This recipe is for the BEST Smoked Chicken Breast that is coated in a delicious dry rub and slow cooked on the smoker for about 2 hours, until some delicious smoky aromas and flavor is imparted.
» Also try these delicious and Easy Smoked Chicken Thighs.
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Smoked Chicken Breast is one of the things we make the most on our grill. Not only is it super easy to put a few pieces of chicken on the smoker and let it slowly cook while you’re doing other things, it’s very versatile and can be used in so many dishes, as well as by itself.
You can make this chicken for an outdoor get together with friends or just as an every day meal. Everyone will be impressed with the delicious smokiness of the meat. If you have any left over, use it for salads and soups.
Ingredients You Need
- Chicken breasts – I use boneless, skinless chicken breast, which tends to smoke better than skin on. A really big, thick breast will need to smoke longer, while a smaller one will smoke faster.
- Olive oil – This is to help the rub adhere to the chicken and make sure the outside doesn’t dry out while it’s smoking.
- Dry rub or seasoning of choice – I always use my homemade dry rub, which is great on any type of protein you’re smoking or grilling.
- BBQ Sauce – It’s not necessary to put on BBQ sauce, but if that’s the way you like it, you can baste the chicken when it’s almost done for added flavor.
- Smoker – I use a Z Grills 700 series smoker for most of my smoking, though I also have a Traeger grill. You can use whatever smoker you have – they all work the same.
- Wood pellets – There are many types of pellets available. If you’ve already got pellets in your smoker, use whatever you have. I really like Hickory pellets for chicken.
- Meat thermometer – Many smokers have a thermometer built in, but if yours doesn’t, get an instant-read thermometer. I love this Thermapen.
What Smokers We Use
Z Grills 7002C2E Pellet Grill & Smoker
We use the 7002C2E, which has dual temperature probes, a huge pellet hopper and pellet viewing window, with a large grill space and streamlined design. See this grill and more on the Z Grills site.
Traeger Grills Pro Series 22 Pellet Grill & Smoker
Did you know that Traeger created the original wood-pellet grill? The Pro Series 22 is the one most people choose because it’s compact, yet has plenty of space for cooking. You can use any type of wood pellets you like. See the Traeger Series 22 Grill on Amazon.
What Temperature to Smoke Chicken Breast
To smoke chicken breasts, aim for a smoker temperature between 225°F and 250°F (107°C to 121°C). This low-and-slow approach allows the chicken to cook evenly and develop a smoky flavor without drying out.
To ensure the chicken is safely cooked and remains juicy, monitor the internal temperature using a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should reach 165°F (74°C) before you remove the chicken from the smoker.
How to Smoke Chicken Breast
Preheat your smoker on the Smoke setting. I like to start with 15 minute on the smoke setting before I move it to a higher temperature, to be sure the maximum amount of smoke flavor gets into the meat.
To prepare the chicken, pat it dry with a paper towel, then rub on the olive oil and dry rub seasoning so each piece is well coated. For this, I use about a tablespoon of oil and about a tablespoon of rub per piece. Try this dry rub for chicken that will definitely add a little magic to your chicken.
When the smoker is ready, place the chicken directly on the grill. Smoke for 30 minutes on the smoke setting, then turn it up to 225°F. You might want to flip over the chicken at the point, but it’s not necessary. I just find that it makes the pieces more uniform.
Cook for another 1.5 hours, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. Remove it from the grill and rest under foil for 5-10 minutes before serving. This will bring the temperature up to the perfect 165°F serving temp, and lock in the juices.
If you want to baste the chicken with BBQ sauce, you can do that in the last 10 degrees of cooking. Once it reaches 150, baste the chicken and do so another 1-2 times until the temperature is reached.
Thermapen ONE (read our review)
» Reading in one second or less
» Accuracy of ± 0.5°
» 5-year warranty
» Auto-rotate display; motion-sensing
» Insanely long battery life (2000 hrs)
Cooking Temperature for Chicken
To ensure that chicken is cooked safely and properly, it should reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Using a food thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone to accurately measure the internal temperature.
Chicken breasts, being leaner and containing less fat, cook relatively quickly and can become dry if overcooked, so you’d want to remove it from the grill when it reaches 160°F, then rest it so it reaches165°F.
On the other hand, chicken thighs have a higher fat content, which means they can be cooked longer without drying out and are often more forgiving in terms of cooking time.
To ensure meat at the bone is no longer pink, you’d want to cook bone-in pieces, like thighs and wings, to 165°F and let it rest to come up to 170°F.
Brining Smoked Chicken Breast
There are two camps on whether or not to brine chicken breast before smoking it. Which one you fall into really depends on personal preference. For me it’s a texture thing. Brined chicken has a different texture. But it can make it more juicy.
