One of my favorite recipes to prepare is smoked chicken thighs rubbed with a dope spice mix, slowed smoked on the grill, then grilled for tender thunder thighs with crispy skin.
Well, let me tell you 'bout the best smoked chicken thighs I ever had! These bad boys represent that down-home comfort and flavor of real deal soul food.
Picture this: tender, juicy chicken thighs infused with the smoky essence of fruity hardwood, minglin' with a homemade blend of spices that'll make your taste buds sing praises.
I'm definitely a thighs guy. They're way more fun and have so much more flavor. Plus they are much harder to overcook compared to white meat pieces.
These are seasoned inside and out, and the smoke just adds more depth and complexity to the flavor.
The Benefits of this Smoked Chicken Recipe
A simple chicken thigh recipe like this one can go a long way. Smoking chicken infuses it with a unique, smoky flavor that is hard to achieve with other cooking methods.
The combination of low and slow cooking with the use of aromatic wood chips or chunks creates a mouthwatering flavor profile that enhances the taste of the chicken.
It's great for texture too! The slow smoking process helps retain the natural moisture in the chicken, resulting in tender and juicy meat. The gentle heat allows the collagen in the chicken to break down, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth texture that is incredibly satisfying.
Process For Getting Delicious Smoked Chicken Thighs
To smoke chicken thighs and achieve delicious results, follow these general steps:
- Preparing the Smoker: Preheat your smoker to a temperature range of 225°F to 250°F (107°C to 121°C). This low and slow cooking temperature is ideal for smoking chicken thighs.
- Seasoning the Chicken Thighs: While the smoker is heating up, season the chicken thighs with your preferred dry rub. Ensure that the seasoning is evenly distributed on all sides of the thighs, allowing the flavors to penetrate the meat.
- Adding Smoke: Once the smoker has reached the desired temperature, add wood chips or chunks to generate smoke. Popular choices include hickory, apple, cherry, or mesquite, depending on your preference. Soak the wood chips in water for about 30 minutes before adding them to the smoker.
- Placing the Chicken Thighs in the Smoker: Arrange the seasoned chicken thighs directly on the smoker grate, leaving space between each piece to allow for proper airflow and even cooking. You can place them skin-side up or down, depending on your preference for crispy skin.
- Resting and Serving: Once the chicken thighs reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), remove them from the smoker. Allow them to rest for about 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute within the meat. This helps to retain the moisture and ensures tender results.
Remember to adjust the cooking time based on the size and thickness of the chicken thighs.
Beats and Eats (music to pair with smoked chicken)
Cordae's "What's Life" pairs well with smoked chicken thighs for several reasons:
- Soulful and Reflective Lyrics: "What's Life" by Cordae is known for its introspective and thought-provoking lyrics. The song delves into deep topics such as personal growth, the challenges of life, and finding meaning in one's journey. Just like the lyrics of the song, smoking chicken thighs is a process that requires patience, reflection, and a focus on the finer details to achieve the best results.
- Smooth and Laid-Back Vibes: The mellow and laid-back vibes of "What's Life" complement the relaxed and enjoyable experience of smoking chicken thighs. As you tend to the smoker and patiently wait for the chicken to cook, the smooth rhythm and soothing melodies of the song provide a calming backdrop that enhances the overall experience.
- Timeless Appeal: Both Cordae's music and the process of smoking chicken thighs have a timeless quality. They evoke a sense of nostalgia and authenticity that transcends trends and fads. "What's Life" with its timeless sound and meaningful lyrics pairs well with the timeless method of smoking chicken thighs, creating a harmonious and satisfying experience.
Ingredients Needed To Make Smoked Chicken Thighs
- Bone in Chicken Thighs
- Smoked Paprika
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Cayenne Pepper (optional)
- Brown Sugar - optional
Preparing the Meat for Smoking
Here's how to get those chicken thighs ready for a flavorful smoke:
- Trim Excess Fat: Begin by trimming any excess fat from the chicken thighs. While some fat can contribute to flavor and juiciness, too much can lead to flare-ups and an overly greasy end result. Remove any visible chunks or excessive skin to achieve a balance between flavor and texture.
- Seasoning: Season the chicken thighs to enhance their flavor. You can use a dry rub, marinade, or a combination of spices to add depth and complexity. Common seasonings for smoked chicken include salt, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and herbs like thyme or rosemary. Apply the seasonings generously, ensuring that all sides of the thighs are coated.
- Optional Brining: Brining is an optional step that can enhance the moisture and tenderness of the chicken. To brine the thighs, dissolve salt and sugar in water, then submerge the chicken in the brine for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Rinse the chicken thoroughly before seasoning to remove excess salt.
