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.

This pulled chicken recipes uses my original rub (purchase recipe here) for maximum flavor.  Let your taste buds rejoice!

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Brine Time: 3 hours
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 230°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 175°F
  • Recommended Wood: Pecan
What You'll Need
Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats-- you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.
Making the Brine
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 TBS Louisiana hot sauce

Salt and water for brine

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.

Pour the salt into the water

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.

Mix well

Add the brown sugar and the hot sauce to the water and once again stir to mix the ingredients into the water.

Brining the Chicken

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.

See my butter mop recipe below to help keep them moist during cooking.

24 chicken thighs

Place the thighs into zip top bags inside of mixing bowls to prevent leakage. I was able to get 12 thighs into a 1-gallon zip top. I used 2 bags to contain the 24 thighs that I needed to brine.

Thighs into bags

Pour 1/2 of the brine (about 1 quart) into each of the bags with the chicken thighs and seal up the zip top bag. Be sure to press all of the air out of the bag as you seal it up.

Brine and thighs in ziploc

Place the bowl(s) with the bags of thighs into the fridge to keep them nice and cold while they brine.

Preparing the Chicken Thighs for Smoking

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 zip top bag for seasoning.

Ready for seasoning

Add some mustard to the chicken and make sure all of the chicken is well coated with the mustard

Mustard added Mustard stirred in to coat

Add about 1/4 cup of my original rub (purchase recipe here) and make sure the chicken is well coated with the rub/mustard mixture.

Add rub  Rub mixed in

Repeat the last step by adding in another 1/4 cup of my original rub (purchase recipe here) and stirring it in well.

You should end up using about 1/2 cup of rub on 24 chicken thighs

The chicken is now ready to smoke.

Place the rubbed chicken thighs on Bradley racks, Weber grill pans or cooling racks for easy transport to and from the smoker.

Thighs on Bradley racks

Smoking the Chicken Thighs

Set up your smoker for cooking with indirect heat 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 175°F.

Why 175°F instead of the normal 165°F that we usually cook chicken to?

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.

Thighs are done

How to protect the meat if you want to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Option 1: Let the chicken thighs smoke for about 1.5 hours then place them into foil pans covered with foil. A little chicken broth, beer, apple juice, etc. in the bottom of the pan will create some steam and help to tenderize the meat.

Option 2 (my favorite): Brush them with melted butter about every 15 minutes to make sure they stay nice and moist throughout. This adds a little time to the overall cooking time but it's worth it.

A favorite mop that I use consists of the following:

It's good enough to drink.. but please don't. Save it for the chicken 😉

Pulling the Chicken

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.

Pulled smoked chicken

Saucing up the Meat

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.

Making the Sandwich

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.

Pulled Smoked Chicken

The Creamy Cole Slaw

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;-)

Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats– you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

Purchase the Formulas for Jeff's Rub and Sauce
**Instant Download!**
Jeff's Original Rub Recipe
Jeff's Barbecue Sauce

***Note: you get the Texas style rub recipe free with your order!

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Love the sauce and rub recipes. So far I have used them on beef ribs, pork ribs, and different chicken parts. Can't wait to do a beef brisket. Texas rub is great as well!

Peter S.

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.

I tried the rub on a beef brisket and some beef ribs the other day and our entire family enjoyed it tremendously. I also made a batch of the barbeque sauce that we used on the brisket as well as some chicken. We all agreed it was the best sauce we have had in a while.

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Printable Recipe

Smoked Pulled Chicken
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
3 hrs
Brine
3 hrs
Total Time
3 hrs 15 mins
 
You are absolutely gonna love this smoked pulled chicken recipe! It's meant to be piled high on a bun with creamy cole slaw and my barbecue sauce mixed in so do it justice 😉
Course: Chicken
Cuisine: Barbecue
Author: Jeff Phillips
What You'll Need
Instructions
Make the brine using:
  1. 1/2 gallon water
  2. 1/2 cup kosher salt
  3. 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  4. 3 TBS Louisiana hot sauce
  5. Add all of the ingredients to the water and stir until everything is dissolved and mixed in well.
  6. Using gallon sized zip top bags, put 12 thighs in each bag and pour enough brine into the bag to cover. I used about ½ of the brine in each bag and it was plenty.
  7. Seal the bags pressing out all of the air and let them sit in the fridge during the brining process. I recommend sitting the bags down in bowls to prevent the risk of leakage.
  8. After 3 hours, remove the bags from the fridge and discard the brine liquid.
  9. Place 12 chicken thighs into each bowl and coat well with yellow mustard.
  10. Pour ¼ cup of Jeff's original rub into each bowl and stir well to coat chicken.
  11. The chicken can now be placed onto Bradley racks, Weber grill pans or cooling racks for east transport to and from the smoker.
  12. Setup smoker for cooking at 225-240°F with indirect heat using mesquite, pecan or whatever wood you have available for smoke.

  13. If your smoker has a water pan, fill it up.
  14. Cook the chicken until it reaches 175°F as measured by a digital meat thermometer such as a thermapen or a ThermoPop.

  15. When the chicken is finished cooking, de-bone it (unless it's boneless), then pull the meat into pieces.
  16. Coat the meat with an ample amount of Jeff's barbecue sauce.
  17. Make sandwiches with the pulled chicken topping it with coleslaw, pickles and onions.
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