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Transform chicken thighs from an everyday dinner staple to an absolute showstopper with this Smoked Chicken Thighs recipe. Smoky, flavorful, and fall-off-the-bone tender, they taste like a menu item from your favorite hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint!

perfectly smoked chicken thighs on plate

Why You’ll Love This Smoked Chicken Recipe

  • The Dry Spice Rub Brings It. And by it, I mean: allllll the flavor. It’s sweet, smoky, savory, a little bit spicy, and the addition of cloves or cardamom gives it that little je ne sais quoi that will have everyone asking for your recipe. This rub will help give the smoked chicken thighs crispy skin!
  • Juicy on Juicy. Bone-in, skin-on thighs don’t exactly have a reputation for being dry, but when they’re smoked, they’re supremely tender and juicy beyond your wildest dreams. 
  • Smoking Brings Out the Best In Everything. From Smoked Chicken Breast, Smoked Pork Tenderloin, to Smoked Salmon, there’s just something magical about the smoking process. The aroma, the flavor—it’s just objectively true that smoked foods are irresistible. Smoking chicken thighs is no different!
  • It’s Easy. Okay, it’s not as easy as popping a baking dish of chicken into the oven for Baked Chicken Thighs, but as far as smoking recipes go, these smoked chicken thighs are a great place to start. There’s nothing too complicated or fussy here.
crispy smoked chicken thighs on a platter

How to Smoke Chicken Thighs

The Ingredients

For Basting and Smoking Chicken Thighs

  • Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs. I used 6, but this is a recipe that’s easy to scale up for a crowd. Don’t use boneless skinless chicken thighs—you want bone-in and skin-on for the best flavor.
  • Charcoal, Pellets, or Whatever Fuels Your Smoker. We use hardwood lump charcoal.
  • Wood Chips or Chunks. I recommend pecan, oak, or apple wood. Cherry wood works too.
  • Barbecue Sauce. I like using my Homemade Barbecue Sauce, but your favorite barbecue sauce will work just fine.
  • Butter. Combined with the barbecue sauce for basting. Mmmmm.

For the Smoked Chicken Rub

  • Brown Sugar. Dark brown sugar has a more assertive molasses flavor, while light brown sugar is more mild. Use either here.
  • Kosher Salt. Always my favorite salt for cooking.
  • Smoked Paprika. This adds another layer of smoky flavor to our smoked chicken thighs.
  • Garlic and Onion Powder. These allow us to get all that savory flavor without having to use actual onions and garlic.
  • Chili Powder and Cumin. Both bring some earthiness to our rub.
  • Ground Black Pepper. Use freshly cracked peppercorns for the best flavor.
  • Ground Cloves or Cardamom. The little somethin’-somethin’ that takes this dry rub to the next level.
  • Cayenne Pepper. Adjust the amount as you please.

The Directions

patting dry chicken thighs for smoker
  1. Prepare. Set the chicken thighs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pat them dry.
smoked chicken thigh seasoning in a bowl
  1. Make the Dry Rub. Whisk together all of the rub ingredients.
seasoning chicken thighs for smoker
  1. Season. Coat the chicken in the dry rub and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the Smoker. Follow the instructions for your smoker to heat it to 225 degrees F.
chicken thighs in smoker
  1. Smoke the Chicken. Place the chicken thighs in the smoker and smoke thighs until they reach 165 degrees F, or 45 to 75 minutes.
sauce for smoked chicken thighs
  1. Make the BBQ Baste. Warm the barbecue sauce and butter, stirring until the butter melts.
brushing smoked chicken thighs
  1. Baste. Brush the sauce mixture over the chicken when the internal temperature of the chicken thighs reaches the 150 degree F mark. Keep smoking until the chicken is done.
easy smoked chicken thighs on sheet
  1. Rest. Remove the chicken from the smoker and tent with aluminum foil for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. ENJOY!

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • To Reheat. Loosely cover the chicken thighs with foil and reheat in a 350 degree F oven until warmed through, or warm carefully in the microwave. 
  • To Freeze. Store smoked chicken thighs for up to 2 months in the freezer. Wrap them well and place them in an airtight container or freezer bag. Thaw the smoked chicken thighs overnight in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.

Meal Prep Tip

I love making extra smoked chicken thighs and using them for meal prep lunches and dinners later in the week. Add them to salads, sandwiches, lettuce wraps, pizza, and more.

easy smoked chicken thighs

Leftover Ideas

Use leftover smoked chicken thighs to make Chicken Quesadillas or use it in my Grilled Chicken Salad instead of grilled chicken breast.

