Best Smoked Chicken Thighs Guide

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Smoking chicken thighs can be an immensely satisfying culinary adventure. The succulent, smoky taste and the tender, moist texture are simply irresistible to most people. There’s no denying that smoking chicken thighs can be daunting, particularly for novices. However, with our comprehensive guide to smoked chicken thighs at your side, you can’t go wrong. You’ll learn everything from smoking techniques to brines, rubs, marinades, and a selection of expert tips spanning preparation to the art of smoking itself that’ll elevate your chicken to an all-new high. 

Key Takeaways

  • Regardless of what type of smoke you’re using, a standard batch of 6 to 8 chicken thighs comes out best when smoked using indirect heat at 250°F for roughly 1 ½ hours or until an internal temperature of 140 to 145°F is reached. At this point, crank up the smoker to 350°F and finish off the chicken for approximately 30 minutes or until an internal temperature of 170°F is reached. 
  • Although chicken is considered safe to eat at an internal temperature of 165°F, it’s essential to cook bone-in thighs to a slightly higher temperature of 170°F to ensure that they’re thoroughly cooked all the way to the flesh surrounding the bone. This is particularly important because the area around the bone takes longer to cook and may harbor bacteria if not adequately heated. 
  • For the best possible results, trim chicken carefully of all excess fat. Brine it, then let it dry completely before patting dry and applying a rub or marinating. Experiment with different types of wood chips paired with the flavors being applied to your smoked chicken or the accompanying foods being served with it.

How To Smoke Chicken Thighs – Smoking Techniques

No matter if you’re using a classic smoker, propane/gas smoker, or stovetop model, we’ve got the precise steps to follow to ensure impeccably smoked chicken thighs every time.

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

It is best to set up your traditional smoker with a two-zone configuration. A two-zone setup refers to having one specific zone, usually half the smoker area, for direct heat and another for indirect heat. Simply divide the charcoal or wood fuel and place the majority on one side of the smoker, thereby creating the direct heat zone. On the other side, place a smaller amount of fuel, perhaps with an empty water pan, to help moderate the heat. Cook over the indirect heat zone and transfer fuel from the direct heat zone as necessary.

Here is exactly how to smoke chicken thighs in a traditional smoker.

Prepare The Chicken Thighs

Remove any excess fat or skin from the chicken thighs. Rinse them under cold water and pat them dry using paper towels. We highly recommend scoring the skin to help render the fat and promote even cooking.

Season The Chicken Thighs

Season the chicken thighs generously with your choice of dry rub or spices, ensuring they are well coated. Be sure to experiment with custom spice blends or combine different rubs to create unique flavors. Alternatively, apply a marinade and allow the chicken to soak for the appropriate period. 

Preheat The Smoker

Start your traditional smoker and allow it to preheat to a temperature range of 225 to 250°F. Use a reliable thermometer to monitor and maintain the temperature. Arrange the charcoal briquettes in a consistent pattern and preheat them until they are covered with white ash to stabilize the heat output and maintain a stable temperature.

Choose Your Wood Chips

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 30 minutes prior to smoking, and then drain them to ensure they produce the desired amount of smoke. Consider mixing different wood chips for a more complex flavor profile.

Add Wood Chips To The Smoker

Add the soaked wood chips to the charcoal, placing them directly on the hot coals. The amount of wood chips and chicken thighs you should use in a traditional smoker will vary depending on the size of your smoker and the desired level of smoke flavor. However, for 6 to 8 chicken thighs, we recommend 3 to 4 cups of wood chips. For 12 to 16 thighs, 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.

Arrange The Chicken Thighs In The Smoker

Place the seasoned chicken thighs directly on the smoker’s cooking grate, skin-side up. Space them evenly to ensure proper airflow and even cooking. Skilled cooks may use a smoking rack or hooks to suspend the thighs for a crispier result. Avoid cooking chicken thighs in a pan, as it can cause the skin to become rubbery instead of crispy. 

Smoke The Chicken Thighs

Smoke the chicken thighs for about 1 ½ hours while maintaining a consistent temperature of 250°F.

Monitor The Temperature And Add More Wood Chips As Needed

Throughout the smoking process, keep an eye on the temperature. Adjust the smoker’s vents, dampers, or digital controls as needed. Add more wood chips to the smoker as necessary to maintain a steady smoke output.

