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What Are Smoked Chicken Thighs?

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson

Smoked chicken thighs are thigh pieces of chicken that have been cooked using the smoke from hard wood as opposed to directly through heat alone. Many different flavors can be achieved using different woods to create the smoke. The heat within the smoker or over the grill cooks the meat, but the excessive smoke also infuses into the meat and adds flavor to the finished product. Herbs and spices can be applied to the outside of the smoked chicken thighs to further enhance the flavor of the dish. Cooking by smoking is more time consuming than other methods of cooking — smoking chicken thighs can take anywhere between two and five hours.

Any chicken thigh cooked using smoke can be classified as a smoked chicken thigh. Generally, indirect coal heat is combined with the smoke from specific types of wood to cook meat by smoking. Special devices called smokers can be used to smoke meat, but it can also be done on an ordinary barbecue. While the indirect heat is required to raise the meat to a safe temperature, the majority of the flavor comes from the smoke which is infused into the meat during cooking. Different woods used in the smoking process infuse different flavors into the smoked chicken thighs.


Many different combinations of herbs and spices can be used when making smoked chicken thighs. The herbs and spices are ordinarily rubbed into the skin on the outside of the chicken thigh. Salt and pepper are common additions to most seasoning mixes, and other ingredients such as oregano, thyme, onion powder, and basil can be used for additional flavor. The best smoked chicken thighs are made when the seasoning rub has flavors which complement the wood being used for the smoke.

The time it takes to smoke chicken is heavily dependent on the temperature of the smoker or grill it is being cooked on. Most recipes suggest smoking chicken thighs at around 225 degrees Fahrenheit (107 Celsius) for just over two hours. Temperature can vary, however, particularly when the meat is being smoked on a grill, and as a result it can sometimes take up to five hours to make smoked chicken thighs. A thermometer can help determine when the meat is cooked, and chicken thighs should be 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 Celsius) when ready to eat.

Side dishes can be served with smoked chicken thighs to form a meal, or they can be served alone as part of a barbecue. Common side dishes include fries and salad, but many other side dishes are possible. Chefs might choose to make a variation on a classic dish, such as making fries from sweet potatoes, to help their dish stand out.

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