Smoked Chicken Thighs

Smoked chicken thighs are a delightful and flavorful dish, perfect for those who appreciate the deep, rich flavors that smoking imparts to meat. The process of smoking chicken thighs can vary in complexity and time investment, depending on the equipment and ingredients you have available. Here’s a basic guide to get you started:


  • 4 to 8 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in for best flavor
  • Your choice of dry rub (store-bought or homemade)
  • Wood chips or chunks (such as hickory, applewood, or cherry for a sweeter flavor)


  • A smoker
  • A meat thermometer


  1. Prep the Chicken: Rinse the chicken thighs and pat them dry with paper towels. Apply a generous amount of your chosen dry rub to both sides of the chicken thighs. For best results, allow the chicken to sit with the rub on it for at least 30 minutes to overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Prep Your Smoker: Soak your wood chips or chunks in water for at least 30 minutes prior to smoking. This helps to create more smoke and prevents the wood from burning too quickly. Preheat your smoker to around 225°F (107°C). This is the ideal temperature for smoking chicken, as it’s low enough to slowly cook the chicken without drying it out.
  3. Smoke the Chicken: Once your smoker is at the right temperature, drain your wood chips and add them to the smoker. Place the chicken thighs in the smoker, skin side up, and close the lid. Smoke the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), which should take about 1.5 to 2 hours. Use a meat thermometer to accurately check the chicken’s temperature.
  4. Serving: Once done, remove the chicken thighs from the smoker and let them rest for about 10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making it more tender and flavorful.
Smoked Chicken Thighs


  • Experiment with different types of wood to find the flavor profile you like best. Each type of wood imparts a unique taste to the meat.
  • You can also try brining the chicken thighs before applying the dry rub for extra juiciness and flavor.
  • If you want a crispier skin, you can finish the chicken thighs on a grill over high heat for a few minutes on each side.

Smoked chicken thighs are incredibly versatile and can be served with a wide range of sides, from grilled vegetables to classic coleslaw or potato salad. Enjoy the deep, smoky flavors that make this dish a crowd-pleaser at any barbecue or family gathering.

Advanced Techniques and Variations:

While the basic method for smoking chicken thighs will yield delicious results, there are several advanced techniques and variations you can explore to customize the dish to your taste.

Advanced Techniques:

  • Brining: To ensure your chicken thighs are juicy and flavorful, consider brining them before smoking. A simple brine can be made by dissolving 1/4 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of sugar in 4 cups of water. Submerge the chicken thighs in the brine and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Rinse and dry the thighs before applying the rub.
  • Injecting: For an even deeper flavor, you can inject the chicken thighs with a marinade. Use a meat injector to inject your favorite marinade directly into the meat. This not only adds flavor but also helps keep the chicken moist during the smoking process.
  • Glazing: Towards the end of the smoking process, consider applying a glaze to the chicken thighs. A simple glaze can be made with barbecue sauce, honey, or a mixture of both. Brush the glaze onto the chicken during the last 30 minutes of smoking for a beautifully caramelized finish.


  • Spice Rubs: Experiment with different spice rubs to change the flavor profile of your chicken. Try a Mexican-inspired rub with chili powder and cumin, or go for an Asian twist with five-spice powder and ginger.
  • Smoking Woods: The type of wood you use for smoking can significantly impact the flavor of the chicken. While hickory and applewood are classic choices, don’t be afraid to experiment with other woods like mesquite for a stronger smoke flavor or maple for a subtle sweetness.
  • Serving Suggestions: Change up how you serve the smoked chicken thighs to keep things interesting. They can be shredded and used in tacos or salads, sliced and served on sandwiches, or simply enjoyed as is with a side of your choice.


  • Dry Chicken: If your chicken turns out dry, it may have been overcooked, or the smoking temperature was too high. Ensure you’re using a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature closely. Brining the chicken beforehand can also help retain moisture.
  • Lack of Smoke Flavor: For a stronger smoke flavor, make sure you’re using enough wood chips and that they’re properly soaked. You can also try double wrapping the wood chips in foil with holes poked in it to slow down their burn rate, increasing smoke production.
  • Uneven Cooking: If some parts of the chicken cook faster than others, your smoker may have hot spots. Rotate the chicken thighs halfway through the cooking process to ensure even smoking.

