Smoked cupcake chicken is a recipe that was made popular by Myron Mixon in the competition circuit. It is a way to make smoked chicken thighs so that they come out uniform, juicy and properly seasoned for the judges.

I made a few changes as I usually do but the basic method remains the same and it's definitely a great recipe to try when you have a hankering for smoked chicken thighs.

I used my original rub (purchase recipes here) on the chicken to season it real nice without making it salty and then added a little of my original barbecue sauce (purchase recipes here) at the end caramelized onto the delicious chicken skin.

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The smoked cupcake chicken thrives on a flavorful rub that is not overly salty and this is where my original rub comes in and works so well.

My original sauce finishes the ensemble perfectly as a caramelized glaze on the chicken skin.

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Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 275°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 170°F
  • Recommended Wood: Cherry
What You’ll Need
The Muffin or Cupcake Pan

The pan needs to have a ¼ inch hole drilled in the center of each cup.

This is a lot easier if the pan is one of the foil ones or a silicone one as the hole can be made with scissors, a nail or any number of implements you mind find around the house.

If you decide to use a regular metal pan, then you'll need a drill and bit. I recommend a 1/8 inch bit to start and then a ¼ to open it up to full size.

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Drill from the inside out so the burrs will be on the outside and easily filed off.

1/8 inch bit first.. I just eyeballed the center.

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¼ inch to open up the hole..

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File off the burrs on the outside, wash the pan with soap and you're ready to cook.

Preparing the Chicken

Lay the chicken thighs on a cutting board bone side up and find the knuckle.

I like to remove the entire bone but most just clip off the knuckles on the ends of the bones with heavy duty kitchen shears or something similar.

This is to reduce the width of the chicken and allow it to lay flat in the muffin pan without hindrance.

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I removed the bone by cutting along both sides with a very sharp knife but you really don't have to do that.

If you can purchase boneless, skin-on chicken thighs, that would be ideal.

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Flip the piece of chicken over and remove the chicken skin.. it should just pull right off like it's meant to happen.

I also squared up the skin a little but unless you are competing and serving to judges, it may be overkill.

While you are at it, if you see any large pieces of fat, just cut it off with a knife or kitchen scissors.

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Seasoning the Chicken

With the bones snipped or removed and the skin removed, place the thighs in a pan or container to be seasoned.

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I like to do both sides but not real heavy or it could over power the chicken.

Be sure to use the Jeff's original rub (purchase recipes here) for these.. it's very tasty!

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Optional: place the seasoned meat and the skins you removed into a ziptop bag or container and let it marinate overnight in the original rub and chicken juices.

The meat is now ready to be made back into skin covered thighs again.

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You will notice that I did not bother seasoning the skin.. we'll do that in a later step.

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Into the Muffin or Cupcake Pan

Place the chicken thighs skin side down into the muffin cups.

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Set the muffin pan onto a cookie sheet..

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We are going to add some liquid to the cookie sheet but I prefer to do that once it's in the smoker.

Get the Smoker Ready

Set up your smoker for cooking at about 275°F with indirect heat.  This higher heat helps to cook the chicken faster and creates a better bite-thru on the skin.

The entire process takes about 3 hours and I recommend keeping the smoke going throughout. I used cherry but any good smoking wood will work just fine.

Stage One: Skin Down

Place the muffin pan/cookie sheet on the smoker grate.

Fill the cookie sheet with about ¼ inch of liquid. Most recommend chicken broth but you can use other things if you wish. The options are endless and include things like soda pop, fruit juice, wine, vegetable broth, etc.

Keep the chicken in this configuration for 1.5 hours at 275°F.

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At the end of this stage the chicken temperature was at 140°F.

Stage Two: Skin Up

Carefully dump the chicken out of the muffin pan and into the cookie sheet.

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Put the chicken back into the muffin cups skin side up.

Add a sprinkling of Jeff's original rub (purchase recipes here) on top and go for another 45 minutes.

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I checked the temperature at this stage and they were at 170°F which is not bad for chicken thighs.

If you want to monitor the temperature and call this stage done at 165, that would be just fine.

