A Smokin’ Good Time: Smoked Chicken Thighs

August 26, 2022
Written by Kristy J. Norton

I have to say that these smoked chicken thighs are one of my all-time favorite smoked chicken recipes! The smoking method was taught to me by a pitmaster that I met on the competition circuit. Now, I have added a few personal touches to it since then but it is still a treat!

From recipe to tips and tricks, you can find it all here!

Smoked chicken thighs

Smoked Chicken Thighs Recipe

Here is your guide to the best smoked chicken thighs:


  • 4 chicken thighs

For the Rub

  • 3 tbs. of brown sugar
  • 1 tbs. of smoked paprika
  • 1.5 tsp. of garlic powder
  • 1.5 tsp. of onion powder
  • 1 tbs. of chili powder
  • 1.5 tsp. of cumin powder
  • 1.5 tsp. of kosher salt
  • 1.5 tsp. of black pepper

For the Glaze

  • Homemade or favorite barbecue sauce
smoked chicken platter


Step 1

Combine all the dry rub ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Trim the skin on the underside of the chicken thighs but leave the layer on top. Remove any excess fat too.

Step 2

Coat each chicken thigh with the rub, making sure to apply some under the skin as well. Press the ingredients into the meat and skin so that it will adhere tightly.

Step 3

Preheat the smoker to 225 to 250 degrees F.

Place the chicken, skin side up on the smoker. Cook the chicken thighs until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. This can take 90 minutes to 2 hours.

At the halfway point, flip the chicken thighs over and resume smoking.

Step 4

When the chicken thighs reach 150 degrees F, turn the heat up to 400 degrees F.

Take the chicken out of the smoker and baste with BBQ sauce.

Return to the smoker and continue smoking. After a few minutes, flip the chicken thighs over and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

Take off the smoker and let rest for up to 10 minutes.

Related Reading

All About the Chicken Thighs

Here are some tips for choosing and prepping chicken thighs for smoking:

Select Bone In, Skin On Chicken Thighs

These days, skinless and boneless chicken thighs are becoming increasingly more popular. And, I understand why! They are quick and easy to cook. Not to mention, skinless chicken thighs are a healthier option as well.

Despite this, I would suggest using bone in, skin on chicken thighs – I will explain why.

The first reason is moisture. When smoking chicken thighs or chicken legs, there is always a risk of the meat drying out. The chicken skin, however, helps to lock the moisture in, ensuring juicy and delicious smoked chicken thighs.

Not to mention, as far as taste and texture goes, it doesn’t get any better than crispy chicken skin.

As for the bones, they add flavor to the meat and can also help to keep your smoked chicken thighs nice and tender, too.

Look for Similar Sizes

The other thing that I would suggest doing is to look for thighs that are of similar size to one another and that appear to have a similar amount of flesh on them.

The reason for this is that the thighs will then cook at a similar rate and more or less be done at the same time. This will save you the hassle of having to cook some of the chicken thighs less or more than the others.

Allow the Thighs to Warm Up

If you are using frozen chicken thighs, make sure to defrost it completely. The best way to do this would be to thaw the thighs in the fridge.

If you are short on time, though, place the chicken in a Ziploc bag, seal it, and submerge in a bowl of cold water. Make sure to swap out the water every half an hour and the chicken should defrost quickly.

Furthermore, about 15 to 20 minutes before smoking chicken thighs, take them out of the fridge and leave them on the counter, covered but don’t let them sit for longer than an hour.

This step allows the chicken to warm up and cook evenly.

marinated chicken thighs and legs

Prepping the Thighs

While some skin is good, you don’t want the skin all around, though. This is because you want the chicken to absorb that gorgeous, smoky flavor. Thus, trim the skin from the bottom portion of the chicken and you will have the best of both worlds!

If there is any excess fat, trim this as well.

The Dry Rub

The spice rub is lends quite a bit of the smoked chicken thighs. However, there is no need to follow the rub ingredients that I have mentioned here.

While this spice rub is pretty great, it is all about discovering which herbs and spices appeal to your taste buds. If you are using a BBQ sauce, you may want to think about which flavors will complement it best.

Now, if you are having a bit of trouble getting the dry rub to stick to the chicken, I would suggest that you apply olive oil all over. This can act as a sort of glue and can be great for creating a nice and tasty crust as well.

