Brined Applewood Smoked Chicken Thighs

Three perfectly smoked and grilled chicken thighs on dark wooden board in the green grass.

These succulent Smoked Chicken Thighs bring out the best in backyard smoking. They are brined, seared, and smoked with apple wood until absolute perfection. Your family will be convinced you are the ultimate pitmaster!

If you love the taste of smoked meat, this is the recipe for you. The secret is adding moisture in with a simple brown sugar brine, then locking it in with a quick sear. Set your smoker on low and slow to get the juiciest, most succulent chicken thighs. 

Backyard barbecues aren’t complete without a selection of fresh and tasty side dishes. While you’re smoking the thighs, throw on a few cobs of corn and whip up this Smoked Corn Bacon Avocado Pasta Salad. Or, keep it light and fresh with a tossed Strawberry Spinach Salad with a bright Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette. 

Brined Apple Wood Smoked Chicken Thighs

Summertime is the time for delicious home smoked meats of all kinds. We have a very small charcoal smoker so we usually stick to smaller cuts of meat that are ready in a few hours. Two of our quick favourites are chicken wings, and smoked Bison burgers. We just really love the flavour of smoke on meat, especially apple wood. 

Now that we have mastered smoking chicken thighs, I can tell it’s going to be one delicious summer. I suggest you smoke a double batch, because smoked chicken thighs make some of the best leftovers there are!

Three perfectly smoked and grilled chicken thighs on dark wooden board in the green grass.

Simple Chicken Thigh Brine

For these smoked chicken thighs, a simple brown sugar brine in a 1:1 ratio works best. Start the brine by adding six cups of water, one cup of brown sugar, and one cup of kosher salt to a sauce pan. Heat the mixture until the salt and sugar have dissolved. 

As the brine is cooling, add in any extra flavour elements you like. Use fresh (or dried) herbs such as thyme, bay leaves, and rosemary, or add fruit such as sliced apples or orange peel. Kick it up a bit with some chopped jalapenos or a splash of apple cider in place of a portion of the water. 

A bowl filled with brown sugar brine, herbs, and raw chicken thighs.

How Long to Brine Chicken Thighs

The longer you brine the chicken thighs, the more flavour and moisture enters the meat. However, too much brine time results in salty thighs and we don’t want those!

The trick is to aim for that sweet spot where the brine time results in super tender and flavorful thighs, but not so long that salt dominates the taste. To get the best results with this brine, go with a 4-6 hour brine period. That way the chicken can brine on the same day you plan to smoke it.

A pair of grilling tongs places raw chicken thighs on a hot grill.

How to Get Crispy Skin on Smoked Chicken Thighs

To sear or not to sear, that is the question. Of course if you want crispy skin on the thighs, you have to go for the sear. Whether you do it before or after the smoke is up to you. We did it both ways and didn’t find it made that much of a difference. 

The best sear begins with thoroughly dried the chicken thighs. Once removed from the brine, place the thighs on a rack over a pan and air dry them in the fridge for a few hours. 

At a high searing temperature, keep a very close eye on the thighs. It only takes a minute or two to get that skin crispy and flare ups are bad news!

A chef takes the temperature of a chicken thigh on a hot grill using a thermometer.
Not ready yet!

How to Tell When Are Chicken Thighs Done

The smoky aroma is going to drive you crazy with hungry anticipation but remember, we’re aiming for low and slow cooking time. It will be worth it! 

This recipe was tested with bone-in, skin on chicken thighs. Using bone-in thighs, along with a brine and slow cooking time is the best way to ensure the end result is the best, most succulent thighs possible.

Five chicken thighs on a barbecue grill. with smoke rising.

Cooking times will be different for bone-in vs. de-boned chicken thighs, so to be sure, always use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the meat. The internal temperature must reach 165 F (74 C) for safe consumption. 

It’s always a good idea to get a final temperature check for each thigh because chicken thighs often vary quite a bit in size. 

Three perfectly smoked and grilled chicken thighs on dark wooden board in the green grass.

What to Do with Leftover Smoked Chicken

You’ve made a double batch like I told you to, right? Leftover smoked chicken is just as amazing as day-of smoked chicken and there are so many delicious ways to use it! 

  • chicken salad with grapes – trust me on this one. The combination of smoky chicken and sweet grapes with creamy mayonnaise is out of this world.
  • in pasta – cook up your favourite pasta shape, add your favourite sauce and you have a quick weeknight dinner. May I recommend either a cream sauce or pesto with peas or asparagus?
Three perfectly smoked and grilled chicken thighs on dark wooden board in the green grass.
  • on a cold chicken burrito bowl – add rice, grains, or noodles and all you favourite raw or cooked veggie toppings. Don’t forget the sauce! 
  • in smoky chicken fried rice – OMG so good. The ultimate clean out the fridge dish.
  • on top of smoked chicken nachos – enough said.
  • in a braised navy bean stew – use in place of bacon to make a great bean dish amazing!
  • inside a quesadilla or wrap 
  • in a soup 
  • in smoked chicken pot pie
  • as a pizza topping

The delicious possibilities are endless! 

