasts Ready

Begin by selecting high-quality chicken breasts, opting for organic or free-range options when possible in order to ensure a better flavor and texture. Next, trim any excess fat from the chicken breasts to avoid flare-ups and over-smoky flavors during the smoking process. After trimming, rinse the chicken breasts under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels to remove any surface impurities. We highly recommend giving them a few hours on a plate in the fridge to shed all excess water before smoking. 

Apply Brine, Marinade, Or Dry Rub

Decide between using a brine, marinade, or dry rub for your chicken breasts based on your personal preferences or the specific recipe you are following. Follow the instructions for your chosen flavoring method, allowing ample time for the chicken breasts to absorb the flavors. Depending on the method, this process can take anywhere from overnight to several hours.

Prepare The Wood Chips

Choose the appropriate wood chip flavor to compliment your chicken, such as apple, cherry, or hickory. Soak the wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes to ensure they smolder and release smoke slowly. After soaking, drain the wood chips and set them aside. For smoking a batch of 6 to 8 chicken breasts in a traditional smoker, use approximately 2 cups of sawdust, 4 cups of wood chips, or 6 to 8 wood chunks, depending on your preference and smoker capacity. For 12 to 16 breasts, increase to 4 to 6 cups. If using sawdust or pellets, measure out approximately 1 to 1 ½ cups for a standard batch and spread them evenly over the coals.

Assemble And Configure The Smoker

Clean your smoker and assemble it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Position the water pan and wood chip tray as directed. Arrange the cooking grates in the smoker, ensuring they are clean and well-oiled to prevent sticking.

Preheating And Airflow Adjustments

Start the fire and preheat your smoker to the desired smoking temperature, ideally between 225°F and 250°F. Once the smoker reaches the target temperature, adjust the vents to ensure proper airflow and maintain consistent heat during the smoking process.

Position The Chicken Breasts

Place the chicken breasts evenly spaced on the cooking grates, ensuring they are not too close to the heat source to prevent direct grilling. This will allow for even cooking and prevent any areas from overcooking.

Smoke At A Steady, Low-Temperature

Monitor the temperature of your smoker regularly and maintain a consistent temperature of 250°F. Although thickness-dependent, bone-in chicken breasts typically require 60 minutes of smoking before raising the temperature, while boneless chicken breasts take around 45 minutes. Add more soaked wood chips to the wood chip tray as needed to maintain a steady stream of smoke during the cooking process.

Basting (Optional)

Prepare your preferred basting solution and, if desired, baste the chicken breasts every 30 minutes. This helps keep the chicken moist and adds extra flavor.

Turn Up The Temperature

For the last 10 to 15 minutes, raise the smoker temperature to 350°F to ensure the chicken skin crisps up without overcooking the meat. To gauge that you’re cranking the heat at the right point, look for around 140 to 145°F measured in the thickest part of the breast. 

Additional Smoking Time

Continue smoking the chicken breasts at the higher temperature until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Use a meat thermometer to confirm the internal temperature and ensure even color and texture. Remove the breasts when the internal temperature reaches 150 to 155°F, tent them with foil or butcher’s paper, and allow them to rest for a juicier texture that’s still fully cooked. The residual heat will finish cooking the chicken, taking it to 165°F.

Resting And Serving

Once the chicken breasts have reached the desired internal temperature, remove them from the smoker and allow them to rest for 10 minutes. This will help the juices redistribute and ensure a tender, moist result. After resting, slice the chicken breasts, serve, and enjoy your perfectly smoked chicken.

Gas Smoking – How To Smoke Chicken Breasts In A Propane/Gas Smoker

For smoking chicken breasts, whether bone-in or deboned, a two-zone indirect heat arrangement is the optimal method for any smoker, including gas models. Ignite the burner on the side of the cooking chamber opposite to where the chicken will be placed. This approach prevents the chicken breasts from being exposed to direct heat, allowing them to smoke gradually without risking burning.

Here is exactly how to smoke chicken breasts in a propane/gas smoker.

