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Smoked Chicken Legs and Thighs

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For this article I picked up some chicken legs and thighs and I want to show you how easy it is to throw some of these together for a party or outdoor event. They are delicious when seasoned up with some of my rub and smoked and unlike whole chickens, you don't have to cut them up.. when they get done, folks can start grabbing and eating and that's what parties are all about.

  • Half dozen chicken legs
  • Half dozen chicken thighs
  • 1 cup of Jeff's rub
  • 1 cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • Large Ziploc bag

Prepping the Chicken

Place all of the chicken pieces down in a large ziploc bag and pour about 1 cup of olive oil over the top of the chicken. Pour the rub over the chicken as well then zip the top and roll/toss the chicken around until all of the chicken is well coated with the rub/oil mixture.

Unwrapped chicken legs and thighs Chicken in bag

Olive Oil Oil and rub on the top

The cool thing about this technique that I have discovered is that the oil mixes with the rub turning it into a paste which then tends to get all up under the skin as well as all over the outside of the skin. This is the perfect way to get that flavor where it needs to be without having to pull the skin back on each individual piece.

Oil/rub mixture on chicken

Getting the Smoker Ready

For this recipe I had some errands to run so I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to try out the Bradley smoker unattended.

I have the 4-rack digital model so I set it up with about 2 hours worth of “Special Blend” smoking biscuits or “pucks” and a bowl of water for the spent ones to fall into.

I set the smoker timer for 2 hours, the oven temperature on 220 and the oven timer on 4 hours.

Smoking the Chicken

I love the Bradley smoker racks and use them excessively even when I am using a different smoker. They are perfect for keeping the meat secure while it is carried back and forth from the kitchen to the smoker. I brought a couple of the racks into the house, laid it on a large cookie sheet to contain drips and loaded it up with the chicken.

Chicken on rack

I also threw some boudin on another rack for good measure.. boudin, brats or even some sausage links are always a good thing to throw on while you are smoking something else. The boudin is ready to eat with some crackers in about 2.5 to 3 hours.

Boudin Boudin finished

The racks were loaded into the smoker with the chicken on the bottom and the boudin on top (you don't want that chicken dripping on the boudin).

Racks loaded into smoker

I did a final check to make sure everything was setup right and I took off leaving the Bradley to maintain my set temperature and to provide perfect thin blue smoke for the alotted time.

When is it Done?

You might think that chicken pieces being small would get done really fast but it usually takes about as much time as it does to smoke a whole chicken. The advantage is that it's already all cut up and no carving is required.

These pieces, as I figured, took about 4 hours and 10 minutes at the 220 degree temperature I cooked them at.

The rub did NOT burn and they were perfectly tender and juicy at 165 degrees internal temperature.

Chicken done Chicken plated

How to Get the Chicken Skin Crispy

I have come to the conclusion that chicken skin from the smoker is just not going to have that “crispy bite” that fried chicken has. The olive oil in this recipe helps to crisp up the skin some and if you are really desperate you can throw the chicken on a really hot grill for just a few minutes when it gets almost done but you have to be careful as you don't want the rub to burn.

As an alternative to the grill you can place the chicken under the broiler of your oven for a couple of minutes but watch it carefully so it does not burn.

Some folks opt to smoke the chicken at much higher temperatures (250-275) however, while this will crisp the chicken a little more, I prefer to cook it at the lower temperatures so I can use a good rub and ensure that it does not burn during the cooking process.

What About Chicken Quarters?

You can do chicken quarters in the same manner as the legs and thighs and in fact, I think chicken quarters are sometimes a better option when you are doing a dinner with sides. One quarter is usually perfect portion and they are also very inexpensive. Add a little smoke and it's a meal fit for a king! Just like the legs and thighs, the quarters will take about 4 hours to reach 165 degrees if you keep the temperature down low.

Chicken Wings

If you are interested in chicken wings, you need to read my latest article dedicated completely to that subject. It can be found here.

What's up With Using Pucks in that Bradley?

The biscuits or “pucks” as I call them work very well but I have discovered that if you get in a pinch and run out of them, you can lay a chunk of mesquite, hickory or whatever you have on the metal rack that heats up to make the “pucks” smoke and it will provide smoke for a while. You will have to keep replacing the chunks every 30 minutes or so which is sort of counter productive to what that smoker is all about.

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  1. Love this recipe and technique. I made one minor tweak that I think works a little better at evenly coating the meat. First mix the oil and rub, then dump it into the bag onto the chicken.

  2. using pit boss 660 it took just over two hours to smoke ten thighs I was planning for six. i hope I can wait fort dinner time it looks and smells so darn good. jeff c.

  3. i want to try it. please give me suggession that i smoked chicken for 2 or 4 hours?
    thanks, i hope this suggession make my dish delicious.


  5. I was wondering about the 2 hrs and the oven being 4 hours. Did you smoke 2 or 4 hours
    Thanks for your time. Joe

    1. Joe, This recipe was cooked on the Bradley smoker. The (2) times are indicators of how long I applied heat as well as how long I applied smoke with it.

      It took 4 hours for them to get done but I only applied 2 hours of smoke to them. At the end of 2 hours, the smoke stopped but the heat continued for an additional 2 hours.

      Hopefully that is a more clear explanation of the process ;-)

  6. Jeff,

    I love your site and purchased your recipes and love them all. That being said, I think you are wrong on chicken thighs/legs. I have not seen them benefit from the low and slow technique at all. Dozens of attempts with it have led me to realize that chicken (if skin is on) has to be done at a higher temp and the internal temp monitored closely. If it’s done at 275-300 the skin doesn’t get rubbery, it actually gets crispy and tastier and you really have to screw up badly to dry out thighs.

  7. I think I’ll try this tomorrow along with some skinless breasts. Thanks for the tips on brining. Did you use skinless or skin on for this?

    1. I try to always brine poultry before seasoning/smoking it but you can get by with not doing this on dark meat since it tends to not be as lean in most cases. A 2 hour brine on chicken pieces is perfect.

      1. Thank you for the suggestion. I do believe I will brine the chicken to make it nice and moist.


  8. I tried this recipie in my Master Forge Electric Smoker and it only took a little over 2 hours. I think If I had left it in there for another 2 hours then it would have been burnt. I had the smoker set to 225.

    1. In smoking meat, there are many variables which can affect the actual cooking time. You really have to cook by temperature rather than time. Some of these variables are type of smoker, weather, how cold the meat is when it is placed into the smoker, etc..