How to Smoke Chicken Thighs

It’s time to bite into juicy, meaty Smoked Chicken Thighs. Transform this affordable chicken cut into a mouth-watering meal with little effort. Each bite has crispy skin, juicy dark meat, and plenty of smoke flavor.

Smoked chicken thighs are simple to cook and full of amazing barbecue flavor.

Smoked chicken thighs are a perfect example of meaty, fatty, and crispy meat which can soak up the spices and char. Each bite reminds me of childhood and cooking with the family.

Why This Process Works

  • Crispy, Juicy, Meaty. These chicken thighs are crispy on the outside with charred skin and loaded with juicy, fatty meat on the inside. Every bite will remind you why you love smoked chicken. Plus, nothing beats a bite of smoked crispy chicken skin.
  • Simple, for Any Grill. Smoking chicken thighs is incredibly simple as you can do it with any pellet grill, charcoal grill, or even gas grill. The process will be the same, giving you the flexibility to repeat it anywhere you are.
  • Affordable and Accessible. Chicken thighs, especially bone-in, and skin-on, are much cheaper than many other high-demand cuts of chicken.
Tray of smoked chicken thighs, glazed with bbq sauce.

Ingredients Needed

Very few ingredients are required, outside of seasonings and sauce (optional, of course).

  • Bone-in chicken thighs – Make sure these are skin-on as well. The bone and skin helps to prevent the meat from drying out. Plus, the skin gets crispy.
  • Oil – Brushing a neutral oil onto the skin promotes rendered fat and crispy skin, specifically at the last step when the chicken is seared. Use what tastes good to you.
  • Seasoning – If you’re looking for a balanced barbecue flavor, my preferred seasoning choices would be the Signature Sweet & Smoky Rub, or Brad’s House Rub from the Chiles and Smoke Cookbook.
  • BBQ Sauce – There are a lot of homemade options available, and all of them will work very well with the seasonings recommended. My favorite would be the Sweet Honey Bourbon or Maple Chipotle BBQ Sauce.
Prepping the raw chicken thighs with bone and skin.

Step 1: Prep and Season

Trim any excess skin or fat that might be hanging off the side. Don’t remove more than necessary, the skin helps to insulate the chicken and is also very tasty in the end.

Pat the skin dry with a paper towel, and space them out on a baking sheet with a wire rack. This really works well when adding your bbq seasoning to any cut of meat.

Brush each chicken thigh with oil, and then sprinkle on your seasoning.

Try to season the chicken evenly, using a shaker helps to distribute the spices.

Do I have to brush with oil?

Oil helps to crisp up the skin, but it is not absolutely necessary. If you skip the oil, I recommend seasoning the chicken and allowing it to rest in the fridge uncovered for about an hour. Dry-brining will allow the skin to dry out, creating a crispy result as well.

Most plastic tubes of barbecue seasoning have very large holes, so I prefer to pour it into a shaker which will give you an even distribution.

Step 2: Smoke Time

Preheat your smoker to 275-300°F. Once preheated, place the chicken skin-side up on the grates away from the heat source.

You can prepare smoked chicken thighs on a pellet grill, or by using the 2-zone method with a charcoal grill. Personally, I prefer the charcoal grill for this recipe and it will easily allow you to sear the chicken to finish.

Smoke the chicken thighs for about 45-60 minutes, until they reach 175°F internal temperature.

Smoked chicken thighs are almost ready to be sauced and finished with a sear.

Step 3: Sauce and Sear

Saucing the chicken is very optional. Smoked chicken thighs are crispy and delicious if you smoke them to temperature, and you do not need the sauce… but it does add an additional layer of flavor.

Try the Smoky Sweet Heat Sauce for these, which is our signature bbq sauce.

Once the chicken thighs reach about 175°F internal temperature, brush your BBQ sauce on and get ready to sear for a finish.

If you’re using a pellet smoker, make sure you turn the heat up in an attempt to sear the chicken. I’d recommend 400°F if possible.

Flip the chicken skin-side down right over the coals for about 2 minutes, just enough to char the skin a little without burning anything. It’ll be done faster than you think, so don’t let it go for too long.

Once they are seared, set the chicken aside and allow them to rest for a few minutes before digging in.

Congrats! You have delicious smoked chicken thighs! Now crack open a beer and dig in.

Watch out for flare ups when searing your glazed chicken thighs.

Important Tips

  • Boneless chicken thighs will work for this recipe, but you’ll need to make sure to tuck them in so they don’t lay flat. The cooking time will be shorter, as the bone is no longer there insulating the meat. Do not use boneless skinless thighs for this method.
  • Hungry guests will likely eat at least 2 smoked chicken thighs, so make sure you purchase enough to accommodate.
  • The chicken thighs can be prepped a few hours ahead of time, but make sure that you take the chicken out of the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to hitting the grill.
  • Light meat, such as chicken breasts are typically cooked to a safe 165°F, but chicken thighs and wings are cooked to a higher temperature. The meat will fall off the bone and be tender, not chewy. Cook your thighs to 175-180°F and I promise you’ll have better results.
Serve up dark, smoky chicken thighs with some slices of lime to add brightness.

Common Questions

You’ve read about smoking chicken thighs and probably have a few questions. Hopefully, some of these frequently asked questions can clear up anything on your mind.

How long does it take to smoke thighs on a smoker?

Using the recommended temperature range of 275-300°F the chicken should be close to finished in just over an hour.

What temp should I smoke chicken thighs?

Using a higher temperature range of 275-300°F will produce juicy chicken with a crispier skin. Low and slow temperatures are not recommended or necessary.

Do you flip chicken thighs when smoking?

Yes, at the very end when saucing and searing the skin, which is completely optional. You can cook the thighs all the way to the finish without flipping.

Serving up a tray of smoked chicken thighs glazed with BBQ sauce.

Dark, smoky meat typically pairs well with bright foods. There’s also nothing wrong with a heaping pile of mac and cheese… you do you.

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Featuring smoked chicken thighs with glazed bbq sauce.

Smoked Chicken Thighs

It’s time to bite into juicy, meaty Smoked Chicken Thighs. Transform this affordable chicken cut into a mouth-watering meal with little effort. Don’t forget the napkins!

  • Total Time: 90 minutes
  • Yield: Serves about 3-4 1x




  1. Preheat the smoker to 275-300°F. If using a charcoal grill, build an indirect fire on one side while keeping the other side cool.
  2. Prep the chicken thighs. Remove any excess skin that could hang down and burn. Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towel, and lightly brush the skin with oil. Season generously on all sides using a shaker.
  3. Place the chicken into the grill or smoker with the skin-side up. Allow them to smoke for about an hour, or until they reach an internal temperature of 175°F.
  4. Increase the heat of your smoker for searing. If using a charcoal grill, you can sear the chicken right over the coals.
  5. Brush the skin with a layer of BBQ sauce, and then sear skin-side down over high heat for about 1-2 minutes. This won’t take long, so make sure to remove it in time and watch out for flare-ups.
  6. Rest the smoked chicken thighs for a few minutes before serving. 


  • Serve with a slice of lime or another citrus to add some brightness to the rich meat.
  • Saucing and searing are optional. You can finish the chicken simply by smoking it to about 180°F.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 75 minutes
  • Category: Chicken & Poultry
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Dinner

Keywords: chicken, chicken thighs, smoked chicken, smoked chicken thighs, bbq sauce, glazed chicken

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Join the Conversation

  1. These chicken thighs look absolutely delicious and your photos are amazing! I will definitely be giving these a try!

    1. Thanks! Hope you enjoy as much as we do!

  2. This sounds amazing. Going to try for super bowl.

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