Well, do you want to learn how to smoke chicken breasts to perfection the easy way?
If you said yes, then you have come to the right place. This simple recipe delivers the most tender, juicy and flavorful chicken you will ever try, and all that takes less than half of a time of smoking a whole chicken.
The secret of smoking chicken breasts, or any meat like tenderloin or ribs, is the oil which you use in the marinade. And we always turn to avocado or olive oils, just because they deliver the best results.
Of course, timing and grill temperature are also critical, but the actual success depends on the marinade.
Stuff You’ll Need
1. Patience: Slow and low is the real secret to the excellent smoking chicken experience. We are talking about holding the temperature just around 235 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended cooking period.
2. Meat: Try to buy a plump, fresh 3-5 pound broiler-fryer!
3. Spices: When barbecuing, we use rubs and enjoy putting together our own with these fresh ingredients:
• Salt (Kosher preferred)
• Paprika (Hungarian much preferred for best flavor)
• Sugar (turbinado or brown)
• Chili Powder
• Pepper, black (fresh ground!)
• Garlic, granulate or powder
4. Smoker: The vertical “wet-pan” type is probably the most famous backyard smoker, so we wrote this recipe from our experience with this fun cooker. You can buy it at any “big box” store or hardware store.
5. Hardwood chips/chunks: Use only hardwood for any barbecue like Oak, Pecan, Mesquite, Apple, Cherry, or a combination, to your taste. When it comes to smoking chicken breasts, we found Hickory a little strong, but impressive!
6. Oven thermometer: We don’t rely on built-in thermometers, and for higher accuracy, we like the CDN High Heat Oven Thermometer.
7. Instant-Read probe type thermometer: As you know, all fowl must be thoroughly cooked! So be safe and ensure that the meat has reached the ideal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You can go with the inexpensive and accurate thermometers or a very fast, professional ones- it’s up to you! Remember, everybody, hates chicken that is partially cooked.
8. Tongs: A good pair of these are crucial when handling anything at the barbecue. Strong and long is the secret, and the choice is again up to you. You can also use insulated food gloves, which are fantastic for your roast!
9. Chimney starter: If you never heard about chimney starter, it is a device that is used to ignite either charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal. And if you never used one of these, we tell you- it’s a fantastic experience!
Great Smoked Chicken Breast Recipes Start With A Rub
The chicken breast is first “rubbed” with a dry, straightforward spice-accented rub recipe and after that, smoked slow, with low indirect heat. And all this for that unforgettable juicy, tender and perfectly seasoned eating experience! Sometimes, when the time is a factor, we tend to use the readily available “Lemon pepper” seasoning from our favorite purveyors.
Let’s start with a classic rub which will impact all of the flavors your drooling chops are craving for. Just don’t let the simplicity of this basic rub fool you because it works great, and you can adjust the recipe to make it “yours.”
Basic Rub Recipe
Thoroughly mix the following:
• ¼ cup dark brown sugar. We prefer “turbinado sugar” for ease of use, but either
works just as fine.
• ¼ tbsp. kosher salt
• ¼ cup sweet paprika (Hungarian, if you can get it)
• One tbsp ground pepper (fresh peppercorns recently ground!)
• One tbsp garlic powder or 2 tbsp granulated (not garlic salt)
• One tbsp chili powder
• One tbsp cayenne powder
Now, Let’s Prepare The Meat
Note: chicken meat should always be kept in the fridge before preparation.
Take the thawed chicken breast out of the fridge, rinse and clean all pieces thoroughly – pat dry. After that, apply the rub generously over pieces, all sides and under the skin if you can. We prefer to do this at least a couple of hours before cooking for the maximum effect. Remember to keep the meat in the fridge until you are ready to put it on the fire.
Get The Smoker Ready
Our recipe for smoking chicken breast is written for “bullet” or vertical “box” wet-pan type smokers, regardless of the heat source. First, fill the water pan to within an inch of the top. Use hot water to help avoid wasting fuel. For electric or gas smokers, place the chips (pre-soaked in water 20 min. to an hour) in the wood chip box.
One full box of chips will last for few hours, which will probably be sufficient for the whole cooking time. After that, fire-up the cooker and get the temperature to about 235 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare to keep that temperature as steady as you can! Maintaining the temperature between 200-235 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for ideal smoking chicken.
Control the temperature using the bottom vents only. The top vent should remain open and not used to control oxygen intake. Each cooker is different, so, experience rules when smoking chicken!
Note: If you are smoking chicken using a charcoal fired smoker, soak three or four cups of chunks/chips for about an hour, drain and place them directly on the coals, just after the smoker has reached temperature. That will suffice for the entire cooking time, regardless of the addition of more coals. Too much smoke equals nasty and bitter!
Note: Always use heat-proof gloves and tongs when smoking chicken! Never use the sharp, pokey, fork thing that seems to come with all backyard barbecue tool sets. That thing will pierce the meat and allow the juices to run out.
When the temperature has reached 235 degrees Fahrenheit, place the chicken breasts in the smoker. After ½ to two hours turn it over to finish. You should resist peeking inside because you are losing precious smoke and heat. Open the lid only far enough to do the job and don’t wait!
If you have judiciously maintained the temperature, turned the meat quickly, you may leave your station a few times before the chicken is done. When you are smoking chicken, think four plus hours until the end of the shift!
Check your chicken at the meatiest part of the breast right between the bones, looking for 160 degrees Fahrenheit to be the magic number. Remove the chicken and let it rest for at least ten minutes to allow it to “finish” (allows the juices to return to the center of the bird).
Your chicken breast is ready to be served!
When done correctly, smoked chicken meat is a tasty and delicious! Skinless, boneless chicken breasts are packed with protein and lower in calories and fat than chicken cooked with the skin on or dark chicken meat.
Smoked chicken breasts make an excellent lean protein source for any meal, and you can refrigerate and slice them to use in a place of fattier sandwich meat as much healthier lunchtime alternative.
You should also know that home-smoked chicken is even lower in sodium than prepared smoked chicken which you buy at the store.