What to Serve with Smoked Chicken Thighs

the best smoked chicken thighs on a plate

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Use the Best Wood and Charcoal. For the charcoal, I like hardwood lump charcoal, like FOGO. Use a mild wood or fruit wood, like pecan, oak, or apple for smoked chicken thighs.
  • Make Sure the Rub Sticks. Dry the chicken thighs thoroughly before applying the rub. This will help it adhere better so the flavor stays on the chicken, not the smoker!
  • Disregard the Time. Instead, rely on your instant-read thermometer. With smoking, it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint the precise time when something will be ready to eat. Only a thermometer can tell you when your food is done. Insert the probe into the thickest part of the chicken thigh and continue to smoke until it reaches 165 degrees F. Don’t watch the clock!
  • Don’t Rush It. Although smoking and grilling have a lot in common, smoking is not a quick cooking process like grilling is. You just can’t rush it if you want the best results. (If you’re in a time crunch, make Grilled Chicken Thighs instead!)
  • Don’t Cook Lower Than 225 Degrees F. A lower temperature will make the skin rubbery—not the crispy chicken skin you want! (A slightly higher temperature is okay, though.)

Smoked Chicken Thighs

5 from 1 vote
How to make the best smoked chicken thighs at home! Juicy, flavorful, and fall-off-the-bone tender. An easy recipe for smoking chicken thighs!

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 2 hours

Servings: 4 -6 servings

Ingredients
  

For the Chicken Thighs, Smoking, and Basting

  • 2 1/2 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken thighs about 6
  • Charcoal pellets, or whatever fuels your smoker, we use hardwood lump charcoal
  • Wood chips or chunks such as pecan, apple, or oak
  • 1/3 cup Homemade Barbecue Sauce or your favorite store-bought BBQ sauce
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Rub


Instructions
 

  • Remove the chicken thighs from the refrigerator, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and pat dry.
  • In a small bowl, combine the rub ingredients: brown sugar, salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder chili powder, cumin, black pepper, cloves, and cayenne.
  • Rub all over the chicken, working some of the rub underneath the skin. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature while you prepare the smoker.
  • Heat your smoker to 225°F. Prior to lighting, add the wood, mixing it with the charcoal. It’s OK if your smoker gets a bit hotter than 225°F; just note that the chicken will cook more quickly. Do not cook it any lower than 225°F or the skin will be rubbery.
  • Add the chicken thighs skin-side up and smoke until they reach 165°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted at the thickest part, 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes depending upon the size of your thighs, your smoker set up, and how much your smoker temperature is fluctuating. Smoke to temperature, not to time on the clock.
  • While the chicken is smoking, heat together the barbecue sauce and butter, stirring until the butter melts completely. Once the chicken reaches around 150°F (about 40 minutes in), baste the chicken all over with the sauce, then continue smoking until the chicken reaches 165°F.
  • Remove the chicken from the smoker. Tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes. If you’d like to crisp the skin, place the chicken under the oven broiler for a few minutes just before serving.

Notes

  • TO STORE: Store leftover smoked chicken thighs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Loosely cover the chicken thighs with foil and reheat in a 350°F oven until warmed through, or warm carefully in the microwave. 
  • TO FREEZE: Store smoked chicken thighs for up to 2 months in the freezer. Wrap them well and place them in an airtight container or freezer bag. Thaw the smoked chicken thighs overnight in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 656kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 40gFat: 46gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 9gMonounsaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 251mgPotassium: 642mgFiber: 1gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 1488IUVitamin C: 0.4mgCalcium: 51mgIron: 3mg

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Do You Smoke Chicken Thighs at 225 degrees F?

It can take as little as 45 minutes or as long as 1 hour and 15 minutes, but it’s not about cooking time—it’s about temperature. Smoke your chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer and it will be perfect every time.

Is It Better to Smoke Chicken Thighs With Skin On or Off?

The skin keeps your chicken thighs from drying out and it also adds some flavor, so I recommend smoking chicken thighs with the skin on.

Do You Smoke Chicken Thighs Skin Side Up or Down?

Always smoke chicken thighs with the skin side up. This maximizes flavor and juiciness.

Do You Turn Chicken Thighs When Smoking?

No, don’t turn the chicken thighs when you’re smoking them. Keeping the skin on top flavors the chicken thighs and keeps them moist because as the fat renders, it travels down through the meat.

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. We made these last night with your homemade barbecue sauce recipe and they were delicious. My husband smoked them with mostly pecan wood with a bit of apple and finished them on the grill to crisp the skin. They were so fantastic we both posted on social media (him Facebook, me Instagram)!5 stars