How to Get the Crispiest Chicken Skin on a Pellet Grill

With a little prep before the cook and finishing with high heat, you can have delicious chicken with crispy skin from the pellet grill.
chicken thigh with crispy skin smoked on a pellet smoker

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Getting crispy chicken skin on a pellet grill isn’t as hard as you think. I love smoking chicken as much as the next person but there is nothing worse than biting into a piece with rubbery skin. 

If you’ve tried to smoke chicken only to be disappointed with soggy, rubbery skin then this guide is for you. 

By preparing your chicken before the cook and knowing what to do during the cook, you can have great smoked chicken with crispy skin using a pellet grill

What’s the key to crispy chicken skin?

The key to crispy chicken skin is removing the moisture.  There are several ways you can achieve that:

  • Salt brine and air dry 
  • Use cornstarch with your seasoning 
  • Smoke at high heat for part of the cook

I use all three methods to ensure I get crispy skin whether I’m making wings, chicken thighs, or whole chicken. High heat in my opinion is the most important part so don’t skip that. 

How to get the crispiest chicken skin using a pellet grill

1. Prep the chicken

I used chicken thighs for this guide as they are one of my favorite cuts to cook on the smoker, but the advice applies to any cut. Here’s the full recipe for my smoked chicken thighs.

Prepare the chicken by laying it on an elevated wire baking rack with a baking pan underneath and pat them dry with a paper towel. 

I like placing the chicken on a wire rack to ensure it doesn’t sit in its own juices while it is drying out.

2. Salt brine

I like to use Kosher salt so I can see the flakes to make sure I cover each piece evenly. This also ensures I don’t over-salt the chicken. 

Simply sprinkle Kosher salt all over the chicken and refrigerate it uncovered.

raw saltedchicken thighs on a wire rack

The salt will start drawing the moisture out from the skin and leaving it uncovered also aids in the drying process as the air circulates around it. 

Allow the chicken to salt brine for a minimum of 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

After removing the chicken from the refrigerator pat any excess moisture and salt from the chicken skin with a paper towel.  

3. Seasoning

Add a little drizzle of olive oil to each piece of chicken, rub it all over the skin, then sprinkle on cornstarch and your favorite seasoning or rub. I used Smoke Kitchen Honey Garlic rub.

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Make sure you get good coverage of both the seasoning and cornstarch on the chicken skin.

4. Smoking

Heat your pellet grill to 225°F.

Place the chicken directly on the grill. Make sure you have a bit of space between each piece.

Smoke your chicken for the first 30 minutes at 225°F. Chicken tends to take on smoke better than most proteins you only need a short time smoking to impart some flavor. 

If you want crispy chicken skin the key is to turn up the heat! High heat is essential to remove moisture and tighten up the skin. 

chicken thighs in the pellet grill

So, crank the heat up to 375°F and continue cooking your chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

For dark meat like chicken thighs or wings, you can take the internal temperature to 185°F and still have juicy, tender chicken.

After you remove the chicken from the grill, let it cool down and rest for 10 minutes. The skin will firm up a tad more while it rests and you will be rewarded with crispy chicken skin on the outside and tender and juicy chicken on the inside. 

Want to get the best out of your pellet grill?

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