Prepare The Chicken Breasts

Choose high-quality chicken breasts from organic or free-range sources for the best flavor and texture. Trim any excess fat to minimize flare-ups and unwanted grease during smoking. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture and improve adherence of rubs or marinades.

Brine, Marinate, Or Rub

Select a brine, marinade, or rub that complements the flavors of your chosen wood chips. Brining and marinating can help retain moisture during smoking, while a rub adds a layer of seasoning directly to the chicken’s surface.

Set Up The Propane/Gas Smoker

Ensure your smoker is clean and has a reliable gas connection. Fill the water pan with liquid, such as water, stock, or apple juice, to help maintain moisture during smoking. Place the pan below the grill grates.

Preheat Your Smoker

Open the valve, ignite the burner, and set the smoker to the desired temperature. Preheat your smoker to 250°F and wait for it to reach a consistent temperature before adding the chicken breasts.

Add Wood Chips, Sawdust, Or Wood Chunks

Choose the type of wood chips, sawdust, or chunks that will give your chicken the desired flavor profile. Place the wood into the designated compartment or smoker box, ensuring they are not overly soaked to avoid excessive steam production.

Smoke The Breasts

Arrange the prepared chicken breasts on the smoker’s grill grates, leaving ample space between them for proper heat circulation. Close the smoker’s lid to retain heat and smoke, and monitor the temperature throughout the cooking process.

Baste Every Half Hour (Optional)

Consider basting the chicken breasts with a flavorful liquid, such as melted butter, seasoned oil, or a marinade, every 30 minutes to keep them moist and enhance the flavor.

Crank Up The Heat For The Final Cooking Period

After around an hour of smoking at 250°F when cooking bone-in chicken breasts and 45 minutes when smoking boneless, raise the temperature to 350°F to speed up the cooking process and help achieve a slightly crispier exterior. Smoke the chicken breasts for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Alternatively, remove them at 150 to 155°F, tent, and allow residual heat to cook them finished for a juicier end result. 

Check For Doneness

Use a meat thermometer to confirm that the chicken breasts have reached an internal temperature of 165°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, pierce the thickest part of the breast with a fork, and the juices should run clear.

Rest And Serve

Remove the chicken breasts from the smoker and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. Slice, serve, and enjoy your perfectly smoked chicken breasts.

Smoker Box Smoking – How To Smoke Chicken Breasts In A Stovetop Smoker

Smoking chicken breasts in a stovetop smoker box is a simple process that creates delicious results. With only one burner of your stove on, the stovetop smoker produces a similar degree of smoke to a traditional or gas two-zone indirect heat setup.

Follow these steps to smoke chicken breasts in a stovetop smoker:

Prepare The Chicken Breasts

Trim any excess fat from the chicken breasts. Rinse them under cold water and pat them dry using paper towels. Marinate or season the chicken breasts generously with your choice of dry rub or spices after optional brining, ensuring they are well coated.

Preheat Stovetop Smoker

Set up the stovetop smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Preheat it to a temperature range of 225 to 250°F, which is generally heat setting 6 on a scale of 10. Be sure to follow any guidelines provided for optimal heat consistency.

Choose Wood Chips And Add To Smoker

Select the type of wood chips you want to use for smoking, such as hickory, apple, or cherry. Soak the wood chips in water for about half an hour prior to smoking, then drain them to ensure the desired amount of smoke. Place the soaked wood chips in the designated smoker box or tray, adhering to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Generally, one needs ¼ cup per standard 7-inch tray. If you prefer sawdust or pellets, measure out approximately 1 to 1 ½ cups and spread them evenly in the tray or box.

Arrange The Chicken Breasts In The Stovetop Smoker

Position the seasoned chicken breasts on the smoker’s cooking grate, ensuring they are spaced evenly to facilitate proper airflow and even cooking.

Smoke The Chicken Breasts

Smoke the chicken breasts for approximately 1 hour at 250°F.

Monitor The Temperature And Add More Wood Chips As Needed

Maintain a steady temperature. Adjust the stovetop burner as needed. Add more wood chips to the smoker box or tray to maintain a steady smoke output, but attempt to get the quantity right from the get-go, as you want to open the smoker as little as possible. 

