When I first started using my pellet smoker, I felt like every meal I cooked on my Traeger had to be a big Brisket or Prime Rib. I am obsessed with the aroma of big cuts of meat cooking low and slow. One weekend, while I was browsing the meat area looking to see what my options were for Smoked Meat Sunday, I saw a few packages of chicken thighs on sale and decided to try something different.
The average bank account can’t afford to cook large and expensive cuts of meat every weekend and I am certainly no exception. However, I love smoking big hunks of meat. One of my favorite cuts is a pork shoulder for delicious pulled pork. While a pork shoulder is easy on the budget, it can still take all day to cook. When time is as much of an issue as money, I turn to this easy Traeger chicken thighs recipe.
Why I Love This Smoked Chicken Thighs Recipe
Chicken thighs are very affordable, the local supermarket almost always has them in stock, they’re usually sold in a pack of 10-12, and I’ve paid as little as $5 for a whole pack!
Along with affordability and shorter time on the smoker, chicken thighs have a high-fat content, which makes them very forgiving. All of that fat protects the chicken thigh meat while it cooks by slowly basting the thigh while it melts away. What remains at the end of the cook is incredibly juicy chicken that will please your taste buds with every bite.
The Best Place to Get Chicken Thighs
There’s been a lot of talks these days about food, and where it’s sourced from.
I grew up in a family that was very active in the outdoors. We spent almost every weekend hunting or fishing, and almost every meal we ate included wild fish or game meat. Deer and Elk are delicious, organic, and grass-fed!
I don’t hunt as much these days, but I still spend quite a bit of time fishing. That being said, I rarely keep the fish I catch. That means I have to pay more attention to the meat I buy at the store or online, and where it comes from. A lot of the meat products available today are loaded with antibiotics and hormones. I never thought much of that, until I met my wife.
She does an amazing job of shopping and preparing most of the meals for our family, and I know that everything she buys is organic, and if it’s meat, it’s usually grass-fed and finished too. My health is important to me, and I feel a huge difference in my athletic performance when I’m eating organic/grass-fed proteins.
That’s why I’m really excited about a product I was recently introduced to called Butcher Box. You may have heard about it before, but what they do better than anyone else, is source organic and humanely raised proteins. Chicken, Beef, and Pork.
If you’re looking for the best chicken, I urge you to consider Butcher Box. The best part? They have amazing beef, and pork products too, and they’ll ship you a box full of some of the best meat on the planet one per month, or once every two months.
Smoked Chicken Thigh Brine
There are a lot of different ways that you can prepare chicken thighs. Honestly, you could pull them from the package, throw them on the smoker at 180 degrees along with a little bit of salt and pepper, and after about 4 hours, or an internal temperature of 165 degrees, they would taste delicious.
If you want to get a little fancier, my favorite way to prepare chicken thighs is to place them at the bottom of my briner bucket and add the following ingredients to create a brine:
- 12 ounce can of beer
- 6 cups of water
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
After adding all of the brine ingredients to the bucket, along with the chicken thighs, I swirl everything around a few times before popping the lid in place and letting it sit in the fridge overnight. I can hear you telling me I should have warmed the brine first to let everything adequately dissolve. I know that. I don’t care. This still tastes delicious. Our goal here is simplicity!
Brining adds moisture, delicious flavor and helps tenderize the meat.
Looking for the perfect sauce for smoked chicken thighs? Check out my homemade Blueberry BBQ Sauce
Love chicken thighs? You’ll love Smoked Cornish Game Hens too!
How to Smoke Chicken Thighs on a Traeger
When I’m ready to smoke my chicken thighs I pull them out of the brine solution, pat them dry, and arrange them on a grilling rack. Once I have pat dry all of the chicken thighs, I coat them with Nick’s Poultry Rub.
Nick’s Poultry Rub
Nick’s Poultry Rub is a special rub I’ve created over the years that goes great on chicken and pork products. I developed this rub as a means to help support Smoked Meat Sunday.
Smoked Chicken Thighs – How to Get Rub Under The Skin
Some people get the rub up underneath the skin of the chicken thighs by snipping one edge of the skin, peeling it back and applying the rub, and then pulling the skin back over. If you want to add a little extra flavor to the meat you can, but it’s not a requirement. That being said, you’ll notice a major flavor upgrade if you do this.
After the thighs are prepped, it’s time for the smoker. I start mine at 180 degrees Fahrenheit and leave them in the smoker for one hour. After an hour, I turn the heat up to 350 and cook for an additional 45 minutes to an hour. The thighs are done when the internal temp of the thickest part of each thigh is at 165 degrees.
Looking for a great dessert? Check out two of my favorites:
How Do I Know When the Chicken Thighs are Done?
There is really only one way to know when your meat has cooked to the proper temperature., and that’s by using a quality meat thermometer. I was put off by the price of the Thermapen when I first was looking at thermometers, but after reading countless reviews about how great the thermometer is, I finally made the plunge. I’M GLAD I DID! If you don’t have a thermometer, hit the link and get the best thermometer in the industry. Thermoworks MK4
Smoked Chicken Thighs – To Sauce or Not to Sauce
During the last 20 minutes of the cook, you could brush each thigh with your favorite BBQ sauce, but it’s not necessary. There is plenty of flavor in the meat from the brine you used. If it’s for a family dinner and presentation isn’t crucial, I’d skip the barbecue sauce. When you’re trying to impress some friends with how amazing your barbecue looks before they taste it, add the sauce!
Chicken Thighs – An Easy Entree When You’re in a Time Crunch
The next time you are looking for a simple, delicious, and inexpensive recipe, consider making these easy Traeger chicken thighs. I’ve seen packs of chicken thighs at the store with 10-14 thighs, and I always cook the whole pack. That way I have enough chicken thighs for lunch during the week too!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my favorite way to make chicken thighs. It’s a common entrée, that almost everyone has experience with. What’s your favorite way to prepare chicken thighs? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
Simple Brined and Smoked Chicken Thighs
- 12 ounces can of beer
- 6 cups water
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp Nick's Poultry Rub link in notes
- Place Chicken Thighs in a briner bucket and add brine ingredients
- Swirl everything around a few times and then add the lid and place it in the fridge overnight. I can hear you telling me I should have warmed the brine first to let everything adequately dissolve. I know that. I don't care. This still tastes delicious. Our goal here is simplicity! If you want to, you can warm the brine solution on a stove to make sure everything is dissolved, and then cool it, before adding it to your brine bucket...
- After at least 12 hours in the brine, pull the chicken thighs out of the brine solution, pat them dry, and place them on a grilling rack.
- Once all the chicken thighs are dried, generously sprinkle the rub on all sides of each thigh
- Get your smoker up to 180 degrees and place your chicken thighs inside.
- After an hour at 180 degrees, turn the heat up to 350 and cook for an additional 45 minutes to an hour. During the last 20 minutes of the cook, you could brush each thigh with your favorite BBQ sauce, but it's not necessary.
- The thighs are done when the internal temp of the thickest part of each thigh is at 165 degrees.