Looking to fire up your Pit Boss grill and crank out some of the juiciest, smokiest, most jaw-dropping chicken you’ve ever tasted? I’ve got you. Toss that bird in some dry brine and let it sit for 30-60 minutes, then smoke it for an hour at 225°F. The crunchy skin and oh-so-tender chicken might leave you licking your plate (no judgment here).
I’ve owned several Pit Boss grills at various points, which means that I know a thing or two about smoking chicken breast on one. I’ve been tweaking my process until I figured out the best brining technique, rub mixture, and smoking process to produce the perfect dish.
I’m passing this knowledge on to you - let’s cook!
Pit Boss pellet grill brand is one of my favorite options for smoking. It offers models that are affordable and user-friendly. Their pellet grill is a great smoker.
Note: Pit Boss makes several grills, not just a pellet grill. This recipe will work for any smoker or grill. Set your cooker up for indirect grilling, and toss some wood chips or chunks on the live fire, and away we go.
Now, to make sure you are getting the most out of your Pit Boss, I am going to give you a quick overview of how to set it up.
Before you get started, check the fire pot and discard any ashes. Reinsert the fire pot carefully, confirming that it is clipped into place.
You should also examine the hopper. Does it have enough pellets in there? If not, top up the hopper so there are enough pellets to last you the entire cook. You don’t want to stop halfway through to get a refill going. (Trust me, I’ve been there.)
The next step is to set the Pit Boss pellet grill to 225°F and power it up. If you emptied out the hopper during your last cook, then you will need to Prime the grill first.
Otherwise, you can simply close the lid and let it smoke for up to about 10 minutes. Once the grill’s warmed up, it is ready to use.
Let me touch quickly on the “Smoke” mode on the Pit Boss pellet grill. This cranks out smoke at cooler temps - around 180°F. Don’t use it for chicken. I’d suggest smoking cheeses, fish, and bacon at those lower temps.
I always dry brine chicken breasts before I smoke them. This helps the meat hold onto its moisture, resulting in a nice and juicy chicken breast.
The other perk of this method is that it causes the skin to dry out, making it nice and crispy. That’s what I call a win-win situation.
Now, I know that most people are more familiar with a wet brine. However, I’m here to tell you to give the dry brine method a try - it’s faster and easier than a wet brine.
If you do decide to use a dry brine, apply the salt and other seasonings all at once.
Use kosher salt - not table salt.
Place each chicken breast on a workspace. Mix together all the ingredients listed in the dry rub. Season the chicken with the rub, making sure every inch of skin is generously coated.
Place in the refrigerator, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
That’s it! Level up your chicken in no time at all - you just need to plan ahead a bit so the rub has time to work on the chicken.
Mix the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl.
Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels.
Sprinkle the dry rub onto each chicken breast. Press into the skin. Allow the rub to sit for 30-60 minutes on the chicken (in the refrigerator) if using as a dry brine.
Preheat the Pit Boss pellet grill to 225°F. Close the lid and wait for 10-15 minutes for the grill to heat up.
Arrange each chicken breast on the grill grates. Make sure to leave a bit of space between each chicken breast.
Close the lid and cook the chicken breasts. I like to flip each chicken breast over at the halfway mark (30 minutes).
If you want to glaze the chicken breasts, then lift the cover at around the 45-minute mark. Using a pastry brush or basting brush, apply a thin layer of barbecue sauce to each chicken breast.
You can repeat this for about 5 minutes before you take the smoked chicken breasts off the pellet grill.
Reverse-sear the chicken breasts. Once the breasts hit 155°F internally, pull them from heat. Crank your grill or pellet smoker to 500°F.
Put the chicken back on the grill, around 1 minute per side. Watch the grill closely, and move the breasts if the flames get too close. Pull them from the grill once the internal temperature of the chicken breast hits 165°F.
If you don’t want to reverse sear, just let the chicken breasts come to 165°F on the 225°F smoker.
Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite BBQ sauce for dipping, if desired
I use bone-in and skin-on breasts.
I know that a lot of people prefer to cook skinless chicken breasts without the bone. For this particular recipe, though, I’d nudge you toward skin-on and bone-in chicken breasts.
If you try to smoke boneless, skinless chicken breasts, they won’t be quite as tender and flavorful as you would like them to be.