Baste Once

Use a basting mop or brush to apply a thin layer of a basting solution like oil, melted butter, or a mix of oil or butter and your favorite herbs and spices once throughout the cooking process. Smoke escapes quickly from an open stovetop smoker, so a single basting session will be adequate.

Increase The Heat To Finish Off

Increase the heat to 350°F (conventionally heat setting 8) during the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking to create a golden exterior. The optimal time to crank up the heat is when the internal temperature measures 140 to 145°F.

Confirm Doneness

Your chicken breasts are done when they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the breast to measure, avoiding contact with the bone when measuring the temperature. As before, removing at 150 to 155°F then tenting results in juicier chicken. Just confirm the final temperature as safe once done. 

Rest And Serve The Chicken Breasts

Once the chicken breasts have achieved the desired internal temperature, remove them from the stovetop smoker and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes. This step allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in juicier, more tender chicken. After resting, serve the smoked chicken breasts and enjoy your delicious creation.

Advanced Preparation For Chicken Breasts

Advanced preparation is the key to attaining the perfect smoky flavor and tender texture in chicken breasts. Here are all the simple steps you need to know to improve your smoked chicken immensely. 

Choosing The Right Chicken Breasts

Select fresh, high-quality chicken breasts from a reliable source. Look for organic, free-range, or air-chilled options, which often provide better flavor and texture. Ensure that the chicken breasts are plump, firm, and have a consistent color with no visible bruising or blood spots.

Trimming And Cleaning

Begin by removing any excess fat, skin, or connective tissue from the chicken breasts using a sharp knife. If necessary, trim away any parts that are discolored or damaged. Next, rinse the chicken breasts under cold water to remove any debris or remaining feathers. Pat them dry using paper towels, taking care not to cross-contaminate surfaces.

Reducing Moisture & Bringing Chicken To Room Temperature

Allow the chicken breasts to sit on a wire rack or plate in the refrigerator, uncovered, for a few hours to promote even cooking and better smoke absorption. Be sure to pour off the excess water at least every hour. Letting the water drip off the chicken breasts first reduces surface moisture, resulting in crispier skin and improved smoke adherence and penetration. Additionally, before smoking, remove the chicken breasts from the fridge and let them rest for half an hour to an hour to bring them to room temperature. This essential step aids in uniform cooking and prevents the chicken from drying out during smoking.

Tenderizing Chicken Breasts

To tenderize the chicken breasts and ensure even cooking, gently pound them using a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy skillet. This works best with deboned chicken breasts. Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap to minimize mess and prevent tearing. Flatten them to an even thickness, taking care not to pound too hard or excessively.

Deboning Chicken Breasts

Removing the bones of chicken breasts creates a more uniform thickness throughout the meat, which promotes even heat distribution and cooking. The flesh is also more uniformly seasoned. Cooks can expect a more consistent and tender texture and a simplified carving experience. 

Here is how to easily debone chicken breasts:

  1. Place Chicken Breast On Cutting Board And Select The Right Knife
    Lay the bone-in chicken breast on a clean cutting board with the skin side down. Choose a sharp boning knife for precision during the deboning process.
  2. Make An Incision Along The Breastbone And Rib Cage
    Carefully cut along the breastbone and rib cage, ensuring the knife follows the contours of the bone structure.
  3. Separate Meat From The Bone
    Gently separate the meat from the bone, working your way along the bone to remove it completely.
  4. Continue With Seasoning And Cooking
    Once the chicken breast is deboned, proceed with seasoning and smoking as desired. 

Score The Skin For Crispiness & Color

Scoring the skin of chicken breasts enhances crispiness, color, and overall appearance. First, to score the skin, lay the chicken breast on a clean cutting board, skin-side up. Use a sharp boning or paring knife to make shallow, diagonal cuts across the skin, being careful not to cut too deep into the meat. Space the cuts evenly apart, creating a diamond or grid-like pattern. After scoring, proceed with seasoning and smoking the chicken breasts. This technique allows rendered fat to escape during cooking, leading to a crispy texture and even browning. Skip to the scoring section of our ultimate guide to smoking chicken thighs for more detailed steps that you can’t go wrong with. 