Pairings and Side Dishes:

The smoky flavor of chicken thighs pairs well with a variety of side dishes. Whether you’re aiming for a classic barbecue spread or something more unique, the right pairings can elevate your smoked chicken to a full, satisfying meal.

Classic Barbecue Sides:

  • Coleslaw: A crunchy, tangy coleslaw can provide a refreshing contrast to the rich smokiness of the chicken.
  • Potato Salad: A creamy potato salad, especially one with a mustard-based dressing, complements the deep flavors of smoked meats perfectly.
  • Baked Beans: Smoky, sweet, and hearty, baked beans are a barbecue staple that goes great with chicken thighs.
  • Cornbread: A slice of moist cornbread on the side is perfect for soaking up any juices or sauce.

Unique Side Ideas:

  • Grilled Vegetables: Vegetables like asparagus, zucchini, or bell peppers grilled with a little olive oil and seasoning can add a light and healthy element to your meal.
  • Quinoa Salad: For a healthier option, a vibrant quinoa salad with fresh vegetables and a lemony dressing pairs wonderfully with the smoke-infused chicken.
  • Sweet Potato Fries: Baked or fried, sweet potato fries with a sprinkle of smoked paprika can echo the smoky flavor of the chicken.
  • Pasta Salad: A cold pasta salad with a vinaigrette dressing, fresh herbs, and cherry tomatoes can offer a refreshing and satisfying side option.

Finishing Touches and Presentation:

How you present your smoked chicken thighs can make the dish even more appealing. Consider these finishing touches to enhance both the flavor and the appearance:


  • Fresh Herbs: A sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, or thyme right before serving can add a burst of freshness.
  • Lemon Wedges: Serving the chicken with lemon wedges allows guests to add a touch of acidity to brighten up the flavors.
  • Barbecue Sauce: Offering a bowl of barbecue sauce on the side gives everyone the option to add as much or as little as they like.

Presentation Tips:

  • Platter Arrangement: Arrange the chicken thighs on a large platter surrounded by lemon wedges and herb sprigs for a visually appealing presentation.
  • Side Dishes: Serve side dishes in separate bowls or on the same platter for a family-style meal, making it easy for guests to help themselves.

Engaging Your Guests:

Turn your meal into an experience by engaging your guests with the smoking process, if possible. Invite them to watch you prepare the smoker, explain the choice of wood chips and their flavors, or even let them sample the rubs and sauces you’re using. This not only makes the meal more interactive but also gives your guests a greater appreciation for the art of smoking meat.


Smoking chicken thighs is more than just a cooking method; it’s an opportunity to explore flavors, experiment with techniques, and enjoy the satisfaction of creating a meal that brings people together. By paying attention to preparation, side dishes, and presentation, you can turn smoked chicken thighs into a memorable dining experience. Enjoy the process, and don’t forget to savor the delicious results with friends and family.

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Smoked Chicken Thighs

Smoked Chicken Thighs

  • Author: Marie Lavigne
  • Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x


  • 8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Wood chips for smoking (applewood or hickory recommended)


    1. Preparation: Combine paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, thyme, oregano, and salt in a bowl. Rub each chicken thigh with olive oil, then coat evenly with the spice mixture. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight in the refrigerator.
    2. Prep Smoker: Preheat your smoker to 225°F (107°C). Soak wood chips in water for 30 minutes, then drain.
    3. Smoke Chicken: Place chicken thighs skin-side up in the smoker. Add wood chips to the smoker. Close the lid and smoke until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), about 1.5 to 2 hours.
    4. Rest and Serve: Remove chicken from the smoker and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve warm.



  • Experiment with different types of wood chips to find your preferred flavor.
  • For crispier skin, finish the chicken on a hot grill for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • If desired, chicken thighs can be brined in a solution of water, salt, and sugar for 4-6 hours before smoking to enhance juiciness.
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes (includes marinating time)
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 1 chicken thigh
  • Calories: 250
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Sodium: 620 mg
  • Fat: 18 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 10 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1 g
  • Protein: 22 g
  • Cholesterol: 110 mg
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