One for the Recipe Books: Smoked Chicken Breast!

August 26, 2022
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Smoked chicken breast is actually a fan favorite in my family. As I come from a long line of BBQ lovers and pitmasters, most of my kin preferred tossing the chicken breast in the smoker rather than roasting it.

Due to this, I have had plenty of time to play around with flavors, temperatures, and more. I can now teach you all that I have learned!

Smoked Chicken Breast

A Note About Brining

Before I move onto the recipe, I just want to broach the topic of brining the chicken first. Now, some people are for it while others feel like it is a waste of time.

However, chicken breasts are white meat which means that there is a higher risk of them drying. Thus, if you have ever wondered:

raw chicken breasts

How do you smoke chicken breast without drying it out?

Then, brining is the answer.

One recipe that you can follow is to dissolve 6 tablespoons of kosher salt in 6 cups of water. This should be enough to brine six chicken breasts. If you want, you can also add in other aromatics such as garlic, star anise, ginger, lemon peel, black pepper, etc.

If you want, you can use warm water so that the salt can dissolve more easily. Make sure that the solution is completely cooled before you add the chicken breasts or you may risk food poisoning.

Pour the brine into a shallow baking dish and place chicken breasts in it. Cover and refrigerate for up to two hours.

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Smoked Chicken Breast Recipe

Smoked Chicken Breast


  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 2 tbs. of yellow mustard or 1 tbs. of olive oil
  • 2 tsp. of kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. of black pepper
  • 1 tbs. of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. of onion powder
  • 2 tbs. of brown sugar
  • 1 tbs. of paprika
  • 1 tbs. of parsley


Step 1

Remove the chicken breasts from the brine and pat dry carefully. Gently apply a thin layer of yellow mustard on each chicken breast.

Step 2

Combine all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Then, sprinkle the rub onto each chicken breast, making sure to coat each side.

Step 3

Preheat smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Close the lid and wait for 10 minutes.

Place the chicken breasts on the smoker and close the lid. Smoke until each chicken breast registers at 165 degrees internally. This should take about an hour.

Take the smoked chicken breasts out and place on a serving platter. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

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How to Get Perfect Smoked Chicken Breasts Every Time?

Here are the top tips that you need to follow:

Choosing the Right Cut

Yes, the key to delicious smoked chicken breast is choosing the right pieces.

My first piece of advice is to choose bone in over boneless chicken breasts. I am well aware that the boneless version is the far easier option and it cooks faster too. However, you just can’t beat the flavor that the bone adds!

Furthermore, a bone in chicken breast is far more forgiving than boneless chicken breast. This is because it helps to retain moisture and prevent the meat from drying out.

As or skinless chicken breasts, I would advise against these as well. First off, the skin traps that delicious smoky flavor. It is also great at retaining moisture. Sure, it may not be the healthiest option but you should consider bucking the rules every once in a while.

Basically, stay clear of boneless skinless chicken breasts, especially for your first time. Once you have the hang of smoked chicken recipes such as these, then you can try out something else.

The other piece of advice that I would offer up is to make sure that each chicken breast is of a similar size, shape, and thickness. This ensures that they will cook evenly and will save you the trouble of having to check the internal temperature of each chicken breast in the batch.

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Finding the Right Rub for You

The dry rub for this smoked chicken breast recipe is great, but it doesn’t mean that you have to stop there. With so many seasoning blends to choose from, your options are endless!

From spicy to sweet to smoky, you have creative license to test out all these different flavors. You can also figure out you favorite ratio with a little bit of experiment. I would suggest using a different rub every time that you try smoking chicken breasts.

marinated chicken breasts

And, although it is called a dry rub, don’t be afraid to throw in some hot sauce as well.

Mustard vs. Olive Oil

As you will see in the ingredient list, I have added that you can use either mustard or oil as a sticking agent. Personally, I prefer mustard but olive oil works just as well.

If you are worried that the mustard is going to interfere with how your smoked chicken breast tastes, think again! The heat causes it to evaporate.

Using a Thermometer

One of the most common questions that I am asked is how long should you smoke chicken breasts for. My answer is: don’t go according to time but instead, temperature.

No one realizes just how many factors can impact cook time. This includes the temperature of the chicken breasts going in, the temperature of the smoker, the humidity level, and lots more!

