Great Choice For A Crowd
Okay, so you are having a crowd to cook for and you need a tasty but inexpensive meat choice for the main course. Think bone-in chicken thighs to go in the smoker. With a little prep work, this dish will steal the show. I’m offering a few tips that will make these babies the tastiest and most tender chicken you will ever eat. It’s time to get your smokin’ game on with some smoked chicken thighs!
Tips And Tricks For Success
- Choose thighs that are about the same size and weight when purchasing them at the store or butchers. This will ensure you will not have to worry whether they will cook evenly or be ready at the same time.
- When preparing for smoking, you want to remove any fat under the skin. Gently pull back the skin in one direction so that one side is still attached to the flesh. Using a sharp knife, cut off any fat pockets you may find and discard. Place the skin back over the meat.
- For a chicken thigh brine recipe, layer the thighs in a deep bowl or roasting pan. Using dill pickle juice, or kosher salt, brown sugar, and water mixture, cover and soak the chicken with the brine. Let chill for four hours.
- During the soaking time, prepare your favorite dry rub and barbecue sauce.
- Here are some smoked chicken thighs rub recipe ideas if you want to try something different.
BBQ Rub Ingredients
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Ground Black Pepper
- Light Brown Sugar
BBQ Herbal Rub With A Kick
- Sea Salt
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Dried oregano
- Ground turmeric
- Chili powder
- Lemon pepper
If you want some homemade barbeque sauce ideas, you might want to give this recipe a try.
Smoked Chicken Thighs BBQ Sauce
- Brown sugar
- White vinegar
- Lemon juice
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
Just mix ingredients in a bowl. For best results, allow the flavors to blend in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
For an Asian flavored smoked chicken thigh, try this marinade.
- Dark brown sugar
- Soy sauce
- Fresh lime juice, from 2-3 limes
- Vegetable oil
- Asian sesame oil
- Garam Masala or curry powder
- Garlic, minced
- Freshly grated ginger
- Cayenne pepper
Mix. Set aside about a half cup to put in the sauce later. Pour marinade into a large baggie, add chicken thighs, seal, and chill for about 4 hours. A good idea is to place the bag with the chicken in a bowl in case of a leak. Smoke the thighs for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Brush remaining sauce to meat before serving.
One question I always get is how do you get a crispy skin when smoking chicken. I admit it is a challenge, but it is possible. Once again, removing as much of the chicken fat is part of the key to success, believe it or not. Once the fat is removed and the dry rub is added, place a pat of margarine or butter, underneath the skin as well as on top. Smoke the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 175F. At this point, you have a couple of choices. You can place on a grill for about 10 minutes on high, or put in the oven on broil for about 4-6 minutes. These methods prevent the skin from being rubbery or like leather when biting into the thigh.
There is a debate as to whether smoking right on the grate is better than smoking in a small loaf pan. The decision comes down to taste and appearance. The loaf pan technique is strong on having a lighter color, milder smoke, but more buttery flavor while placing the thighs directly on the grate gives the meat a darker color and heavier smoke flavor. This is a matter of choice, so you might want to try it both ways to see which way the crowd votes as to the most popular technique.
When it comes to the matter of what flavor wood chips to use, once again personal preference plays a big role. As for me, if I use a sweet barbeque sauce or go Asian, I like the milder fruity chips like apple or cherry. When going hot and spicy, hickory or pecan hit the right smoky flavor note.
Adding the barbeque sauce does best by brushing on the thighs around the last 10 minutes of cooking. This gives the sauce time to set up on the thigh before serving. If using the oven to crisp the skin, return the thighs to the smoker to add the sauce. Doing it this way ensures the barbeque sauce will have a smoky flavor when the thighs reach the table.
If you are interested in entering a formal competition, you will want to remove the knuckle away from the thigh bone using shears, as well as making each thigh as uniform in size as possible. Appearance, as well as flavor, plays a role in acquiring points with the judges. Often mini-loaf pans are used to smoke the thighs with the skin tucked around the meat. Finish them off by switching the thighs to a cooking rack or grate after dipping in barbeque sauce. This gives the sauce a better flavor as well as a nice surface finish to the thighs. Be sure to bring an attractive platter along with garnishes for an award-winning presentation.
Smoked chicken thighs Traeger style just requires that you preheat the grill to 350F with the lid closed. The temperature should be right in about 15 minutes. They ill have a better texture at 180F but are ready to eat at 165F.
Smoking vs. Grilling
I love smoked meat. That said, grilling is my second favorite way to prepare meat for the table. I like that the chicken thighs can be ready to eat in just a couple of hours, letting the smoker do most of the work. Grilling time is a bit shorter, but I have to stay by the grill’s side most of the time, turning and basting.
When I smoke thighs, I will load up the smoker with what I call “now-and-laters” hoping to make several meals at once. The thighs will keep several days in the fridge as well as freeze nicely. Usually, they don’t make it to the freezer as chicken thigh thieves tend to steal them in the middle of the night and the thighs are gone by the next morning. They are that good!