This Sticky BBQ Smoked Chicken Thighs recipe is a culinary delight that lets you savor tender chicken enveloped by a smoky, irresistible aroma and flavor.
If you want to take the juiciness of Instant Pot BBQ Chicken up a notch, this dish is certainly a must-try, especially for outdoor gathering sessions like summer barbecues.
Why does smoking require a low temperature?
Using a low temperature when smoking gives the smoke enough time to penetrate the meat without overcooking it. Since cooking by smoking can take anywhere between one to 20 hours, you’ll easily risk burning your food if you use high heat during this cooking process.
On top of that, a low temperature lets the meat tenderize, cook evenly, and retain more flavor. Hence, although you can technically shorten the smoking time by increasing the temperature of your smoker, doing so will significantly affect the quality of your dish.
❤️ Why You’ll Love This Recipe
This delicious smoked chicken recipe is filled with thick, sweet flavors that are sure to please everyone. But that’s not everything to love about this dish!
- The flavor is irresistible. This recipe is sure to satisfy your taste buds and leave you craving more.
- This chicken has an incredibly tender and juicy texture. Every bite will melt on your tongue, so you can dig in easily.
- It opens the doors for an engaging cooking process for the entire family. Smoking chicken thighs can be a great opportunity to bond over a hands-on, interactive cooking session while having casual chats with your loved ones.
If you love smoked dishes but prefer faster cooking times, consider making this Pressure Cooker Slow Smoked Mesquite Pork Risotto.
Here are the essential ingredients you need to make this delicious chicken dish.
- Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs: The bone adds flavor to the meat and helps retain moisture during cooking, while the beautiful crispy chicken skin adds a delightful texture.
- BBQ Sauce: The glaze’s star ingredient is the BBQ sauce, which brings sweetness, tartness, and smoky flavor to the dish.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: The apple cider vinegar adds a subtle spice to the BBQ sauce, balancing sweetness and enhancing the overall flavor profile.
See recipe card for quantities.
Chicken thighs: If you prefer white meat over dark meat, you can substitute bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs with bone-in, skin-on chicken drumsticks, or bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts.
BBQ sauce: You can experiment with different flavors and styles of BBQ sauce to suit your taste. Alternatively, you can make your homemade BBQ sauce using a combination of ketchup, vinegar, sugar, and spices.
Apple cider vinegar: If you don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand, you can substitute it with white vinegar or rice vinegar, or any of these other 11 Best Substitutes For Apple Cider Vinegar.
🌈 Variations / Options / Add-Ins
Step right up and prepare your taste buds for some finger-lickin variations of this sticky barbeque smoked chicken thighs recipe.
- Spicy Variation: Add cayenne pepper or chili flakes to the BBQ sauce for a spicier glaze. Remember to adjust the amount according to your preference.
- Honey Mustard: You can also do a tangy and sweet twist to the classic smoked chicken thighs by mixing honey and Dijon mustard into the BBQ sauce.
- Asian Twist: Add soy sauce, ginger, and garlic to the BBQ sauce. This variation will bring savory umami notes and a touch of freshness to your dish reminiscent of Asian recipes.
Do you prefer sweet-glazed meat? Then, you shouldn’t miss out on preparing some Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops on your next dinner get-together.
🥄 Equipment Needed / Helpful Tools
Let’s unveil the sizzling list of essential tools you’ll need to cook the best smoked chicken thighs you’ll ever try.
- Smoker: You’ll need this tool to smoke the chicken thighs. I personally used a Traeger smoker, which is also considered a wood pellet grill, but feel free to use one from any brand.
- Meat thermometer: A reliable meat thermometer is crucial to ensure the chicken thighs reach the recommended internal temperature of 185°F.
- Aluminum Foil: Although not necessary, aluminum foil is helpful for wrapping the chicken thighs when you need the meat to rest before serving.