Therefore, if you to rely on time alone, you can end up guessing wrong. Instead, always use a meat thermometer to take the internal temperature of the smoked chicken breast.

Always cook the chicken breast to 165 degrees – this ensures that the meat is safe to consume. Now, due to carryover cooking, it is possible that the smoked chicken will continue to cook even after it is removed from the smoker. It can go up by as much as ten degrees.

If you don’t want to risk the chicken overcooking, then you can take it out at the 160 degree mark. It is a good idea to check the temp before serving, however.

If you are getting the bone in version, make sure to take the temperature at least an inch away from the bone. In general, you should aim for the thickest part of the smoked chicken breast. Otherwise, you may end up with the wrong reading.

Now, I can appreciate that it is annoying checking the temperature of each chicken breast, particularly if you are cooking up a large batch. Save yourself some trouble and check the thickest chicken breast instead. This should allow you to accurately guess whether the other portions are done or not.

Barbecue Sauce – Yay or Nay?

There are some who like to paint a thin layer of BBQ sauce about 10 minutes before the chicken breasts are smoked through. So, is this something that you should give a try?

This is should something that you should check out, at least once. For me, I do feel that as long as you use the right seasoning ingredients that the smoked chicken breast will end up with plenty of flavor, but it is all about personal preference.

Adhere to the Resting Time

Always let the chicken rest once it has been taken off the smoker. Never rush the resting process. Especially since chicken breasts are smaller portions, it usually only takes about ten minutes or so of rest time.

Marinated Chicken Breast

So, why is this waiting period so important?

Well, whenever chicken is heated past a certain point, the muscles contracting, causes the liquid in the fibers to be pushed out.

When the chicken rests, you give the fibers a chance to reabsorb this moisture and flavor!

Top Tips for the Best Smoking Results

New to smoking? Here are some guidelines that you can follow:

Selecting the Right Wood Chips

Don’t just blindly choose your wood chips! This is a great opportunity for you to play around with flavor!

All the signature flavors that are housed inside the different types of chips are released during the smoking process and are captured by the chicken.

Now, I understand if you want to play it safe, particularly if you are new to smoking. In this case, I would suggest oak – smoky and delicious but not overpowering.

If you don’t mind a bit of experimenting, I would suggest something sweet like cherry, apple, or maple. Once again, these are quite mild so the flavor and aromas will not be overwhelming.

I would advise you to skip hickory or mesquite for chicken breasts. The meat is too delicate and these pungent woods will end up causing the meat to be quite bitter.

Avoid Soaking the Wood

I often find a lot of people advising others to soak the wood before adding it to the wood. However, this trick isn’t much of a trick at all and won’t help you to cook chicken properly.

Contrary to popular belief, the water doesn’t help to produce more smoke. Instead, just more steam is created. While this may help with the cooking process, it can take away from the smoke flavor.

Not to mention, the soaked chips can lower the general flavor and take it longer for you to smoke the chicken.

Getting the Right Temperature

When smoking something as delicate as chicken breast, it is important to find the right balance for the temp.

On the one hand, you need it to be low enough to slow cook without drying out the chicken. At the same time, you don’t want the temp to be so low that it is going to take ages to smoke.

With some trial and error, I have found that 225 degrees is the sweet spot. I certainly wouldn’t advise going any higher than this. You can opt for a lower temperature if you want – around 180 degrees but be prepared for this to take a lot longer.

Smoked chicken breasts can seem a bit unusual but give it a try and you are sure to love it. In fact, I would even bet that it would become your favorite over grilled or roasted chicken. And, now with the proper instructions, you know how to smoke chicken breasts to perfection each and every time!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the commonly asked questions:

How Long Does It Take to Smoke Chicken Breasts at 225?

It can take an hour or a little longer to smoke a chicken breast. It is best to go according to temperature instead of just relying on time, however.

What Temperature Should You Smoke Chicken Breast?

The best temperature is 225 degrees, although you can smoke the chicken at a lower temperature than this.

How Do You Keep Chicken Moist When Smoking?

If you brine the chicken beforehand, this allows it to maintain most moisture. You should also opt for bone in chicken breasts with the skin on as they are less likely to lose juices while being smoked.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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