One perfectly smoked and grilled chicken thigh on dark wooden board.

How to Store Leftover Smoked Thighs

Like any leftover chicken, store the smoked chicken in a closed container in the fridge for up to a week. It will freeze well in the same manner for months. 

Plan on eating cold leftovers? Eat them the day after or two days maximum after they were cooked. 

While re-heating, always take proper care when preparing your leftover chicken from cold storage. Heat it well in a covered pan with a bit of water for moisture. Do not keep leftover leftovers! 

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Pinterest image of one perfectly smoked and grilled chicken thigh on dark wooden board and five chicken thighs on a barbecue grill.
Yield: 10 smoked chicken thighs

Apple Wood Smoked Chicken Thighs

One perfectly smoked and grilled chicken thigh on dark wooden board.

These succulent Smoked Chicken Thighs bring out the best in backyard smoking. They are brined, seared, and smoked with apple wood until absolute perfection. Your family will be convinced you are the pitmaster!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 6 minutes
Additional Time 6 hours
Total Time 8 hours 16 minutes

Ingredients

  • 10 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • handful fresh thyme
  • handful fresh rosemary
  • apple slices, orange peel, etc. (optional)

Instructions

  1. Prepare the brine in the morning by combining the salt and sugar with the water in a medium saucepan. Heat until both are entirely dissolved.
  2. Add the herbs and allow to cool until it is room temperature.
  3. Place thighs in a bowl and pour brine over. Cover with plastic wrap and brine for two to four hours.
  4. Remove chicken from brine and place on a rack over a pan in the fridge for a few hours to air dry (optional). Discard brine.
  5. Pre-heat grill to high. Sear on presentation side for 1-2 minutes depending on how high the temperature is. Flip and sear another minute. (see notes)
  6. Lower heat to 225 F and add apple wood chips. (see notes)
  7. Smoke for two hours or until internal temperature of each thigh reaches 165 F (74 C).

Notes

If you are searing the chicken at the end of smoking, note that much of the fat will be rendered out already and it will take much less time to get a nice sear. Watch for flare ups!

If using a charcoal smoker, add a pan of water after the searing. The water keeps the heat from directly cooking the meat and helps to keep the heat at an even temperature.

This recipe was tested with bone-in, skin on chicken thighs. You can use de-boned thighs but please remember cooking times will be different for bone-in vs. de-boned chicken thighs. Always use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the meat. The internal temperature must reach 165 F (74 C) for safe consumption. 

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

5

Serving Size:

2

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 241Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 33mgSodium: 22706mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 4gSugar: 39gProtein: 7g

Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.

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57 comments

  1. Jen

    I am so sick of ribs, and pork shoulder on the smoker. Nice to have an alternative. Make extra and use them in burrito bowls, super tasty meal prep.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      You’ve got the idea…enjoy!!

      Reply

  2. Amanda

    I’ve never experimented with brine before. This recipe looks so easy I think I’ll give it a go!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      I’m a big fan of brine! It just really completes the flavour profile.

      Reply

    2. Kushigalu

      What a flavorful and great recipe to try. Love the idea. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply

      1. Bernice Hill

        Thank you so much for stopping by!

        Reply

  3. Amy

    These look amazing! I’ve been eating a lot of chicken lately, but sometimes it can be so hard to lock in that flavor. Thanks for all the tips — I can’t wait to try this!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Chicken can get monotonous for sure…there’s so much flavour in this recipe. I made extra just so we could have chicken salad sandwiches but we ended eating it all up.

      Reply

  4. Colleen

    We just gave away our Little Chief Smoker for lack of use, now I want it back !😀 At least we gave it to one of our kids, so I can send him this recipe and ask what time is dinner…. Looks amazing, Bernice.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Great idea…if he’s just starting out this is an easy recipe as far as smoking goes. Enjoy!

      Reply

  5. Tara

    Thanks for your detailed instructions and leftover ideas. They were great! The chicken thighs turned out moist and flavorful! I felt like a true pit master!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      That’s so great to hear Tara, thanks so much for letting me know.

      Reply

  6. LaKita

    I love using chicken thighs and these look so juicy and flavorful! I would definitely use them as a pizza topping.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Mmmm yes! So many great ways to use the leftovers!

      Reply

  7. Natalie

    This chicken looks really amazing. We just opened BBQ season in our backyard. Can’t wait to give this recipe a try. My family will love it I’m sure.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      hooray for barbecue season!! I’m sure they’ll love it too.

      Reply

  8. Heidy M

    Your Brined Applewood Smoked Chicken Thighs were delish! We loved the recipe and will be making it again! This has to be one of the best recipes we have tried.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      So glad to hear you enjoyed them Heidi. Thank you for letting me know!

