Smoked Chicken Thighs

Marinate for 2 or 24 hours, these delicious smoked chicken thighs pack a lot of smoky flavor for something so simple.
smoked chicken thighs

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These smoked chicken thighs are simple, but delicious and packed full of smoky flavor.

Fattier and more flavorful than chicken breasts, thighs are a great choice for barbecue. Plus they are cheap enough that you can serve a crowd without breaking the bank!

I like to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs but you can totally substitute the boneless, skinless variety, but I find that the crispy skin really brings these thighs to the next level.

Why choose thighs?

Chicken thighs are underrated and often overshadowed by chicken breasts in the poultry aisle, and I’ve never understood why.

Smoked chicken thighs finished with crispy skin

Thighs are generally cheaper than chicken breast, and if you’re like me and prefer dark to white meat, taste better.

Thighs have a higher fat content, and they are nearly impossible to overcook. Even if you miss 165°F internal, they still won’t start to dry out until upwards of 180°F – so you’ve got some flexibility on the grill, which is always helpful when you’re serving a crowd.

How to make smoked chicken thighs

Smoked chicken thighs are probably one of the easiest recipes I will ever share, but that’s not to say they are not flavorful and delicious!

If you are cooking skin-on thighs I’ll give you two crucial tips to make sure you get beautiful crispy skin.

If you are smoking skinless thighs, you can skip this next step, but you’ll be missing out.

1. Dry brine chicken thighs in the fridge

The key to ultra-crispy chicken skin is to get the thighs nice and dry. There’s a simple two-step process that will guarantee you get the crispest skin when you smoke your chicken.

Start by patting the thighs with paper towels (no need to wash them), and place them on a wire rack with a baking sheet underneath.

Sprinkle kosher salt on both sides and then place the rack in your fridge uncovered for up to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to smoke the thighs, remove from the fridge and pat dry again to wipe off any excess moisture.

2. Season thighs

The next step is to season your chicken thighs. Again, feel free to get creative and really make the dish your own.

You can use your favorite store-bought chicken rub, or there are many great smoked chicken rubs you can make at home. For this recipe, I used my own seasoning blend of salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and a touch of cayenne pepper to add some heat.

If you want to go the store-bought route, I recommend our Pit Master’s Pick which you can order from our store.

Simply drizzle olive oil onto the thighs then apply your season and finally a sprinkling of cornstarch to help get the skin extra crispy.

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The key to packing in flavor when you are working with skin-on chicken is to lift the skin up and season the meat that is underneath, then add a bit more seasoning on top of the skin. This will ensure your chicken is well-seasoned because nobody likes bland chicken.

Once your chicken is well coated in seasoning, you can roll the thighs up and pull the skin taut. Then transfer the thighs to a wire rack or jerky tray.

3. Fire up the smoker

Now, it’s time to smoke your chicken! Preheat your smoker to 225°F. I smoked these on my Camp Chef Woodwind Pro using Bear Mountain Oak Pellets.

I like using oak with chicken as it brings a smooth balance of smoky flavor and they pair well with pretty much anything.

A great tip for more flavor when using skin on chicken, lift the skin and season underneath as well.

If you are new to pellet smoking, be sure to check out this article on the best wood pellets for smoking.

Once your smoker is preheated, just place your chicken thighs on and let them smoke for 30 minutes.

4. Crisp up the skin

After about 30 minutes the chicken will have taken on some nice smoke flavor, and it’s time to crank the heat up to 375°F until the thighs reach 175-185°F.

The higher temperature is crucial to give the skin its extra-crispy texture.

At this point, you could baste the thighs with a little bit of barbecue sauce. This is totally optional, so feel free to skip the sauce if that’s not your thing!

cooked chicken thighs in the smoker being basted with brush
The BBQ sauce adds an extra layer of flavor, not to mention a nice glossy skin.

Most chicken recipes call for a final internal temperature of 165°F, but when I’m smoking chicken thighs, I like to go a little higher – usually around 175-185°F

I find that dark meat maintains moisture, even at higher temps, and I like the texture and flavor of thighs around the 175°F mark.

How to serve smoked chicken thighs

Smoked chicken thighs are super versatile and can be served with just about anything. You can shred the meat and add it to a taco or sandwich, or even serve it on top of a salad. They are also great on their own paired with some tasty barbecue sides:

More smoked chicken recipes

smoked chicken thighs

Smoked Chicken Thighs

Smoked chicken thighs with the crispiest skin you've ever tasted
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Marinate up to: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 470kcal
Author: Breanna Stark


  • 8 chicken thighs bone in, skin on
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the chicken rub

  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp black pepper coursley ground
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

For final basting (optional)

  • 1 cup barbecue sauce


  • Trimming any excess skin or fat off your chicken thighs.
  • Pat chicken thighs with paper towels to dry them off and place them on a wire cooking rack with a baking sheet underneath.
  • Sprinkle kosher salt on both sides and place into your fridge uncovered for up to 24 hours.
  • Remove chicken thighs from the fridge and pat dry again to wipe off any excess moisture.
  • Drizzle olive oil onto chicken thighs then season with an all purpose bbq rub and a sprinkling of cornstarch.
  • Smoke the chicken at 225°F for the first 30 minutes and then increase the temperature of your smoker to 375°F until the chicken reaches 175-185°F.
  • Optionally, baste chicken thighs with barbecue sauce 10 minutes before removing.
  • Remove chicken thighs from the grill and let them cool off for 10 minutes before eating.


Calories: 470kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 111mg | Sodium: 3893mg | Potassium: 441mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 1008IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 2mg
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