Skinning Chicken Breasts

Removing the skin from chicken breasts before smoking helps reduce the overall fat content of the final dish, as most of the fat in chicken is found in the skin. This can be particularly advantageous for those who prefer leaner meat or are following a low-fat diet. Second, removing the skin allows for the seasonings or marinade to penetrate the meat directly, infusing the chicken breasts with more flavor. Finally, the absence of skin can lead to a faster, more even cooking process, ensuring consistently cooked breasts and superbly tender final results.

Here is exactly how to remove the skin from chicken breasts:

  • Place The Chicken Breast On A Cutting Board
    Lay the chicken breast on a clean cutting board with the skin side facing up.
  • Grip The Skin
    Gently grasp the edge of the skin with your fingers or use a piece of paper towel for better traction.
  • Begin To Peel Away The Skin
    Carefully start pulling the skin away from the meat, working slowly to avoid tearing it.
  • Use A Knife For Assistance
    As you pull the skin, use a sharp knife to help detach it from the meat where necessary, taking care not to cut into the chicken breast itself.
  • Discard Or Save The Skin
    Once the skin is completely removed, either discard it or save it for another use, depending on your preference. Your chicken breast is now ready for further preparation and seasoning.

Removing And Replacing The Skin For Crispiness & Color

Sometimes, you may want to temporarily remove the chicken breast skin to season the meat and then replace it before smoking. This technique allows the seasoning to penetrate the meat while still retaining the skin’s crispiness and moisture-locking properties. Detach the skin as previously described and season according to taste. After seasoning, carefully replace the skin, stretching it back over the chicken breast to cover the meat evenly. This process will ensure that the flavors of the seasoning are directly infused into the chicken breast, while the skin provides a barrier to lock in moisture and create a crisp, golden-brown exterior during smoking.

Butterflying/Spatchcocking Chicken Breasts

Flattening chicken breasts, otherwise known as butterflying or spatchcocking, distributes heat uniformly, leading to consistent internal temperatures and perfectly cooked chicken. This technique also reduces cooking time, as the thinner meat cooks more quickly. Butterflying the chicken breasts intensifies the infusion of smoky flavors, and it encourages a caramelized exterior by exposing a greater surface area to heat and smoke. It is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to improve the taste, texture, and visual appeal of smoked chicken dishes. It is a must-try for anyone unfamiliar with the process.

Here are the exact steps to follow to butterfly chicken breasts:

  1. Place Chicken Breasts On Cutting Board
    Lay the chicken breasts on a clean cutting board with the smooth side facing up.
  2. Hold The Chicken Breast Firmly
    Hold the chicken breast firmly with one hand, pressing down gently to keep it steady.
  3. Start The Horizontal Cut
    With a sharp knife in your other hand, make a horizontal cut through the thickest part of the chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through.
  4. Stop Before Cutting Through
    As you approach the other side of the breast, stop just before cutting all the way through to keep the two halves connected.
  5. Open The Chicken Breast
    Gently open the chicken breast like a book, allowing it to lie flat on the cutting board.
  6. Press The Breast Flat
    Press down on the opened chicken breast to flatten it evenly, ensuring faster, more even cooking.
  7. Check For Presentation
    Examine the butterflied chicken breast to ensure a neat and attractive appearance before proceeding to the next step in your recipe.

Pre-Smoking Trussing

Trussing chicken breasts is a simple but effective technique that can elevate your smoked chicken to the next level. You can help the meat retain its shape while cooking by tying the chicken breasts securely with kitchen twine. This leads to more even cooking, as well as a visually appealing presentation that is sure to impress. In addition to the aesthetic benefits, trussing also helps to prevent the chicken from drying out while smoking. The tight bundle of meat helps to retain moisture thereby ensuring that the chicken stays ultra-juicy.