Basting the Chicken Thighs

If you want, you can choose to skip this step when smoking chicken thighs. Some people prefer to add the sauce afterwards – it is up to you.

If you are basting the smoked chicken thighs, though, I would make two suggestions. First, make your own barbecue sauce as it really does taste so much better.

Second, when basting, apply a thin layer of sauce to the chicken on either side. Don’t go overboard and certainly don’t dislodge the rub ingredients from the skin.

Using a Meat Thermometer

The most common piece of advice that I will hand out is to never judge whether or not your chicken thighs are done based on smoking time. Instead, always check the internal temperature.

According to the USDA, chicken thighs need to have an internal temperature of 165 degrees F before they are safe to consume. When using a meat thermometer, always poke it into the innermost part of the thigh for an accurate reading.

Just before you remove the thighs from the smoker, make sure to check the temp of each and every chicken thigh.

Setting Up the Smoker

Here are some tips for getting your smoker ready:

Choosing Your Wood Chips

One of the key elements of smoked chicken thighs is the wood chips that go into your smoker. What you choose all depends on the kind of smoky flavor that you like.

Personally, I feel like fruit woods are the way to go here. Cherry and applewood are at the top of my list. That being said, you can’t really go wrong with maple or oak either.

Before making a decision, I would recommend considering what herbs and spices you are using in your rub. Find something that will work well with what you have chosen.

If you enjoy experimenting with flavors, I would suggest mixing and matching to find a combination that suits you.

Finding the Right Temperature

Now, usually I like to smoke at 225 degrees F for most meats as it is a great option for low and slow cooking. At this temperature, it is very difficult to dry out the meat.

However, with chicken thighs skin, you can go up to 250 degrees F, if you like. The skin does an admirable job of keeping the chicken moist, but you need to make sure that it becomes crispy and not rubbery.

Due to this, a slightly higher temperature than usual may be helpful here.

If you decide on the higher temperature, though, check the internal temperature at around the 45 minute mark to determine the rate at which the meat is smoking.

Use a Hood Thermometer

In addition to an instant read thermometer, I would also suggest investing in a hood one for your smoker. If you have an electric smoker or a newer model, then this may already present on your smoker.

If this isn’t the case, though, it is a good idea to get one of your own. This allows you to keep track of the temperature of the cooking chamber, ensuring that it is neither too high nor low. This is the key to ensuring that the meat cooks at a suitable rate but that it doesn’t burn or dry out either.

Smoking the Chicken Thighs

Here are some tips to follow while smoking the meat:

placing raw chicken on a bbq grill

Smoke the Chicken Uninterrupted

If you want competition style chicken thighs, then it is important to be patient with this smoked chicken thighs recipe.

After putting the chicken thighs skin side up in the smoker and closing the lid, let the chicken cook undisturbed for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Opening and closing the lid too often will simply cause you to lose precious smoke.

Should I Flip Chicken Thighs When Smoking?

With grilled chicken, you may be used to flipping the meat every now and then. With smoked chicken thighs, you will not be doing this quite so often.

Instead, wait until the smoking has reached its halfway point and then flip over. The only other time you will flip the chicken is halfway through searing it.

Reverse Searing the Chicken

Once the chicken is nearly cooked through, you will raise the temperature and then sear the meat.

Now, this step isn’t absolutely necessary and you can skip it if you wish to. However, this does give you gorgeous charred bits and crispy skin – so it is a win-win situation!

You will have to monitor the internal temperature carefully when searing the meat, however, as you don’t want to burn or dry out the chicken. The moment that it hits 165 degrees F, it is time to take the meat off the smoker.

Resting the Chicken

Finally, let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before you serve it. During this time, any juices that have been expelled will be reabsorbed by the meat, resulting in a tasty and tender dish!

Frequently Asked Questions

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

It can take about 90 minutes to two hours to smoke thighs.

How Long Do You Smoke Chicken Thighs at 275?

It can take 75 minutes to one hour and 45 minutes to smoke a chicken thigh at this temp.

How Long Do You Smoke Chicken Thighs For?

You should smoke thighs until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Final Thoughts

There you have it – all you need to know about making smoked chicken thighs yourself! Follow this recipe as well as the tips and tricks and you are sure not to go wrong!

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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