Baste Every Half An Hour

Use a basting brush or mop to apply a thin coating of your preferred basting solution every 30 minutes. This can be as simple as a layer of olive oil or melted butter, or feel free to create a flavorful mixture of oil, herbs, and spices. A thin coating of sauce like barbecue sauce or hot sauce thinned with a little vinegar works equally well. 

Raise The Temperature

As soon as the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 140 to 145°F, we advise raising the temperature to 350°F to ensure crispy skin. This is usually during the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking.

Rest And Serve

Once the chicken thighs have reached 170°F, remove them from the smoker and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute and results in juicier, more tender chicken. After resting, serve.

Gas Smoking – How To Smoke Chicken Thighs In Propane/Gas Smoker

A two-zone indirect heat setup is the best approach for smoking bone-in or deboned chicken thighs on any smoker, gas or otherwise. To do this, ignite the burner on the opposite side of the cooking chamber. This ensures that the chicken isn’t exposed to direct heat, which allows it to slowly smoke without burning. 

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

Prepare The Chicken Thighs

Remove any excess fat or skin from the chicken thighs. Rinse them under cold water and pat them dry using paper towels. Consider scoring the skin.

Season The Chicken Thighs

Season the chicken thighs generously with your choice of dry rub or spices, ensuring they are well coated. Otherwise, allow the chicken to marinade prior to smoking. 

Preheat The Gas Smoker

Preheat your propane or gas smoker to a temperature range of 225 to 250°F. Use a reliable thermometer to monitor and maintain the temperature. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding proper vent settings for optimal heat consistency.

Choose Your Wood Chips

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 30 minutes prior to smoking, and then drain them to ensure they produce the desired amount of smoke. 

Add Wood Chips To The Smoker

Place the soaked wood chips in the designated smoker box or tray, following the manufacturer’s instructions. You generally need 2 to 4 cups per 6 to 8 chicken thighs or 1 to 1 ½ cups of sawdust or pellets.

Arrange The Chicken Thighs In The Smoker

Place the seasoned chicken thighs directly on the smoker’s cooking grate, skin-side up. Space them evenly to ensure proper airflow and even cooking. A smoking rack or hooks can be utilized to suspend the thighs for a crispier result.

Monitor The Temperature And Add More Wood Chips As Needed

Keep an eye on the temperature throughout the smoking process to maintain around 250°F. Adjust the smoker’s vents, dampers, or digital controls as needed. Add more wood chips to the smoker box or tray as necessary to maintain a steady smoke output.

Smoke The Chicken Thighs

Smoke the chicken thighs for about 1 ½ hours at 250°F. 

Baste Every 30 Minutes

Apply a coasting of a basting solution like olive oil, vegetable oil, melted butter, or an infusion of herbs, spices, and oil to your chicken thighs every 30 minutes. A little thinned sauce can be used instead of a basting mixture.

Increase The Heat During The Last 30 Minutes

Raise the temperature to 350°F during the last 20 to 30 minutes to grant a far crispier skin. While this is usually an hour and a half in, cooks can confirm the right point to turn up the heat when the internal temperature hits 140 to 145°F

Rest And Serve

Once the chicken thighs have reached the desired internal temperature, remove them from the smoker and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes. After resting, serve.

Smoker Box Smoking – How To Smoke Chicken Thighs In Stovetop Smoker

Smoking in a smoking box is extremely easy and accommodates a surprisingly large number of thighs at once. You’ll only be smoking with one burner of your stove on, which accomplishes a similar degree of smoke to a traditional or gas two-zone indirect heat setup. 

Follow these steps to smoke chicken thighs in a stovetop smoker. 

Prepare The Chicken Thighs

Remove any excess fat or skin from the chicken thighs. Rinse them under cold water and pat them dry using paper towels. Scoring the skin can help render the fat and promote even cooking.

Season The Chicken Thighs

Marinade or season the chicken thighs generously with your choice of dry rub or spices, ensuring they are well coated.

Preheat The 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. One generally 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 Thighs In The Stovetop Smoker

Position the seasoned chicken thighs on the smoker’s cooking grate, skin-side up. Ensure they are spaced evenly to facilitate proper airflow and even cooking. Consider using a smoking rack or hooks to suspend the thighs to improve crispiness and the overall texture.

Smoke The Chicken Thighs

Smoke the chicken thighs for approximately 1½ hours 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, as necessary.

Baste Regularly

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 every 30 minutes. 

Increase The Heat To Finish Off

Increase the heat to 350°F (heat setting 8) during the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking to create crispier skin. The optimal time to crank up the heat is when the internal temperature measures 135 – 140°F.