Butcher’s twine, also known as cooking string or kitchen twine, is a thin and strong cotton string used in cooking to tie and secure meat or poultry before roasting or cooking. If you don’t have butcher’s twine on hand, you can use unwaxed dental floss or an arrangement of bamboo or metal skewers to perform the task (using an improvised technique) instead.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to trussing chicken breasts, suitable for complete beginners:

  • Gather Materials
    Place the chicken breasts on a clean cutting board or work surface, skin-side down. Ensure you have kitchen twine, a heat-resistant, food-safe string, ready for use.
  • Measure And Cut Kitchen Twine
    Cut a piece of kitchen twine about three times the length of the chicken breast. This length should be sufficient to wrap around the chicken breast securely.
  • Position The Twine
    Lay the twine across the middle of the chicken breast, running parallel to the narrower end of the breast, where the tenderloin is attached.
  • Cross The Twine
    Bring the ends of the twine up and over the chicken breast, crossing them at the top. Ensure the twine lies flat against the meat.
  • Loop The Twine
    Pass each end of the twine underneath the chicken breast and bring them up again, crossing them once more at the top.
  • Secure The Twine
    Tie the ends of the twine together using a simple knot. Make sure it is snug but not too tight, allowing the chicken breast to hold its shape without the twine cutting into the meat.
  • Trim Excess 
    Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim any excess twine close to the knot, leaving a neat and tidy appearance.

Brining, Rubs, Marinades & Basting Mixtures

Brining, rubs, marinades, and basting mixtures play a crucial role in preparing smoked chicken breasts, helping chefs hone the perfect degree of smokiness and balance of flavor and texture to be considered the best results for their personal taste. 


Brining is a process that involves soaking chicken breasts in a saltwater solution before smoking, resulting in juicier, more tender meat. The science behind brining lies in the principles of osmosis and protein denaturation. As chicken breasts soak in the saltwater solution, the salt causes the muscle fibers to loosen and absorb the liquid, which is then retained during cooking due to the denaturation of proteins. This additional moisture in the chicken reduces moisture loss during the smoking process, leading to more tender, succulent, and flavorful meat. For more detailed info on brines and brining, browse through our ultimate guide to smoking whole chicken.

Dry Brine

Mix 3 tablespoons of salt, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and your choice of spices to create a basic dry brine for 6 to 8 chicken breasts, 2.5 to 3.5 pounds of meat. Coat the breasts evenly with the dry mixture, and let them rest in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. The dry brine helps tenderize and flavor the chicken while retaining moisture during smoking.

Wet Brine

Create a wet brine solution by dissolving ½ cup salt and ½ cup sugar in 1 gallon of water. Add your preferred herbs and spices. Submerge the chicken breasts (about 6 to 8 per gallon) in the brine and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Wet brining enhances the juiciness and flavor of the chicken.

Brine Injection

For a faster brining process, use a brine injection. Mix ¼ cup of salt, ¼ cup of sugar, and your preferred herbs and spices in 2 cups of water to create your brine solution for 6 to 8 chicken breasts. Inject it directly into the chicken breasts with a meat injector. This technique allows for rapid flavor penetration and helps to retain moisture during cooking.

Basic Minimum Seasoning

For a simple yet effective seasoning for 6 to 8 chicken breasts, combine the following ingredients:

  • 1 ½ Tablespoon Salt
  • ¾ Tablespoon Black Pepper
  • ¾ Tablespoon Garlic Powder (Optional)

This basic seasoning adds flavor to the chicken without overpowering its natural taste.

Dry Rubs For Chicken Breasts

Rub your choice of dry rub evenly over the chicken breasts, ensuring all surfaces are coated.

Smoky BBQ Dry Rub:

  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • ½ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Herbed Dry Rub:

  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper

Spicy Cajun Dry Rub:

  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper

Crusted Chicken Breasts

Crusted chicken breasts offer a delicious, texturally pleasing alternative to traditional smoked chicken breasts. The crust adds an enticing layer of crunchiness and flavor that compliments the smoky tenderness of the chicken beneath.

