My wife likes most of what I cook, but pork and beef have never been her favorite things. She'd always rather have chicken and she absolutely loves this smoked pulled chicken that I make, piled high on a bun with creamy cole slaw and my barbecue sauce mixed in.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Brine Time: 3 hours
- Cook Time: 3 hours
- Smoker Temp: 230°F
- Meat Finish Temp: 170-175°F
- Recommended Wood: Mesquite or Pecan
- 5 lbs of chicken thighs, about 24 pieces (I like the boneless, skinless variety)
- Brine (recipe below)
- Yellow mustard or Olive Oil (optional)
- Jeff's original rub (purchase recipe here)
- Large buns (for the sandwich)
- Creamy coleslaw
- Jeff's original barbecue sauce (purchase recipe here)
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- 1/2 gallon water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 TBS Louisiana hot sauce
Pour the salt into the water
Note: you might notice that the salt is not “white” like normal. I used some smoked salt that I had made up a while back which tends to be a light brown color.
Mix well until the salt is completely dissolved. Usually the water becomes clear when the salt is dissolved but since this is smoked salt, the water became a sort of pink color.
Add the brown sugar and the hot sauce to the water and once again stir to mix the ingredients into the water.
24 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Note: I used the boneless, skinless chicken thighs which is fine but if you do not protect them a bit, the outside will dry out and get tough. I would say the thighs with skin probably make a lot more sense that way the skin protects the meat while it smokes. When you're done, you simply remove the skin and you have nice tender chicken thighs for pulling.
Place the thighs into Ziploc bags inside of mixing bowls to prevent leakage. I was able to get 12 thighs into a 1-gallon Ziploc. I used 2 bags to contain the 24 thighs that I needed to brine.
Pour 1/2 of the brine (about 1 quart) over the chicken thighs and seal up the Ziploc bag. Be sure to press all of the air out of the bag as you seal it up.
Place the bowl(s) with the bags of thighs into the fridge to keep them nice and cold while they brine.
Once the thighs have brined for 3 hours, remove them from the fridge and rinse them well under cold water. Drain well using a colander and place them into a mixing bowl or another Ziploc bag for seasoning.
Add some mustard to the chicken and make sure all of the chicken is well coated with the mustard
You should end up using about 1/2 cup of rub on 24 chicken thighs
The chicken is now ready to smoke.
Set up your smoker for cooking at about 230°F. I highly recommend a robust wood like mesquite for that great smoke flavor that we all love and enjoy. You can also use hickory, pecan or a fruit wood of your choice.
Once the smoker is preheated and maintaining 230°F, place the chicken thighs into the smoker.
Let them smoke cook until they reach 170°F.
The thighs definitely have more fat than the other parts of the chicken and can handle longer cook times. The brining also adds more moisture to the meat and reduces the chance of them drying out in the heat. By cooking them just a little longer they end up a little more tender which helps with the pulling.
The chicken thighs are done cooking and can be brought in and cooled for a few minutes before pulling.
You will notice that I brushed a little sauce onto mine about 30 minutes before they were finished cooking. Just personal preference here.
Let the chicken thighs smoke for about 1.5 hours then place them into foil pans covered with foil. A little beer and/or apple juice in the bottom of the pan will create some steam and help to tenderize the meat.
Let the chicken cool for about 5 minutes once you bring it in then simply pull the meat from the bone (if not boneless) and tear it into small pieces.
With pulled pork, I prefer to drizzle the sauce on top of the meat but, with smoked pulled chicken, I think my original barbecue sauce just pairs really well with the meat and I like to mix it all in together. I don't like to add too much but just enough so that it is moist through and through.
Toast the buns then add a healthy portion of sauced pulled chicken on the bottom of the bun. Spoon on some slaw and top it with the other half of the bun. Add a pickle or two if you like and serve.
I used a recipe from my book for the “Creamy Cole Slaw”. If you have a great cole slaw recipe that you love, that will work. Don't be tempted to skip the slaw — it really makes the sandwich.
And, of course, if you have the book then you have the recipe;-)
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