      Reply

  9. Sharon

    This brine is a great way to infuse tons of flavor into the chicken thighs.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      You betcha!! It ensures super tasty chicken and makes it pretty difficult to overcook it as well.

      Reply

  10. Marta

    I’m so glad I pulled out a pack of chicken thighs from the freezer today! These are getting made tomorrow!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Whoop!! I need to do the same. Hope you enjoy the recipe Marta.

      Reply

  11. Ben

    Oh yeah! It’s so good cooked with wood. I am so down for this.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      You got it! Thanks for dropping by Ben.

      Reply

  12. Georgina @ CulinaryTravels

    I am not long after buying an offset smoker BBQ. This recipe is now bookmarked for when the sun comes back out & I can BBQ again. Gorgeous flavours going on here.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Great…good luck with your first smoke Georgina!

      Reply

  13. Tatiana

    Chickens thighs are just the best! Never tried with brine before, must be amazing!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Try it, you’ll LOVE it. It just keeps them so moist and flavourful!

      Reply

  14. Amanda

    These chicken thighs are perfect! The brine kept them so moist, and they were full of flavor. This will definitely be a favorite all summer long!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      So great to hear, Amanda…this is definitely a favourite recipe of ours!

      Reply

  15. Paige

    This looks so delicious! With fathers day coming up, I’m going to give this a try!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Wonderful, I hope your dad really enjoys them!!

      Reply

  16. Marisa F. Stewart

    I love all of your tips and tricks. Yes! Chicken is best when it’s brined. Even if it appears juicy a short brining period will really enhance the taste and texture of the meat. We have a kettle grill – I wish we had a smoker. Hubby would love that. Your chicken thighs looked cooked to perfection.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Apparently the newest thing is a smoking tube. You can use it to smoke in a grill!

      Reply

  17. [email protected]

    I really appreciate the advice about searing the skin (or not). I love chicken thighs, but for me the crispy skin is a must, as I’ve never been big on chicken skin when it’s overly fatty or chewy. Glad to know that you can do it before or after the smoking steps (after seems easier, personally). Wonderful recipe, with great flavours – brining really does do wonders for chicken! Cheers!

    Reply

  18. Heidy M

    These Brined Applewood Smoked Chicken Thighs were soooo darn good they are all I can think about today. Chicken is my favorite meat and I love eating it in different ways. Awesome recipe.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Right?!! I haven’t stopped thinking about them either. So glad you enjoyed them Heidy!

      Reply

  19. Kelly Neil

    Wow! I love the look of that brine and will definitely try it, but sadly, without a smoker mine will have to go on the grill. That being said, you are REALLY tempting me to get a smoker!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      We have just a bare bones charcoal smoker, it’s a glorified barrel and it works like a charm. A great entry level smoker!

      Reply

  20. Nancy @instanomss

    this Brined Applewood Smoked Chicken Thighs sounds super yummy! something I think will get my daughter to eat some meat! Trying this today!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      If she loves a smoky flavour, this is your recipe. Good luck!

      Reply

  21. Marwin Brown

    This recipe looks deliciously smoked and like it’s bursting with flavor, thanks!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      It sure is! Thanks for stopping by Marwin.

      Reply

  22. Julia

    What a great idea to brine the chicken thighs for the barbecue. I’ve never done that before. I bet these were amazing. Love all the ingredients and they look incredible.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Yep, if you’ve got the time bring really does make a difference.

      Reply

  23. Cynthia Priest

    Yum. I want the smoked chicken in a brioche bun. Now, I will have to convince my husband we need a smoker.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Do it!! Guess what? This was one of my Christmas presents a few years back…and guess who uses it the most? He does!! However, we all enjoy the benefits.

      Reply

  24. Jo

    I’m absolutely blown by the flavors here. Those chicken things looks so darn good and I’m so hungry now.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Ah yes, the power of suggestion…I’m hungry now too!

      Reply

  25. Daniela

    Yum I love a good chicken thigh recipe and these sound so dreamy smoked! Perfect for summer! Thanks so much for sharing :).

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      You are so welcome, thanks for stopping by Daniela.

      Reply

  26. Ginny

    What a wonderful recipe. The brine is so flavorful and you photos showed perfectly how to deal with the grilling. Love summer and thanks!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      I can tell it’s already going to be our favourite summer chicken recipe. Glad you enjoyed!

      Reply

  27. Terri

    I need to get me a smoker! These look so irresistibly delicious and I love the applewood flavour. Another wonderful chicken thigh recipe idea. Pinned!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Yep. Even if it’s just a bare bones charcoal smoker like ours. I always joke that it’s just a glorified steel drum lol.

      Reply

  28. steve kavanagh

    dear bernice, thank you for the recipe for smoked chicken thighs. im an butcher by trade and my thighs came out perfect. Australia steve

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Hey Steve, thanks for letting me know! Glad you enjoyed them…they are a favourite in this house!

      Reply

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