This Smoked Chicken Breast is so tender and juicy, with a smoky flavor that’s impossible to resist. Best chicken ever? It just might be! Here’s how to smoke chicken breast on any style of smoker that will make you feel like a pit master.
When you get a smoker, you just want to smoke all the things.
We started with this succulent Smoked Salmon, and now that I’ve seen how easy and how spectacular smoking favorite proteins can be, I’m fixing to fire it up every change we get.
Next up: smoked chicken breast.
Now, I have lots of ways to make boneless, skinless chicken breasts taste delicious, from Pan Fried Chicken Breast to Grilled Chicken Breast, but we all know that on their own, without any of those special tricks, they can be a little bit bland.
That’s why boneless chicken breasts are the perfect candidate for the smoking treatment!
What Makes This the Best Smoked Chicken Breast
No bland chicken here!
Smoking infuses food with so much flavor, but it’s not just the smokiness that makes this smoked chicken breast recipe so good.
Here are some more reasons you’ll love it.
- It’s Perfectly Seasoned. While some cuts of meats are flavorful enough that they don’t really need anything other than salt and time in the smoker, boneless, skinless chicken breasts need some oomph, and my dry rub recipe brings it.
- It’s Juicy. Boneless chicken breasts have a tendency to dry out, but cooking low and slow in a smoker ensures that your chicken is tender and moist (and we all love moist chicken!).
- It’s Easy. This is a good starting recipe if you’re new to using a smoker. In fact, if you follow these steps, smoked chicken breast is a no-fail dish.
How to Make Smoked Chicken
You can use this smoked chicken breast recipe on any style of smoker—charcoal smokers (Weber, Big Green Egg), pellet smokers (Traeger), and electric smokers all work here.
Ready? Let’s talk about how to smoke chicken breast in a smoker!
While the smoker preheats, gather your ingredients, mix the dry rub, and prep the chicken.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts. You’ll want to make sure they’re all roughly the same size and thickness so they finish cooking at the same time.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. To help the rub to stick to the chicken.
- Unsalted Butter. This is optional, but highly recommended. It will help keep your chicken tender.
- Fuel. Charcoal, pellets, or whatever you use in your smoker.
- Wood Chips or Chunks. These are optional too, but also recommended. I like to use pecan, apple, cherry, or oak. Hickory and mesquite are a little too strong for chicken.
- Canola Oil. Just to keep the chicken from sticking to the smoker.
- Chicken Breast Rub. Light brown sugar, kosher salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground black pepper, celery salt, and cayenne pepper.
1. Prepare the chicken by drying it and brushing it with olive oil.
2. Mix the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl.
3. Rub the seasoning all over the chicken breasts. Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F, then brush it with canola oil.
- Place the chicken breasts in the smoker. If you’re using the butter, baste the chicken when it reaches 140–150 degrees F. Continue to cook until the chicken reaches 160 degrees F.
- Remove the chicken, then tent it with foil for 5 minutes to rest before slicing. ENJOY!
Tips for the Best Smoked Chicken
- Use high-quality wood and charcoal. For the charcoal, we like hardwood lump charcoal (such as FOGO). Choose a mild wood or fruit wood, like alder, oak, or apple for smoked chicken recipes.
- Dry the chicken well. Use paper towels to blot away any moisture; this will help the dry rub adhere.
- Go by temperature, not time. You may be wondering how long to smoke chicken breasts at 225 degrees F, but the times listed in this recipe are a rough estimate. This is how it is with smoking. For perfect smoked chicken breasts, an instant-read thermometer is your best guide. To check the temperature, insert the probe into the thickest part of the chicken breast. It’s done when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F; the temperature will continue to rise to 165 degrees F as the chicken rests.
- Be patient. Don’t rush the smoking, and don’t rush the resting time either—the 5 minutes of rest will ensure that the chicken is juicy and flavorful when you cut into it.
- To Store. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Loosely cover the chicken breasts with foil and reheat in a 350 degree F oven until warmed through, or warm carefully in the microwave.
- To Freeze. You can freeze cooked smoked chicken breasts for up to 2 months. Wrap them tightly and place them in an airtight container or freezer bag before freezing. Thaw the smoked chicken breasts overnight in the refrigerator.
Meal Prep Tip
Smoked chicken breasts are excellent for meal prep, and if you are smoking chicken, you might as well make a bunch. Slice them up and add them to salads for lunches, tuck them into wraps, or make them into sandwiches.
What to Serve With Smoked Chicken
If you’re looking for a chicken dinner that’s really a winner, it’s time to pull out your smoker and make these juicy smoked chicken breasts!
Frequently Asked Questions
The key to moist, flavorful smoked chicken is a low temperature and patience. (That melted butter helps, too.) Boneless skinless chicken breasts really benefit from a longer cooking time at a lower temperature because it keeps the moisture from cooking off.
Smoking a chicken at 225°F is the optimal temperature for achieving juicy, tender meat. If you need to cook your chicken faster, you can raise the smoker temperature to 250°F, but your chicken is more likely to dry out.
While I do like to brine Baked Chicken Breasts, I’ve found there’s no need to brine chicken breasts before smoking. Although you certainly can brine your chicken if you’d like to, it will still be flavorful and tender without this step.
Because a smoker circulates heat (and smoke) around the chicken, rather than cooking with direct heat like a grill, you don’t need to flip chicken breasts when you’re smoking them.
For Smoking the Chicken:
- 3 to 3 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts about 6 medium breasts
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted (optional but VERY good)
- Charcoal pellets, or whatever fuels your smoker
- Wood chips or chunks optional for smoking, such as pecan, apple, or oak
- Canola oil for brushing the smoker
For the Chicken Breast Rub*:
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Pat very dry with paper towels. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or similar surface so that you can easily carry it out to the smoker). Brush both sides with the olive oil.
In a small bowl stir together the rub: brown sugar, kosher salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, celery salt, and cayenne.
Sprinkle the chicken liberally all over with the dry rub. Let stand at room temperature while you prepare the smoker.
Heat your smoker to 225ºF—if using a charcoal smoker, your fire doesn’t need to be very large. Prior to lighting, add the wood, mixing it with the charcoal. It’s OK if your smoker gets a bit hotter than 225; just note that the chicken will cook more quickly.
Brush the smoker with the canola oil as an insurance policy against sticking. Add the chicken breasts and smoke until they reach 160ºF on an instant read thermometer inserted at the thickest part, 45 minutes to 1 hour depending upon the size of your breasts, your smoker set up, and how much your smoker temperature is fluctuating—check at the 30-minute mark to gauge your progress. Always smoke to temperature, not to time on the clock. The carryover cooking will cause the chicken breast to rise to 165ºF as it rests.
If using butter, melt it in a small bowl. Once the chicken reaches 140 to 150ºF (about 30 or so minutes in), baste the chicken all over the top with the butter to make it extra succulent and delish, then continue smoking until the chicken breast reaches 160ºF, about 15 minutes more.
Remove the chicken from the smoker. Tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Slice and enjoy.
- TO STORE: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Loosely cover the chicken breasts with foil and reheat in a 350 degree F oven until warmed through.
- TO FREEZE: You can freeze cooked smoked chicken breasts for up to 2 months. Wrap them tightly and place them in an airtight container or freezer bag before freezing. Thaw the smoked chicken breasts overnight in the refrigerator.
Serving: 1 (of 6)Calories: 409kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 57gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 184mgPotassium: 1022mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 584IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 24mgIron: 1mg
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