Simply dip seasoned chicken breasts into the chosen crust mixture, pressing firmly to ensure the crust adheres to the meat.

Pecan Crusted:

  • 1 Cup Finely Chopped Pecans
  • ½ Cup Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper

Parmesan Crusted:

  • 1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ½ Cup Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper

Lemon Herb Crusted:

  • 1 Cup Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Mixed Herbs
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper

Marinating Chicken Breasts

Marinating chicken breasts before smoking provides a depth of flavor that permeates the meat, enhancing the overall taste of the finished dish. The marinade’s combination of herbs, spices, and acidic components tenderizes the meat while infusing it with a delightful aroma, elevating and fusing with the smoky essence of the smoked chicken breasts. As chicken marinades, the acidic ingredients in the mixture break down the proteins in the meat, making it more tender while enabling better absorptions of the marinade’s flavors and, later, the tastes infused from the smoke.

Marinate chicken breasts in your chosen marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight for maximum flavor.

Honey Mustard Marinade:

  • ¼ Cup Honey
  • ¼ Cup Dijon Mustard
  • ¼ Cup Whole Grain Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper

Garlic Soy Marinade:

  • ⅓ Cup Soy Sauce
  • ¼ Cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey
  • ¼ Cup Minced Garlic
  • ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper

Citrus Herb Marinade:

  • ¼ Cup Olive Oil
  • ¼ Cup Lemon Juice
  • ¼ Cup Orange Juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Herbs
  • 2 Minced Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper

Smoking Tips

Follow these smoking tips to fine-tune your smoking technique and elevate the taste and texture of smoked chicken breasts to an all-new high. We’ve got everything from temperature management and wood chip selection to advanced cooking and preparation covered. 

  • Let Your Chicken Drip Dry In The Fridge First – To let your chicken breasts drip dry in the fridge, first place them on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, ensuring they are spaced evenly for proper air circulation. Next, put the rack and baking sheet with the chicken breasts into the refrigerator, uncovered, for several hours. Be sure to pour off the excess moisture at least once every hour. You’ll be blown away by the difference this step makes. It is as close to essential as you get. 
  • Experiment With Wood Chip Combinations – Choose wood chips that complement the flavor of chicken, such as apple, cherry, or hickory. Experiment with different combinations for unique taste profiles.
  • Proper Chicken Placement – Space chicken breasts evenly on the smoker rack, ensuring ample airflow and even cooking. Avoid overcrowding the smoker to prevent uneven heating.
  • Maintain A Consistent Temperature – Monitor the smoker temperature and adjust as necessary to maintain a steady range of 225 to 250°F for the first three-quarters of the cooking process, then raise the heat to 350°F to finish it off over the last 10 to 15 minutes for optimal smoking results.
  • Set A Water Pan – Place a water pan filled with hot water beneath the chicken breasts to maintain humidity inside the smoker, resulting in juicier and more tender chicken.
  • Consider Tenting/Foiling Chicken Breasts – Tent or wrap chicken breasts loosely in aluminum foil during the last portion of smoking to prevent overcooking and retain moisture. Butcher’s paper works great too. 
  • Monitor Internal Temperature – Use a digital thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken breasts, ensuring they reach a safe minimum temperature of 165°F before consumption.
  • Rest Before Serving – Allow the smoked chicken breasts to rest for 5-10 minutes after removing them from the smoker to let the juices redistribute, resulting in more tender and flavorful meat. We suggest letting them rest, tented, from 150 to 155°F, to prevent overcooking. 
  • Baste During Smoking – Regularly baste the chicken breasts with a mixture of melted butter, oil, or a combination of herbs and spices to keep the meat moist and enhance its flavor.
  • Use a Two-Zone Smoking Setup – Arrange the smoker with a two-zone setup, placing the chicken on the indirect heat side, allowing for better temperature control and preventing overcooking.
  • Control Airflow with Vents – Adjust the smoker’s vents to regulate airflow and maintain the ideal smoking temperature. Remember that opening vents increases airflow, raising the temperature while closing vents reduces airflow and lowers the temperature.
  • Apply a Finishing Glaze or Sauce – Apply a glaze or barbecue sauce during the final 10 to 15 minutes of smoking, allowing it to caramelize on the chicken breasts for a rich, glossy, and flavorful finish.
  • Experiment with Aromatic Additions – Enhance the smoking experience by adding fresh herbs, citrus peels, or even soaked tea leaves to the wood chips for a more complex and intriguing flavor profile.