Confirm Doneness

Your chicken thighs are done when they reach an internal temperature of 165 to 170°F. Insert a thermometer into the thickest section of the thigh, taking care to avoid the bone when measuring its heat.

Rest And Serve The Chicken Thighs

Once the chicken thighs 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 thighs and savor your delicious creation.

Advanced Preparation And Smoking Tips For Chicken Thighs

If you want to elevate your smoked chicken, these are the must-know preparation steps and tips that’ll guarantee awesome results. From skinning, deboning, trimming, and scoring chicken to brining, rubs, and marinades, it’s all the info essential to pulling off perfection. 

Trimming Chicken Thighs

Trimming chicken thighs plays a vital role in improving the final dish’s taste, texture, and appearance. Properly trimmed chicken thighs cook more evenly, allowing for optimal heat distribution while also preventing overcooking or undercooking. Trimming excess fat or skin can make the dish leaner and potentially healthier. Removing unnecessary parts like cartilage, small bones, or connective tissue also enhances the dining experience by providing a more tender and enjoyable bite. 

How To Trim Chicken Thighs

Here is exactly how to remove the excess fat from chicken thighs and ensure even cooking. 

Gather Your Tools

Ensure you have a clean, sharp knife, such as a boning or chef’s knife. A clean cutting board, kitchen shears, and paper towels are also needed for this process.

Rinse and Dry Chicken Thighs

Rinse the chicken thighs under cold water to remove any debris or contaminants. Pat them dry with paper towels to ensure a better grip and minimize slipping during the trimming process.

Remove Excess Fat and Skin

Identify any visible fat deposits or loose skin on the chicken thighs. Carefully use your knife to trim them away, ensuring not to cut into the meat itself. For more experienced cooks, this step provides an opportunity to practice butchery skills and create a cleaner, more visually appealing cut of meat.

Trim Tendons And Connective Tissue

Locate and remove any tendons or connective tissue that may be present in the chicken thighs. Use the tip of your knife to cut away these parts, which can be tough and chewy when cooked. Discerning cooks might choose to further refine the thigh’s appearance by carefully removing any remaining tissue.

Remove Cartilage And Small Bones (Optional)

If you prefer a boneless chicken thigh, use your knife or kitchen shears to cut around the thigh bone, then remove it. Additionally, examine the thigh for any cartilage or small bones and carefully trim them away.

Deboning Chicken Thighs For Smoking

Deboning chicken thighs for smoking allows heat to penetrate the meat more evenly, which reduces the cooking time. It allows the cook to smoke at a lower temperature over a longer period if so desired. Deboning also allows more of the smoky flavors to be absorbed by the meat thanks to the deeper smoke penetration. A boneless chicken thigh is also easier to slice and portion and experienced cooks will love the way that marinades, rubs, and brine infuses more deeply and evenly.

How To Debone Chicken Thighs

Here is exactly how to debone chicken thighs for smoking or any other chicken dish.

Remove Excess Fat and Skin

Trim any excess fat or skin from the chicken thighs. Leave a thin layer of skin covering the meat for a more visually appealing presentation and balanced texture.

Rinse And Pat Dry

Rinse the chicken thighs under cold water to remove any debris or loose fat. Pat them dry using paper towels to remove excess moisture, which will help the seasoning adhere better to the chicken.

Locate The Bone

Identify the thigh bone by running your finger along the meat to feel for the hard bone structure. Make a mental note of its position.

Cutting Technique

Use a sharp knife to carefully cut along the thigh bone, staying as close to the bone as possible. The objective is to remove the bone without cutting through the meat or tearing the skin.

Remove The Bone

Work your knife around the thigh bone using several cuts, separating the meat from the bone until it is completely detached. The bone can be reserved for making stocks or discarded.

Prepare The Workspace For Pounding

Place the deboned chicken thigh between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper. This will prevent the meat from sticking to your work surface and make cleanup easier.

Pound/Flatten The Meat

Use a meat mallet, a heavy rolling pin, or even the bottom of a sturdy glass to gently pound the chicken thigh. Start from the center and work outward in a circular motion, ensuring an even thickness throughout. This will help the chicken cook more evenly and tenderizes the meat as well.

Scoring Chicken Thighs For Crispier Skin

Scoring chicken thighs is a technique that involves making shallow cuts on the surface of the meat, particularly on the skin side. This method is beneficial for several reasons, such as rendering fat more effectively, promoting even cooking, and allowing flavors from seasonings and marinades to penetrate the meat more deeply. Scoring the skin exposes more surface area to heat, allowing the fat beneath the skin to break down more efficiently. This process not only results in crispier skin but also ensures the meat remains moist and tender during cooking. Remember that scoring can also be applied to other cuts of meat, such as duck breast or pork, to achieve similar benefits.