Even better, they enable the chicken breast to hold onto more of its moisture, making for a juicier bird. And don't worry - it doesn't add to your cooking time.
The same goes for the skin too. When smoking chicken on a Pit Boss grill, there is a higher risk of losing moisture. It’s a long cook for lean meat. The skin acts as a barrier, keeping the liquid in. As a bonus, it also gets nice and crispy, adding a crunchy snap to the smoked chicken breasts.
The rub plays an important role in these smoked chicken breasts. If the rub doesn’t stick to the chicken breast like you need it to, I’ve got a trick up my sleeve.
You can use either olive oil or mustard as a binding agent. My personal preference is mustard. Not only does it add some zippy acidity, it helps the skin can get nice and crispy.
If you are using the oil, apply a thin layer. Use a basting brush to apply mustard or oil.
Apple, cherry, and maple are all excellent choices here. I am also fond of oak and pecan.
It comes down to personal preference and what flavors you like best. Keep in mind that chicken is delicately flavored. As such, it is also a good idea to go with a wood that is equally mild.
Of course, there is no need to stick with one option. Many people like to add a handful of different hardwoods to create a subtle yet lovely flavor. Play around with hardwood blends and create your own signature smoke.
As usual, I’d steer clear of mesquite. It tends to have a strong and overpowering flavor. If paired with chicken, the smokey flavor can overwhelm the natural flavor profile of the meat and rub.
When you cook chicken breast on a Pit Boss pellet grill, there are lots of temperature options to choose from. And you will probably find various recipes all quoting different temperatures.
I like to smoke many of my meats, including chicken breasts, at 225°F on the pellet grill. It’s a small cut, so it only get an hour or so of smoke - far less time than, say, a pork shoulder. Cooking at a lower temperature maximizes the length of time that chicken gets to absorb smoke.
I know that some like to turn up the heat so that the chicken will cook faster. While you can take it up to 250°F without any issue, I find chicken breasts cook too quickly at temps higher than 250°F and don’t absorb enough smoke for my tastes.
If you do smoke the breasts at a higher temperature, make sure to track the internal temperature of the chicken breasts very carefully. They’ll cook fast, and the further past 165°F you go, the less juicy your chicken breast will be.
I would suggest investing in an instant-read thermometer that has a display outside of the grill or can be viewed on a phone app. This will help you monitor your grill's temperature, and make sure you’re cooking at the right temperatures.
I flip my chicken breasts, even when I smoke them.
When cooking chicken on a grill over direct heat, you will flip each breast - often several times. This is done so that both the top and the bottom of the chicken will cook evenly.
With smoked chicken, though, this isn't strictly necessary, since we’re cooking over indirect heat. The pellet grill’s cooking chamber will fill with heat and smoke, cooking the entire breast at once, much like an oven does.
Still, I think it’s best to flip the breast when cooking chicken in a smoker at the halfway point. This will get you handsome grill marks on both sides. Not only does this add to the presentation (people eat with their eyes), but it will improve overall taste and texture too.
Have the best of both worlds and reverse sear your smoked chicken breasts. That way, you’ll get a dark exterior with ultra-crisp skin, and chicken that’s plenty smokey.
If you want to make the best ever smoked chicken, then you have to rely on a thermometer to track the internal temp. Some Pit Boss pellet grills are equipped with one, but investing in a good quality, one will always be the right move.
People tend to overcook chicken breasts. Tracking the internal temp is such an excellent guide to make sure you’re not one of those people. To check, place the probe in the thickest part of the breast and at least an inch away from the bone.
Now, if you want, you can take out the breasts at 160°F. Due to a process known as carryover cooking, the meat will continue cooking even after it is removed from the heat. It will climb to a safe temperature of 165°F, and taking it off a little early can ensure that the meat doesn't turn out dry.
If you decide to do this, make sure to baste the chicken earlier, too, if this is a step that you are including in the process.
Preparing chicken breasts on a Pit Boss grill is a lot easier than you may have initially imagined. Give the breasts a roll in some dry brine and let them sit in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. Then, cook those puppies on your smoker at 225°F for about an hour, monitoring that internal temp like a hawk. Reverse-sear them for the ultimate finish.
Now that you know all the ingredients, steps, tips, and tricks, you can bring this dish to life. Play around and add a few of your own touches along the way!