Here’s the case for both:
Yes to Brining
Brining chicken breast before smoking it helps to keep the chicken moist and tender during the smoking process, as it can easily become dry due to its low fat content. A simple brine solution consists of water, salt, and sugar. You can also add herbs and spices for extra flavor. Soak the chicken breast in the brine for at least a few hours or, ideally, overnight in the refrigerator before smoking.
No to Brining
There are a few reasons you might not want to brine a chicken breast before smoking it:
- Time constraints: Brining requires at least a few hours, or ideally overnight, for the chicken to absorb the brine properly. If you’re short on time, you might skip brining to save time and get the chicken on the smoker sooner.
- Sodium concerns: Brining can introduce extra sodium into the chicken, which may not be ideal for those watching their salt intake. You can try a low-sodium brine, but it may not be as effective in retaining moisture.
- Texture preferences: Brining can change the texture of the chicken, making it slightly more firm and dense. Some people may prefer a more traditional texture and might choose not to brine for that reason.
- Flavor considerations: While brining can enhance the flavor of the chicken, you might not want to introduce additional flavors from the brine if you’re aiming for a specific taste. In this case, you can rely on a dry rub or marinade to impart flavor instead.
If you decide not to brine, you can still keep the chicken breast moist during smoking by using a marinade or applying a dry rub, as well as monitoring the internal temperature closely to avoid overcooking.
What Pellets are Best for Smoked Chicken Breasts?
Choosing the best pellets for smoking chicken breasts largely depends on your flavor preferences. Here are a few popular options that work well with poultry:
- Fruitwood pellets: Pellets made from fruitwood, like apple, cherry, or peach, impart a mild, sweet, and fruity flavor to the chicken. These pellets are ideal for those who prefer a more subtle smoky taste.
- Hickory pellets: Hickory is a classic choice for smoking and provides a strong, bold, and savory flavor. It pairs well with chicken, but be mindful not to over-smoke, as the taste can become overpowering.
- Pecan pellets: Pecan wood offers a medium-strength, nutty, and sweet flavor that complements chicken well. It’s less intense than hickory but stronger than fruitwood pellets.
- Maple pellets: Maple wood pellets give chicken a mild, sweet, and slightly smoky flavor, making them a good choice if you want a delicate taste.
- Mesquite pellets: Mesquite has a very strong, earthy flavor that’s best used sparingly or blended with milder pellets. It can quickly overpower the chicken if used excessively.
Feel free to mix and match different pellets to create your own custom blend that suits your taste preferences. Just ensure that you’re using food-grade pellets designed for smoking to get the best results.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to smoke chicken breasts at 225°F?
Chicken breast takes about 1 hour to cook to an internal temperature of 160°F when you have the heat on 225°F. However, this timing is dependent on how thick and big the chicken breast is. Larger pieces will take longer to cook.
The chicken is ready to eat when it reaches 165°F, but if you rest the chicken under foil for 5 minutes after pulling it off the grill, it will rise to the correct temperature.
How do you smoke chicken breast without drying it out?
When smoking chicken breast, coat it with a layer of olive oil, which will keep the chicken from drying out while smoking. It also helps to keep the temperature at 225 and don’t go any higher.
Some people soak it in a seasoned brine for 3 to 4 hours before you are ready to cook it. This brine helps to impart flavor and keeps the meat from drying out too easily while it’s smoking. I haven’t found that it’s necessary to brine it, though. If you cook it to the proper temperature and don’t overcook, it will be super juicy and not dry.
Do you flip chicken breast when smoking?
You don’t need to flip your food while smoking. The heat and smoke circulates easily around the chicken as it cooks, giving each side an equal amount of smoking. I do like to flip it over after the smoking phase however, so that the shape stays uniform.
What to Serve on the Side
For sides, there is an endless array of salads and veggies that would make a good choice. Here are a few of our favorites:
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Smoked Chicken Breast
- 4 Chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dry rub or seasoning of choice
- Preheat your smoker.
- To prepare the chicken, pat it dry, then rub on the olive oil and dry rub seasoning so each piece is well coated.
- When the smoker is ready, place the chicken directly on the grill. Smoke for 30 minutes on the smoke setting, then turn it up to 225°F. Cook for another 1.5 hours, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. Remove from the grill and rest under foil for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- You can brush on BBQ sauce, if desired, once the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 140°F.
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Laura is a passionate home cook and grill enthusiast who has spent years perfecting her culinary skills, with a particular focus on grilling techniques and flavor combinations. Her fascination with the grill, smoke, and the mouthwatering results they produce has led her on an exciting journey to discover the best methods for grilling delicious and unforgettable meals.
One thought on “BEST Smoked Chicken Breast”
Such an easy and delicious dish to prepare for tonight, I am sure they will love this!