Smoked Chicken Thighs

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You’ll love this Smoked Chicken Thighs recipe that creates lip-smacking chicken on your wood pellet smoker. Enjoy tender and smoky dark meat with crispy skin that gets its flavor from a brown sugar dry rub!

smoked chicken thighs on a cast iron skilleet.
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Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • budget friendly
  • easy recipe with quick prep time
  • smoky flavor goes great with southern sides
  • homemade dry rub is sweet and zesty
  • skin-on thighs create crispy skin

Recipe Spotlight

If you have a wood pellet grill, one of the first recipes you’ll want to try is smoked chicken thighs. The smoking time is less than 2 hours, and moist and juicy dark meat is easy to create with the right equipment. It’s much easier than smoking chicken breasts which can be tricky to keep moist.

Depending on what type of wood pellets you use, the smoky taste will blow you away with this simple chicken thigh recipe. Add your favorite BBQ sauce, or bite into the crispy skin that’s loaded with great flavor!

Since we’re smoking dark meat, it comes out juicy and tender every time. You’ll love learning how to smoke chicken thighs using the low and slow method on your wood pellet electric smoker!

plate full of chicken thighs with tongs.

Equipment You’ll Need

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Ingredients

This is the best smoked chicken thighs recipe because it uses bone-in chicken with the skin still intact. This creates crispy chicken skin that crackles when you take a bite!

See quantities in recipe card.

Marinade

  • bone-in chicken thighs
  • balsamic, Greek or Italian Dressing

Dry Rub

These are the ingredients for my standard dry rub recipe that I use for smoking pork and chicken. The brown sugar helps make a crunchy crust!

  • smoked paprika
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • chili powder
  • instant coffee granules
  • coarse salt
  • black pepper
  • brown sugar
aluminum pan full of raw chicken thighs.

How to Smoke Chicken Thighs

For reference, I used a Traeger Grills® Pro Series 22 (ad) to make this recipe.

TEMPERATURE: To avoid rubbery skin, I like to smoke bone-in thighs at a temperature of 275º F. Depending on the type of smoker used, a lower temperature may work just fine. Check your manufacturer’s guidelines for recommendations.

PREP: Before you begin the smoking process, be sure your grill is prepped and preheated to 275 degrees. Purchase a digital meat thermometer or use the probe that comes with your smoker so you can cook to temperature instead of time.

MARINATE: I recommend marinating thigh meat the night before for best flavor. You can skip this step, but it works like a charm if you have extra time. Simply place the thighs in an aluminum pan (or a pan lined with aluminum foil) and pour a bottle of Greek or balsamic dressing on top.

chicken thighs in an aluminum pan being marinated.

REFRIGERATE: Cover pan and refrigerate chicken overnight. When it’s time to cook, pat the thigh meat dry with paper towels and discard marinade. Trim any excess fat from meat.

DRY RUB: Sprinkle thighs with homemade spice rub. Be sure to get under the skin and on top and bottom for best results. This is what makes the chicken skin extra crispy when smoked!

chicken thighs being smoked with thermometer inserted.

SMOKE: Place thighs skin side up directly on the grill grates in your preheated smoker and insert thermometer probes. Cook at a smoker temperature of 275º F until the internal temperature of the chicken thighs reaches 172º F. The cooking time can be from one hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes depending on the size of the thighs.

REST: Let the chicken thighs rest for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the juices to flow back into the meat. Don’t skip this step! It makes a big difference.

How to Create Crispy Skin

Some recipes call for a barbecue baste during the cook, but if you want extra crispy skin, it’s best to skip this step. You can always add barbecue sauce at the table after everyone has taken a crunchy bite out of their chicken!

kitchen tongs holding up a chicken thigh.

What to Serve With Smoked Chicken Thighs

One of the things I love about serving chicken thighs is how well they go with southern side dishes. They’re just begging for a side of Red Skin Potato Salad or a crockpot full of Calico Baked Beans.

My favorite sides to serve with smoked thigh meat are Collard Greens with Bacon and Homestyle Mac and Cheese. Both of these can also be smoked alongside the chicken thighs in your Traeger pellet grill!

Other great side dishes include Southern Corn Pudding and Yellow Eye Beans. Whatever you do, don’t forget the Pickled Green Tomatoes or Fire and Ice Pickles. You just gotta have pickles with smoked meat!

smoked chicken thighs on the grill.

Recipe FAQS

How does a pellet smoker work?

A pellet grill or smoker uses indirect heat from hardwood pellets to infuse smoke flavor into whatever you’re cooking. It’s so versatile, you can smoke just about anything you can think of…including vegetables, meats and desserts!

Can I use a gas grill to make smoked chicken thighs?

Yes, if you don’t have a smoker, you can use a grill to cook thigh meat. However, to get the smoke flavor, you’ll need to purchase a smokebox (ad) that can be used inside the grill which uses wood chips instead of pellets.

How do you get crispy skin on smoked chicken thighs?

The secret to crispy chicken skin is to use a dry rub containing brown sugar and smoke it at 275º F so the skin won’t get rubbery. If it’s not crispy after the internal temperature reaches 172º, crank up the grill to 400º, or place thighs under the broiler in your oven until they crisp to a golden brown.

chicken thigh being lifted up by kitchen tongs.

Storage and Freezing

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or on your smoker set at 225º until heated through. You can also reheat in a 350 degree oven.

Leftovers can be frozen if wrapped well and kept in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat on the smoker or in the oven at 225º for best results.

Recipe Card

smoked chicken thighs being held up by kitchen tongs.

Smoked Chicken Thighs

You'll love this Smoked Chicken Thighs recipe that creates lip-smacking chicken on your wood pellet smoker!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Barbecue, Cookout, Smoker
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Marinate Overnight: 8 hours
Total Time: 9 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 597kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

Chicken Marinade

  • 6 bone-in chicken thighs (with skin)
  • 1 bottle balsamic dressing (16 ounces)

Dry Rub

  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup brown sugar

Instructions

Marinate

  • Arrange chicken thighs in an aluminum pan. Pour a bottle of balsamic dressing over chicken and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Smoke

  • Preheat grill / smoker to 275º F. Make sure there are plenty of wood pellets in the hopper.
  • Dry chicken thighs with paper towels until they are sticky but not wet. Dispose of marinade.
  • Sprinkle each thigh generously with dry rub. Rub it under the skin, on top and bottom of each thigh.
  • Place thighs on the bottom grill grates with skin side up. Insert thermometer into the thickest chicken thigh.
  • Smoke at 275º F until thighs reach an internal temperature of 172º F. This may take anywhere from 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours depending on the size of the thighs.
  • Remove thighs from grill and let rest for 30 minutes before serving. Don't skip this step because it allows the juices to settle back into the meat. Do not cover thighs while resting or the skin will become rubbery.

Notes

  • To create crispy skin, be sure to dry the thighs completely with paper towels after marinating. Sprinkle generously with dry rub and work into and under the skin.
  • After smoking, make sure not to cover the chicken thighs or the skins will become rubbery. Allow them to rest uncovered for 30 minutes before serving for best results. 
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container. To reheat, do so in a 350 degree oven until heated throughout. Broil skins for a few minutes to crisp them up. 
  • You can skip the marinating if you’re pressed for time. Just use the dry rub on the raw chicken. 

Nutrition

Calories: 597kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 53g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Sodium: 1238mg | Potassium: 462mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin C: 0.3mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    I’m excited to try this recipe because I’ve never smoked chicken thighs before. I love your tips for getting crispy skin. Thanks so much.

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