Brined and Smoked Chicken Thighs


Very juicy, tender, and flavorful smoked chicken thighs. My skins got mostly crispy in the smoker. The smoke intensity is mild and the applewood flavor comes through nicely.

overhead angle looking down at brined and smoked chicken thighs on a plate
Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
2 hrs 5 mins
Additional Time:
8 hrs 10 mins
Total Time:
10 hrs 35 mins
8 chicken thighs


  • 6 cups water

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar

  • 1 cup kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns

  • 4 large cloves garlic, mashed

  • 2 large bay leaves

  • 4 (5 inch) sprigs fresh rosemary

  • 1 medium lemon, sliced and seeds removed

  • 8 (8 ounce) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

  • 3 applewood chunks, for smoking

  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Whisk together water, brown sugar, 1 cup kosher salt, black peppercorns, garlic cloves, and bay leaves in a large saucepan until sugar and salt dissolve. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.

  2. Carefully pour brine mixture into a large heat-proof container and stir in rosemary sprigs and lemon slices. Place in the refrigerator until completely chilled, about 2 hours.

  3. Add chicken thighs to the chilled brine. Place a small plate on top of chicken thighs to ensure they stay submerged, then cover container with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate chicken thighs in brine for at least 6 hours, or up to 24 hours.

  4. Open the bottom vent of a grill completely. Light a charcoal chimney starter filled with briquettes. When briquettes are covered with gray ash, pour them onto bottom grate of the grill, and then push to 1 side of the grill. Place 3 to 4 applewood chunks on top of hot coals. Coat top grate with oil; place on grill. Cover and insert an instant-read thermometer into a vent in the lid; maintain a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees F (107 and 120 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes.

  5. Remove chicken thighs from brine and pat dry with paper towels, removing as much moisture on the surface of the thighs as possible. Sprinkle evenly with black pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon salt.

  6. Place chicken thighs on the preheated grill, skin-side up, over the side without coals. Cover and smoke until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 165 degrees F (74 degrees C), about 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours.

  7. Transfer chicken thighs to a large plate or platter and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Cook's Note:

Brining the chicken thighs before smoking them helps to keep the texture tender and juicy. Because this is a wet brine, as opposed to a dry brine, it is important to remove as much moisture as possible from the surface of the thighs before smoking to ensure there is no barrier inhibiting the smoke from imparting its favor into the meat and to ensure even browning between the thighs.

Editor's Notes:

Always brine foods in a food-grade, nonreactive container such as a stainless steel or enameled stockpot, a brining bag, or a food-grade plastic bucket.

Nutrition data for this recipe includes the full amount of brine ingredients. The actual amount of brine consumed will vary.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

493 Calories
24g Fat
30g Carbs
39g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 493
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 24g 31%
Saturated Fat 7g 33%
Cholesterol 142mg 47%
Sodium 11769mg 512%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 27g
Protein 39g
Vitamin C 11mg 54%
Calcium 67mg 5%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 429mg 9%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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