How To Score Chicken Thighs

Once you’ve tried scoring your chicken, you’ll never want to cook it any other way. Here’s exactly how to score chicken thighs. 

Clean And Trim Thighs

Prepare the chicken thighs by trimming any excess fat or skin. Rinse them under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels.

Lay Chicken Thighs Flat

Place the chicken thighs skin-side up on a clean cutting board. Press down gently to ensure they lay flat and the skin’s surface is level.

Make Diagonal Cuts

Use a sharp knife to create shallow diagonal cuts on the skin side of the chicken thigh, spaced about ½ inch apart. Aim for a suggested depth of about ⅛ inch, being careful not to cut too deeply into the meat, as this can affect the cooking process and result in unevenly cooked chicken.

Change Angles

After completing the first set of diagonal cuts, rotate the chicken thigh and create a second set of diagonal cuts, creating a diamond-shaped pattern. This will further expose the fat and skin to heat during cooking, ensuring a crispy, well-rendered exterior.

Season And Cook As Desired

Apply your choice of seasoning, dry rub, or marinade to the scored chicken thighs, making sure to work the flavors into the incisions. The scoring allows the seasoning to penetrate the surface, resulting in a more flavorful and evenly seasoned dish. Proceed with your preferred cooking method, whether smoking, grilling, pan frying, or baking.

Skinning Chicken Thighs

Removing the skin from chicken thighs has distinct advantages, particularly when it comes to smoking. Skinless thighs can absorb more smoke flavor, and the absence of skin allows the seasoning or marinade to come into direct contact with the meat. Removing the skin makes the final dish leaner, as most of the fat in chicken thighs is stored beneath the skin. However, it’s essential to leave a little fat to ensure the meat remains moist and tender during cooking since the skin also helps retain moisture. Here are detailed instructions on preparing skinless chicken thighs, focusing on the process of removing the skin.

How To Remove The Skin From Chicken Thighs

Here are the exact steps to how to efficiently remove the skin from chicken thighs.

Clean And Trim Thighs

Start by trimming any excess fat from the chicken thighs. Rinse them under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels.

Position Chicken

Place the chicken thigh on a clean cutting board, with the skin side up and the thicker end towards you.

Loosen The Skin

Use a sharp knife to make a small incision along the edge of the skin closest to you. Carefully slide your fingers under the loosened skin and begin to separate it from the meat by gently pulling and lifting.

Cut Skin Away From Meat

Hold the edge of the skin with your non-dominant hand. Hold the knife parallel to the cutting board with your dominant hand and carefully cut between the skin and the meat. Use a gentle sawing motion while pulling the skin in the opposite direction to ease the process.

Remove Skin From Thigh Bone

Once the skin is mostly separated from the meat, use the knife to carefully remove the skin from around the thigh bone. Be careful not to cut into the meat itself.

Completely Remove The Skin

With the skin detached from the thigh bone, grasp the loose end of the skin with your non-dominant hand and use the knife to trim away any remaining bits of skin still attached to the meat. Consider using a pair of clean pliers to grip the skin firmly, making the process easier.

Season Or Marinate

Once the skin is removed, apply your choice of seasoning, dry rub, or marinade to the chicken thighs. The absence of skin allows the flavors to penetrate the meat more deeply, resulting in a more flavorful final product.

Proceed with your preferred smoking technique to achieve the perfect balance of flavor and texture after preparing the skinless chicken thighs.

Brining, Seasoning & Marinating Chicken To Enhance Flavor and Texture

Brining is a technique that helps to tenderize and add moisture to meats, particularly chicken thighs. The process involves soaking the meat in a mixture of salt, water, and other flavorings, allowing it to absorb the liquid and retain its juiciness during cooking. Marinating, on the other hand, helps to infuse the meat with various flavors. Regardless of whether a chicken is brined or marinated, it always needs to be seasoned. Here’s a look at everything you need to know to guarantee delicious, juicy chicken with crispy skin. 

Brining And Why You Should Brine Chicken Thighs:

  • Enhances Flavor – Brining helps to introduce and enhance the flavors of the meat by drawing in seasonings and spices.
  • Improves Texture – Brining promotes a more tender and juicy result due to the immense moisture absorption during the process.
  • Reduces Cooking Time – Brining improves moisture retention causing the chicken to cook faster and more evenly.