Smoked Chicken Breasts – Frequently Asked Questions

If you have been left with any lingering questions regarding the proper procedure for smoking chicken breasts, we may have the answers you’re looking for here. Those trying to decide which cut of chicken to smoke should find the clarity they need to decide in our detailed breakdown of chicken thighs vs. chicken breasts

How Long To Smoke Chicken Breasts?

Generally, it takes about 1½ to 2 hours to smoke bone-in chicken breasts at a consistent temperature of 225 to 250°F, and around 1 to 1 ¼ hours when smoking boneless breasts. To achieve crispier skin, you can increase the smoker’s temperature to 350°F for the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking. We find 1 hour at 250°F does the trick for bone-in breasts and 45 minutes for boneless, with a temperature rise at the end, as advised. However, it is essential to monitor the internal temperature of the chicken breasts rather than relying solely on cooking time. The USDA recommends that chicken breasts reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F. For tender and juicy results, experienced chefs may opt to smoke the chicken breasts until they reach an internal temperature of around 150 to 155°F before removing them from the smoker. After resting for 5 to 10 minutes, the residual heat will continue to cook the chicken, raising the internal temperature to 165°F.

How Do You Keep Smoked Chicken From Getting Rubbery?

Brining is a must to prevent smoked chicken from developing a rubbery texture when smoking at a low temperature, and there are also several other important steps to follow. Brine the chicken to tenderize and lock in moisture, and maintain a consistent smoker temperature of 225 to 250°F for even cooking. If you decide to skip brining, you’ll need to smoke your chicken breasts at a higher temperature, such as 300°F, but for a shorter duration. This typically equates to an hour for 6 to 8 breasts. Otherwise, they’ll most likely come out with a rubber-like outer texture. Baste the chicken every 30 minutes with oil, melted butter, or a mixture of oil and herbs to keep it moist. Use a water pan to maintain humidity, and monitor the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. If consistent temperature control is proving difficult, tent the chicken with aluminum foil to retain moisture and prevent a rubbery surface. Remove the chicken when it reaches 150 to 155°F, tent it, and let it rest for around 10 minutes before serving.

How Can I Achieve A Milder Smoky Flavor?

If you’re looking to achieve a milder smoky flavor in your chicken, consider using the cold-smoking method. Cold smoking involves smoking the food at a lower temperature, typically between 70 to 90°F, which imparts a delicate, smoky flavor without actually cooking the meat. To cold smoke chicken, you’ll first need to cure it with a dry rub or brine to preserve it during the extended smoking process. Choose a mild wood like apple, cherry, or alder for a subtle smoky taste. Since cold smoking doesn’t cook the meat, you will need to cook the chicken separately, either by grilling, baking, or pan-searing, after the cold smoking process is complete. This technique allows you to enjoy the subtle nuances of the smoke while maintaining total control over the final texture and taste of your chicken without intensity posing a problem.

How Do You Keep Chicken Moist When Smoking?

Keeping chicken moist when smoking involves a combination of proper preparation, smoking techniques, and monitoring. Start by brining the chicken before smoking, either with a wet brine or a dry rub, to lock in moisture and ensure the meat remains tender. During the smoking process, maintain a consistent temperature between 225 to 250°F and set up a water pan inside the smoker to maintain humidity. Baste the chicken regularly with a mop sauce, butter, or oil to keep the surface moist and prevent it from drying out. Additionally, avoid overcooking by monitoring the internal temperature, ensuring that it reaches 165°F. By letting it rest from 150 to 155°F onward, the residual heat will cook the chicken breasts until just done, guaranteeing they’re moist throughout.

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