- Resting Time: After seasoning or brining, allow the chicken thighs to rest for at least 30 minutes. This allows the flavors to penetrate the meat and promotes even cooking.
- Bring to Room Temperature: Before smoking, let the chicken thighs sit at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes. This helps them cook more evenly and prevents them from being too cold, which can extend the smoking time.
How To Smoke Chicken Thighs (step by step)
Step 1 - Mix the spices together in a small bowl to create your rub.
Step 2 - Season the chicken on both sides. Additionally, pinch the skin and pull it away from the meat partially without detaching. Rub some of the spice mix below the skin.
Step 3 - Prepare your smoker for indirect cooking. Using a combination of lump coal and wood chunks heat the grill to about 225 degrees F. Place the chicken thighs skin-side up off-heat and smoke with the lid closed for about 1 ½ hours or the chicken has reached 160 degrees internally. Remove chicken and set aside.
Step 4 - Increase heat of smoker to about 400 degrees F. Place the chicken back on the grill directly over the heat and cook for about 5 minutes to crisp up the skin. Remove the chicken and serve as is or with your favorite bbq sauce..
What To Serve With Chicken Thighs
- Creamy Slaw
- Corn on the Cob
- Southern Collard Greens
- Southern Baked Beans
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Potato Salad
- Southern-style Green Beans
- Buttermilk Biscuits
- Fried Black eyed Peas
Considerations and Tips for Smoking Chicken Thighs
Go with bone-in skin-on chicken thighs. Dark meat is more flavorful and stand-up better to longer cook times. Some prefer to use boneless chicken thighs, but I'm sticking to bone-in for this recipe!
Smoked chicken should be cooked indirectly meaning the chicken is placed opposite the heat source vs directly over the fire. This allows for slower cooking which means more smoke flavor and completely cooked chicken.
Whether smoking or grilling I prefer to wipe my grill grates with olive oil soaked napkins.
For crispy skin finish the chicken skin side down over direct heat. For even more crispy chicken skin you can place the finished delicious smoked chicken thighs in the fryer for a quick flash fry.
If you prefer boneless chicken thighs by skin-on chicken thighs and just de-bone, as the skin adds both texture and flavor to these.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Smoking Chicken
Can you use other pieces besides chicken thighs?
You can definitely take a similar approach to other pieces of chicken, but you'll have to vary the cooking time to fit the particular pieces. For breasts and wings your cooking time will be dramatically shorter.
What type of wood do you recommend using to smoke the chicken?
I typically recommend the woods that are plentiful in your area so you're not working to find a particular wood. For me pecan and oak are readily available. Most woods are a good fit with chicken.
Hickory is great and mesquite works, but I prefer not to use it for smoking. It has such a strong flavor that if you're slow smoking it can be a bit too much.
Mesquite is perfect for grilling, but I'd be hesitant for smoking. If you're unsure of the difference between smoking and grilling for this discussion just know the smoking is longer time cooked indirectly vs. grilling which is shorter direct high heat cooking
What temperature do you smoke the chicken at?
I try to stay at 225 degrees F for smoking chicken. 250 degrees is the high-end max, but adjust your time for the higher temps.
How Long Do You Smoke the Chicken?
At 225 degrees you're going to fall somewhere between 75 - 90 minutes depending on your ability to maintain a steady temperature as well as the size of the chicken thighs.
For similar recipes, try these:
Make This Smoked Chicken Thighs Recipe
These here competition worthy smoked thighs will truly have you comin' back for seconds and thirds. With every tender bite, you'll savor the smoke flavor, the perfectly seasoned bark, and the juicy, succulent meat that'll make your soul sing. Add your favorite barbecue sauce if you want but it's not needed.
It's a dish that embodies the essence of soul food cookin', where flavors are crafted with care and tradition runs deep. So gather 'round the table, share in the joy of good company, and let these smoked chicken thighs take you on a flavor-packed journey to the heart and soul of Southern cuisine.
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- 4 Chicken Thighs bone-in and skin-on
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Allspice
- 2 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
- Mix the spices together in a small bowl to create your rub.
- Season the chicken on both sides. Additionally, pinch the skin and pull it away from the meat partially without detaching. Rub some of the spice mix below the skin.
- Prepare your smoker for indirect cooking. Using a combination of lump coal and wood chunks heat the grill to about 225 degrees F. Place the chicken thighs skin-side up off-heat and smoke with the lid closed for about 1 ½ hours or the chicken has reached 160 degrees internally. Remove chicken and set aside.
- Increase heat of smoker to about 400 degrees F. Place the chicken back on the grill directly over the heat and cook for about 5 minutes until chicken skin is crisp. Remove the chicken and serve.