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.
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.
¼ inch to open up the hole..
File off the burrs on the outside, wash the pan with soap and you're ready to cook.
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 conform to the shape of the muffin tin cups without hindrance.
I removed the bone by cutting along both sides with a very sharp knife but you really don't have to do that.
Note: You can purchase and use the boneless, skinless chicken but just make sure you keep the chicken basted with oil a few times during the cook to make sure the meat does not dry out.
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.
With the bones snipped or removed and the skin removed, place the thighs in a pan or container to be seasoned.
I like to do a light coat of seasoning on both sides.
Be sure to use the Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) for these.. it's very tasty!
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.
You will notice that I did not bother seasoning the skin.. we'll do that in a later step.
Place the skin (outside part of the skin facing down) into the muffin tins first then place the thigh meat on top.
Set the muffin pan onto a cookie sheet..
We are going to add some liquid to the cookie sheet eventually but I prefer to do that once it's in the smoker.
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 wood for smoke but any good smoking wood will work just fine.
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.
At the end of this stage the chicken temperature was at 140°F.
Carefully dump the chicken out of the muffin pan and into the cookie sheet.
You may have to use a butter knife to unstick the chicken from the edges if they seem to be having trouble coming out.
Put the chicken back into the muffin cups skin side up.
Add a sprinkling of Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) on top and go for another 45 minutes.
I checked the temperature at this stage and they were at 170°F which is great for chicken thighs.
Chicken thighs have a lot of fat in the meat and tends to end up more tender if you cook it a little higher than it's safe temperature (165°F). I even go as high as 175 to 180°F sometimes.
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 formula here | Purchase bottled sauce) and leave them in the smoker for 30 minutes to let the sauce get real good and caramelized.
Once the smoked chicken thighs are finished, serve them up immediately.
All in all, a little more labor intensive than most other smoked chicken thigh recipes but I think it's worth it and something fun to do occasionally.