🔪 How to Make Sticky BBQ Smoked Chicken Thighs
Let’s hop straight to the steps and techniques you’ll need to follow to create this irresistible juicy chicken recipe.
Step 1: Preheat the smoker
Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F.
Step 2: Add seasoning
Before you cook the chicken, very generously season both sides. Often than not, it’s better to overseason just a bit than to underseason your meat. So, make sure every chicken piece is well-coated before you proceed to the next step.
Step 3: Smoke the chicken
Place the chicken slices on the smoker and let them smoke for 1 hour.
Step 4: Make the sauce for glazing
As you cook the chicken by leaving it on the smoker, mix the barbecue sauce and apple cider vinegar to create the sauce for glazing. Aim for a thinner sauce consistency so it’ll be very easy to work with when coating the chicken later.
Step 5: Adjust the temperature
After the first hour of smoking, raise the heat of your smoker to a higher temperature of 300 degrees F. Let the chicken thighs smoke for another hour or until their internal temperature reaches 185 degrees F.
Step 6: Coat the chicken thighs
Remove the chicken from the smoker, then dunk them in the glaze so that each chicken piece is entirely covered in sauce.
Step 7: Place chicken back on the smoker
After glazing, place each chicken slice back on the smoker for another half hour to crisp up the skin and make the glaze nice and tacky.
Step 8: Time to dig in
Remove the chicken slices from the smoker and allow them to rest for about ten minutes. After doing so, you can go ahead and enjoy your competition-style chicken thighs!
👩🍳 Pro Tip
To guarantee that the chicken will come out so smoky and tasty, using pecan wood for smoking is recommended. If you can’t find pecan wood, your next best options are applewood or hickory.
❓ Recipe FAQs
It’s recommended to keep the skin of your chicken thighs on when cooking this recipe. The skin keeps the chicken thighs moist and enhances their flavor. Additionally, when grilled, the crispy skin adds complexity to the meat.
Leftover smoked chicken thighs can last in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. For proper storage, put them inside an airtight container or simply wrap them in aluminum foil. Doing so ensures the chicken thighs will be safe to eat until you reheat them again.
It’s not recommended to use boneless chicken thighs for this recipe as their looser texture may make them fall off during the smoking process. Plus, unlike bone-in chicken thighs, boneless chicken cooks relatively quickly, making it not appropriate for the slow smoking process required by this recipe.
Ready to get cooking? Print off the recipe card below or toggle on Cook Mode to keep your screen from going dark while you follow along on your phone or tablet.
Sticky BBQ Smoked Chicken Thighs
- Meat thermometer
- Aluminum foil
- 10 Bone-In Skin-On Chicken Thighs
- 1 Cup BBQ Sauce
- ⅓ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- Coarse Salt
- Coarse Black Pepper
- Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F.
- Coat both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Season generously.10 Bone-In Skin-On Chicken Thighs, Coarse Salt, Coarse Black Pepper
- Place the chicken on the smoker and let them smoke for 1 hour.
- While the chicken cooks, mix the apple cider vinegar and bbq sauce. Create a sauce mixture with very thin consistency for easy glazing.1 Cup BBQ Sauce, ⅓ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- Once you reach the first hour of smoking, bump the smoker’s temp up to 300 degrees. Let the chicken smoke for another hour, or until every piece’s internal temperature hits 185 degrees.
- Once the chicken has finished 2 hours of smoking, dunk them in the glaze, ensuring every piece is covered entirely by the sauce. After glazing, place the chicken slices back on the smoker for another half hour, or until the glaze is nice and tacky.
- Remove the chicken pieces from the smoker. Let them rest for about ten minutes and enjoy!
🛑 Food safety
- Ensure the chicken’s internal temperature reaches eat least 185° F to guarantee that your dish is safe to eat.
- Make sure the utensils that touch the raw meat don’t come in contact with the cooked dish.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat to avoid cross-contamination when handling tools or other ingredients.
- Although smokers are temperature-controlled, make sure not to leave them unattended to avoid safety risks.