Stage Three: Sauce

Remove the chicken from the muffin pan and set them skin side up on the dry cookie sheet (I poured off any juice that remained in the cookie sheet).

Brush the top and sides with Jeff's original barbecue sauce (purchase recipes here) and leave them for 30 minutes to let the sauce get real good and caramelized.

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Finished

Once the smoked chicken thighs are finished, serve them up immediately.

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All in all, more labor intensive than most other smoked chicken thigh recipes but I think it's worth it and something fun to do occasionally.

Summary

This process seems a lot more complicated than it really is so I'll break it down for you here with minimal explanation:

  • Remove skin from thighs, snip knuckles from bones and remove any excess fat.
  • Add Jeff's original rub to chicken thighs on top and bottom. Refrigerate overnight if you like or get right on with it.
  • Replace skin on to chicken thighs.
  • Put chicken skin side down into special, pre-drilled muffin pan.
  • Place the muffin pan onto a cookie sheet filled with ¼ inch of chicken broth and smoke cook at 275 for 1.5 hours.
  • Flip chicken over in muffin pan to skin side up, add some seasoning and smoke cook at 275 for another 45 minutes.
  • Remove chicken from muffin pan and place skin side up onto cookie sheet.
  • Sauce top and sides and smoke cook at 275 for an additional 30 minutes to let the sauce caramelize.
  • Serve immediately.

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"Love the original rib rub and sauce! We have an annual rib fest competition at the lake every 4th of July. I will say we have won a great percent of the time over the past 15 years so we are not novices by any means. However, we didn't win last year and had to step up our game! We used Jeff's rub and sauce (sauce on the side) and it was a landslide win for us this year! Thanks Jeff for the great recipes. I'm looking forward to trying the Texas style rub in the near future!" ~Michelle M.

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Printable Recipe

5.0 from 1 reviews
Smoked Cupcake Chicken
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Smoked cupcake chicken is a recipe that was made popular by Myron Mixon in the competition circuit. It is a way to make smoked chicken thighs so that they come out uniform, juicy and properly seasoned for the judges.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Hot Smoking
Serves: 6
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Remove skin from thighs, snip knuckles from bones and remove any excess fat.
  2. Add Jeff's original rub to chicken thighs on top and bottom. Refrigerate overnight if you like or get right on with it.
  3. Replace skin on to chicken thighs.
  4. Put chicken skin side down into special, pre-drilled muffin pan.
  5. Place the muffin pan onto a cookie sheet filled with ¼ inch of chicken broth and smoke cook at 275 for 1.5 hours.
  6. Flip chicken over in muffin pan to skin side up, add some seasoning and smoke cook at 275 for another 45 minutes.
  7. Remove chicken from muffin pan and place skin side up onto cookie sheet.
  8. Sauce top and sides and smoke cook at 275 for an additional 30 minutes to let the sauce caramelize.
  9. Serve immediately.
 

About the Author

Long time Industrial Engineer turned self-proclaimed fire poker, pitmaster and smoke whisperer and loving every minute of it!

4 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Bryan Armbruster September 1, 2016 at 10:25 am - Reply

    I’m new at this and want to try chicken leg quartes. What temp. And how long?

  2. Lee K July 13, 2016 at 10:51 am - Reply

    I agree with Jon G on this wonderful recipe. They turned out spectacular but would like to know if the skin is necessary for a quality result. Maybe someone can make this recipe and leave one of the thighs without the skin and do a comparison. I know I will next time. Removing the thigh bone was a bit of a pain, especially if I wanted to make a lot of these for company.

  3. Jon G June 30, 2016 at 8:39 am - Reply

    I made these recently, and they were excellent! Only issue I had was that I had to buy leg quarters, so I split them, then removed the bones from the thighs. After that, there wasn’t a lot of meat left. Not sure if they were small to begin with, or if I’m not that good at de-boning. I found our market sells boneless skinless thighs, which would make the work a lot easier. But I’m wondering how critical the skin is to the recipe. If I use skinless, will it be OK still?

  4. Scott Postell June 16, 2016 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    I’m gonna shoot just this one on Sunday.

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