Homemade Smoked Chicken Rub for Perfectly Seasoned Poultry

October 5, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Tired of shelling out cash for store-bought rubs that never quite hit the mark? 

What if I tell you with just a few simple ingredients from your kitchen, you can whip up a killer homemade smoked chicken rub that'll have you saying, "Holy smokes!"?

I've been making BBQ chicken for as long as I can remember, and this spicy chicken rub recipe has never failed me. And in this article, I'm here to give you the full scoop on how to make a smoked chicken rub. I'll also give you some pro tips on how to rub the bird and make smoked chicken.

So grab your apron, and let's get to it. 

smoked chicken rub

Homemade Smoked Chicken Rub Recipe 

Without further ado, I'll be showing you all the ingredients and step-by-step moves I use in making my chicken dry rub recipe.

Ingredients for Dry Chicken Rub 

  • 2 tbsps paprika
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (if you like it hot!)
Whole Raw Chicken Rubbed with Spices

Step-by-step Instructions for Smoked Chicken Rub 

Step 1: Mix the Ingredients in a Small Bowl

Grab a small bowl and toss in all the spices. Remember, two tablespoons of paprika, one tablespoon each of brown sugar, kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Also, one teaspoon each of dried thyme and dried oregano. 

And if you're feeling daring, add a half teaspoon cayenne pepper. Remember, we're making dry, not wet rub. So, no liquids. This is not barbecue sauce.

Step 2: Blend Well for Even Distribution

Now get a spoon or use your fingers to blend the ingredients well to ensure evenness. 

Make sure there are no clumps, and every spice mixes well. This will ensure your smoked chicken is perfectly seasoned.

Step 3: Store in an Airtight Container

Transfer your homemade smoked chicken rub to a spice jar or airtight container. I like to do this to preserve the freshness and flavors of the chicken dry rub. Store it in a cool and dry place until you're ready to use it.

Tips: The ingredients and directions provided above are ideal for chicken breasts, chicken wings, and whole chicken. You can also use it on veggies and potatoes.

How to Apply the Dry Rub to Chicken?

Step 1

When it's time to smoke the chicken, rinse the whole chicken, chicken breasts, or thighs in water. 

Step 2

After that, pat it dry with some paper towels. We want it clean and ready to take all the spice and seasoning flavors. 

Step 3

Next, drizzle some olive oil all over the chicken. This allows the dry rub you're about to apply stick to the chicken skin. The oil helps the dry rub stick to the meat so they don't fall off or turn dry while smoking. Don't have olive oil? Vegetable oil is fine too. 

Step 4

Place the chicken in a bowl big enough to contain it. 

Step 5

Now take out the chicken dry rub and start coating your chicken with it. Ensure that all sides of the chicken are covered with the dry rub, gently pressing it into the meat. 

Step 6

Let the chicken sit with the homemade dry rub on for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat. For a more intense flavor, you can refrigerate the chicken overnight.

Man Rubs Chicken Wings with Spices

How to Smoke the Seasoned Chicken?

  1. Start by getting your smoker preheated. The temperature range of 225°F to 250°F (107°C to 121°C) is perfect for smoking chicken low and slow. 
  2. Place your seasoned chicken on the grates of the smoker and close the lid. Let it dance in the smoky haze for around 2 to 3 hours. 
  3. Keep an eye on the internal temperature of the meat with a digital meat thermometer. Poke it in the thickest part of the meat (usually the breast). When it reaches a sizzling 165°F (74°C), you know it's done.
  4. Once you've taken the smoked chicken out of the smoker, give it a breather. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. The juices will redistribute, resulting in tender, moist meat.
  5. Serve your smoked chicken masterpiece alongside your favorite sides. 

