Smoked chicken thighs that have a KC BBQ Rub kick is one of the best additions to your backyard arsenal! These are so amazingly juicy with a sweet KC kick that they’ll be a go-to from the moment you try this recipe.

Lets talk about chicken thighs. I call chicken thighs the unsung hero of the backyard. Skin on chicken thighs are surprisingly inexpensive, super easy to make, have delicious dark meat, and hardly take up any of that precious grate-estate! Why aren’t these a lot more common? Maybe people don’t know how to make them… Well you will now.

What about the skin?

Always the first question. Since we are going to be going up to 300 degrees F in our smoker/grill, we should be able to render the fat. However, the fat needs to escape so we will be prodding it with a fork (or tip of a knife) in many places. Think duck… Having a jaccard tool is always handy for things like this.

If you aren’t comfortable or think you still might be serving soggy skin, you also have the option of removing the skin or skin side down sear after the smoke. This is just as tasty… but lets practice our skin skills. Maybe leave one with skin still on? Try something? Let me know what you do in the comments!

The Rub

The rub for these smoked chicken thighs is a classic Kansas City Style BBQ rub. Kansas City BBQ is rich with sugars and molasses, followed by a spicy or tangy finish. This rub follows with that tradition with a base primarily being made of dark brown sugar (white sugar and molasses) giving it the sweet and a mix of Cayenne and Chili for some spice.

But Tucker, I’m a huge fan of your site, and I’ve read every article you’ve written and commented on them… so I know you don’t typically put salt in your rubs. I see salt in this rub, what gives?

For this application, the thighs are so small and are already a fatty meat that dry brining doesn’t reward the cook like it would in a larger and leaner piece of meat. Additionally, we are applying oil or butter and salt is NOT fat-soluble. In this case, we are going to put the salt in the rub.

The Prep

Begin by trimming your thighs so that the dangly bits and loose skin is trimmed off. I have a boning knife I use for trimming that I absolutely love. You can buy it with different color handles for specific uses (I like yellow for poultry as shown below). It’s made by Mercer Culinary and ridiculously sharp. Take care of it!

Next we are going to poke holes everywhere we can through the skin. If you have a jaccard tool, that works great. Otherwise, we will use a fork, needle, or knife tip. This will allow the fat to render and escape, ultimately helping us get crispier skin!

Form the chicken thigh into a uniform shape, as shown. We want the shape to be as uniform as possible to allow even cooking. (Hopefully your grill or smoker is preheated and smoking to 300 degrees F by now!)

Apply the oil or butter but don’t overdo it here. We only want a very small amount; enough to let the rub stick. It should not be dripping. Sprinkle the rub on to your liking.

Smoked Chicken Thighs!

Make sure your smoker is up to 300 degrees F and smoking. If you are using a a grill, set it up for indirect heat. I highly recommend a smoking tube and some pellets to turn your grill into a smoker.

Now the easy part… place them on the grill with a minimum of 1″ spacing to allow for airflow. I personally like to put them on a grill mat. You can see my mat in the picture. Since these are formed thighs, large spacing between grates has a tendency to unroll when one “end” falls through.

We are looking at a total cook time of anywhere between 1 hour and up to 2 hours depending on thigh size and saucing (if you want!). Cook to temperature, not time!

Cook until 175 degrees F in the center. Please please use a reliable digital thermometer. Why would you want to risk making your guests or family sick? Seriously, get a real thermometer and throw away grandma’s dial on a stick.

Let sit for 5-10 mins after cook, un-tented. Serve with some Potato Salad and Grilled Asparagus!

Mmmm…. Sooo good!

Modifications? Absolutely!

No recipe is complete without potential modifications.

Recommendation #1: Just before finishing, approximately 165-170 degrees, apply a thin layer of your favorite BBQ Sauce. Believe it or not, I’m a Stubb’s Original fan. However, if you want to stay in with the KC BBQ, look for a more tomato based sauce.

Recommendation #2: Just before finishing, 170 degrees, move your chicken skin side down to a hot grill or the direct side of your smoker or even a broiler for about 5 min. Smoked chicken with grill marks? Heaven.

Let me know how you liked the recipe! Any suggestions?

Smoked Chicken Thighs – Sweet and Spicy

Smoked Chicken Thighs are a favorite! Adding a sweet and spicy rub makes these finger licking good.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4


  • Smoker


  • 5 each Chicken Thighs (Skin on)
  • ½ cup KC BBQ Rub Enough to cover the Chicken
  • Olive Oil



  • Trim the chicken such that the dangly bits are all off. Trim off excess detached skin. We are looking for a clean looking chicken.
  • Poke the chicken through the skin in several places using a fork, or a jaccard tool if you have one.
  • Pat the chicken as dry as you can with a paper towel.
  • Apply a small amount of oil or melted butter to the skin.
  • Roll the thigh such that it is as uniform shape and thickness as possible.
  • Sprinkle the KC BBQ Rub all over, top and bottom.


  • Preheat your smoker or grill to 300 degrees F.
  • Place your tightly rolled thighs on the grates, indirect side, with at least 1" of space in between.
  • Cook until internal thigh temperature is 175 degrees F (approx 1.5-2.5 hrs depending on thigh size). Let it rest for 10 min, un-tented, prior to serving.

Optional Goodness

  • You could: Brush on your favorite BBQ sauce in the last 5-10 degrees of cook. A nice uniform thin layer and then walk away. This will add about 20 min to the cook. Serve.
  • You could: When thighs are about 170 degrees, put them on a hot grill or under a broiler, skin side to heat. About 5 minutes.
Keyword Chicken, Juicy, Smoked Chicken, Sweet and Spicy, Thigh
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