How To Use A Wet Brine

  1. Mix ½ cup of salt, 1 gallon of water, and desired flavorings (such as herbs, spices, or citrus) in a container to create a brine solution.
  2. Submerge the chicken thighs completely in the solution.
  3. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours or up to 24 hours, depending on your desired level of flavor penetration.
  4. Remove the chicken thighs, rinse them thoroughly, and pat dry before smoking.

How To Use A Dry Brine

  1. Combine ¼ cup of salt and desired seasonings (like paprika, garlic powder, or black pepper) in a small bowl.
  2. Coat the chicken thighs evenly with the dry brine mixture.
  3. Arrange the thighs on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  4. Remove the chicken thighs from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature before smoking.

How To Use A Brine Injection

  1. Prepare a liquid brine by mixing ¼ cup of salt, 2 cups of water, and desired flavorings (such as garlic, onion powder, or cayenne pepper) in a bowl.
  2. Fill a meat injector with the prepared liquid brine.
  3. Inject the chicken thighs at regular intervals, ensuring even distribution of the brine throughout the meat.
  4. Allow the chicken to rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours to allow the brine to permeate the meat before smoking.

Seasoning Chicken Thighs For Smoking

One of the critical factors in achieving delicious smoked chicken thighs is proper seasoning. The process of seasoning chicken thighs can be as simple or as complex as desired, depending on the flavors you want to achieve. Here’s a look at seasoning, rubs, and marinades, as well as what’s needed at a bare minimum.

Essential (Minimum Seasoning):

  1. Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.
  2. Season the thighs generously with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper per pound of chicken, ensuring even coverage.
  3. Allow the chicken thighs to rest for 15 to 20 minutes, letting the salt and pepper penetrate the meat for better flavor.

Dry Rubs For Chicken Thighs

To use any dry rub, first, pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels, then apply the dry rub generously to both sides. Massage well so that the dry rub infuses with the meat and ensure complete coverage. 

Classic BBQ Rub:

  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt

Herb And Spice Rub:

  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt

Marinating Chicken Thighs

Almost all marinades are combined using the same simple instructions. Whisk together the ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Place the chicken thighs in a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over them. Seal and ensure that all the chicken has an even coating. If a bag isn’t available, use a deep bowl and weigh down the chicken thighs with a plate so that they’re completely submerged. Marinade for 4 to 12 hours in the refrigerator.  For more information on marinades, our indepth look at how long chicken can marinade is a must-read. 

Citrus-Herb Marinade:

  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Cilantro
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • 2 Minced Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt

Asian-Inspired Marinade:

  • 1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Hoisin Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Honey
  • 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Minced Ginger
  • 2 Minced Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil

Smoking Tips For Chicken Thighs

Cooking perfectly smoked chicken thighs is both an art and a science. Following these essential smoking tips ensures succulent and flavorful results, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or an experienced chef. 

Select Flavorful Wood Chips

The type of wood chips you choose will significantly impact the flavor profile of your smoked chicken thighs. Experiment with various wood types to determine which suits your taste preferences best. Here are a few tasty examples of good woods for smoked chicken:

  • Fruitwoods – Apple, cherry, and peach woods offer a milder, sweeter smoke, which is perfect for poultry.
  • Nutwoods – Hickory and pecan woods produce a robust, savory smoke that pairs well with chicken.
  • Mesquite – Mesquite is a stronger, earthier smoke that can be overpowering if used in excess, but it grants immense depth of flavor for those who enjoy intense smokiness. Mix mesquite with milder woods for a balanced flavor.

Maintain Consistent Temperature Regulation

Controlling the smoker’s temperature is vital for ensuring tender, juicy chicken thighs. A consistent temperature between 225°F and 250°F is ideal for cooking chicken thighs low and slow. Stick to these guidelines, and your chicken will cook steadily:

  • Use a reliable thermometer to monitor your smoker’s temperature.
  • Adjust the vents, dampers, or digital controls as needed to maintain the desired temperature.
  • Minimize opening the smoker’s door to avoid temperature fluctuations.
  • Keep an eye on fuel levels, whether charcoal or gas, to ensure a steady heat source.