Modifications for the Smoked Chicken Rub Recipe

You can adjust the recipe to your taste and needs, whether you're making smoked chicken thighs, chicken breast, chicken legs or spatchcocking whole chickens. Here are some of the ways to modify the spice rub:

  • Play With the Heat: Do you love spicy rubs with some fire? You can amp up the cayenne pepper for a spicy explosion. Not into heat? No worries, just ease the cayenne pepper quantity or ditch it altogether.
  • The Sweet and Savory: Want some dry rub with more flavor? Sprinkle in a bit more brown sugar or a tablespoon of honey to add a sweet twist to the smoky flavor.
  • Citrus Zing: Fancy a burst of freshness? Zest a lemon or orange and mix that into the dry rub. It'll take the aroma and taste to a whole new level.
  • Smoked Paprika Power-Up: Craving extra smokiness? Swap regular paprika with the smoky version to intensify that delicious campfire essence.
  • Garlic and Onion Party: You can also go for fresh minced garlic and finely chopped onion instead of the garlic and onion powder version. Mix them right into the dry rub for a bold and punchy flavor fiesta.
  • Smoky Flavor from Wood Chips: Would you like to boost the smoky vibes? Play with different wood chips like hickory, mesquite, applewood, or cherry to create unique flavors.
  • Convert the Rub to Marinade: You may as well combine the smoked chicken rub with a splash of olive oil and lemon juice to create a marinade. You can also shake things up by adding a splash of apple cider vinegar or Worcestershire sauce to the marinade. Let that chicken soak up the flavors in the fridge for a few hours before smoking.

When Do You Put Dry Rub on Chicken?

The chicken rub here is unlike barbecue sauce that's applied during or after the cook.

It's always ideal to apply the chicken dry rub on your chicken around 30 minutes before smoking time. That's enough time for the spices to meld in. 

Now, if you're looking for flavorful meat, go all out! I like to slather that smoked chicken rub on a few hours or even overnight before smoking chicken. Just remember to keep it chilling in the fridge to stay fresh and safe.

Spicy Tandoori Chicken Grilling with Smoke

How Do You Smoke Chicken So It's Not Dry?

  • Brine it Up: Brining is the secret to juicy smoked chicken. Soak those chicken pieces in a simple brine of water, salt, and dark brown sugar for a few hours before smoking. It locks in moisture and adds a flavor boost.
  • Go for Skin-On: You may also keep that skin on when smoking chicken. It acts as a tasty shield, keeping the meat moist and locking in flavors. Plus, you get that crispy skin with caramelized crust as a bonus.
  • Cook Low and Slow: Take it easy with the heat. Smoke that chicken at a nice and slow temperature range of 225°F to 250°F. Slow and steady wins the race to juicy goodness.
  • Use a Water Pan: Don't forget to pop a water pan in your smoker. The water creates a moisture-rich environment that keeps your chicken from drying out. It's like a spa treatment for your poultry. 
  • Baste and Spritz: Show your chicken some love during the smoking process. Give it a good basting with some apple juice, broth, or a buttery herb mixture. This keeps the juices flowing and adds flavor to the party.
  • Wrap It Up (If You Want): To amp up the moisture factor, consider wrapping up your chicken in aluminum foil or butcher paper during the later smoking stage. It's the "Texas crutch" technique that locks in the juiciness. Just know that the skin won't be super crispy. But the tenderness is worth it!
  • Don't Overcook: Keep a close eye on that temperature. Don't let your barbecue chicken overcook! When it hits a perfect 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part, it's time to rescue it from the smoker.
  • Rest and Relax: Give that grilled chicken a few minutes to chill and relax before you dive in with your knife. This resting time allows the juices to be distributed evenly. So you won't have soggy and dry spots. 

Conclusion

I hope you can now see making your homemade smoked chicken rub recipe is quite simple. For the most basic chicken rub recipe, what you need is a few tablespoons of regular or smoked paprika for the smoke flavor, spices for the heat, and then salt, brown sugar, and some honey for sweetness. This is a good mix for that perfect smoked chicken thighs, chicken wings, chicken legs, chicken breast, or whole chicken.

Now that you've got the secret blend of flavors, it's time to level up your grilling game. Whether you're throwing a backyard bash or just craving some good chicken, this dry rub recipe is your ticket to flavor town. It's what you need for that delicious and oh-so-juicy smoked chicken. But remember, cooking is an art, so don't be afraid to put your own spin on things.

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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