Finish Under Broiler Or In Oven For Extra Crispy Skin

After smoking your chicken thighs, the skin might not be as crispy as desired. Finish the thighs under a broiler or in a preheated oven to finish them off perfectly, producing crispy skin. Here’s how to finish of chicken thighs until a broiler:

  1. Remove the chicken thighs from the smoker and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. Preheat your oven’s broiler or heat the oven to 425°F.
  3. Broil the chicken thighs for 3 to 5 minutes, watching closely to avoid burning, or roast in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the skin is golden and crispy.
  4. Brush the thighs with a bit of melted butter or oil before finishing under the broiler or in the oven to give them even better color and texture.

Sear Before You Smoke

Searing the chicken thighs before smoking them adds a delicious layer of caramelized flavor while creating an attractive, golden-brown exterior. This also helps render excess fat, resulting in much crispier, tastier skin. Here’s how to sear off your chicken thighs:

  1. Preheat a grill, stovetop grill pan, or cast iron skillet on medium-high heat.
  2. Lightly coat the chicken thighs with oil or melted butter, and season with salt and pepper or your preferred seasoning.
  3. Sear the chicken thighs, skin side down, for 3 to 5 minutes until the skin is golden and slightly charred. Turn the thighs over and sear for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer the seared chicken thighs to the smoker, following your smoking process for tender and juicy results.

Keep Basting That Chicken

It’s important to baste chicken thighs periodically throughout the smoking process to ensure succulent and juicy smoked flesh fused with delicious flavor. Basting every 20 to 30 helps to keep the meat moist, preventing it from drying out and becoming tough. Use a basting brush or mop to apply your preferred basting mixture, which can be as simple as melted butter or a combination of flavorful ingredients such as olive oil, spices, and herbs. Remember, when basting, be gentle and quick to prevent heat loss and temperature fluctuations in the smoker. Here’s exactly how to baste chicken thighs throughout the smoking process. 

  1. Prepare a basting mixture by combining melted butter or oil with your favorite herbs, spices, or other seasonings. You may also use a pre-made barbecue or hot sauce, thinned with a bit of liquid if necessary.
  2. Use a brush or a basting mop to apply the basting mixture to the chicken thighs. Begin basting after the first hour of smoking, and repeat every 20 to 30 minutes throughout the cooking process.
  3. Be quick and efficient when basting to minimize heat loss from the smoker. Open the door or lid only when necessary, and close it as soon as you’re done basting to maintain a consistent temperature.

Smoked Chicken Thighs – Frequently Asked Questions

If you have been left wondering anything about smoking chicken thighs, we may have the answers you’re looking for waiting here. 

What Is The Best Way To Prep Chicken Thighs For The Smoker?

Achieving optimal tenderness, flavor, and results when preparing chicken thighs for smoking involves deboning them and carefully removing any excess fat or connective tissue. Creating shallow, diagonal slashes on the skin’s surface can enhance smoke penetration and allow seasonings to work their magic, so always score if you have time. Lastly, always allow chicken thighs to dry completely by putting them on a plate in the refrigerator for 2 or more hours. Toss off the water that is shed periodically, pat the chicken dry, and proceed to season or marinade and smoke. 

How Long Should Chicken Thighs Smoke?

Chicken thighs, with their dark meat and higher fat content, benefit from a slightly longer smoking session of around 2 to 2 ½ hours. It’s best to cook them low and slow for the first 2 hours, followed by a final half an hour at a much higher heat to crisp up the skin. 

What Temperature Is Best For Smoked Chicken Thighs?

Chicken thighs are best smoked at 225 to 250°F for the first two-thirds of the cooking process. Bumping up the heat up to 275°F to finish them off helps render the fat and achieves a more succulent texture while still allowing for smoke absorption.

Should I Put Oil On Chicken Before Smoking?

A light coating of oil on chicken before smoking isn’t obligatory, but it can contribute to a more even browning of the skin and act as a binder for seasonings or dry rubs. Select oils with a high smoke point, such as avocado or grapeseed oil, for optimal results.

How To Get Crispy Skin On Smoked Chicken Thighs?

Achieving crispy skin on smoked chicken thighs can be an art form. One method is to sear the thighs skin-side down on high heat before smoking, creating a crisp layer that endures the smoking process. Gently rubbing the skin with high smoke point oil like avocado or grapeseed oil before smoking encourages even browning and better seasoning adherence. Another clever tactic is to remove the skin, trim excess fat, and then reattach it, ensuring a snug fit and allowing the skin to render more efficiently during smoking. Finishing the chicken thighs at 275°F in the smoker can also help develop that desirable crispiness. Finally, after smoking, place the thighs on a hot grill or under a broiler for a few minutes to perfect that crisp, taking care not to overcook the meat.


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