Learn how to make the juiciest smoked chicken breasts using a Pit Boss pellet grill!
We take you step-by-step through dry brining and seasoning your smoked chicken breasts, setting up your Pit Boss pellet grill for the cook, and smoking them to perfection.
We love smoking chicken around here.
But today we are getting back to basics with some delicious smoked chicken breasts right on our trusty Pit Boss pellet grill.
First we are going to do an easy overnight dry brine to make sure they are moist and flavorful and that if you have "skin-on" chicken breasts, the skin stays nice and crispy.
Then, we will season them up with one our all time favorite BBQ rubs for chicken and smoke them on the Pit Boss with medium heat indirectly until they are perfectly cooked and colored.
Then you can eat your Pit Boss smoked chicken breasts juicy and smoked "as-is" or brush on one of our favorite BBQ sauces to finish them off saucy!
Our Favorite Seasonings
Now, you can use ANY of your favorite BBQ rubs for smoked chicken.
Since we are only smoking these at 300°F we don't need to worry about burning any sugary rubs.
So choose any rub you like and sprinkle it on generously on both sides of each chicken breast.
Three Little Pigs Touch of Cherry is one of our personal favorite rubs for smoked chicken, and their Kansas City Championship Rub will give you a good hit of garlic, onion, and some heat if you like more of those flavors.
You can always mix it in with a more balanced rub like Blues Hog if you just want to add a little of those flavors.
If you want a quality rub without ANY sugar, we are big fans of Bad Byron's Butt Rub Seasoning.
Although we typically use it on cuts of beef and steaks where we are going for a more savory flavor, there is no real reason you can't apply it to your Pit Boss smoked chicken breasts if you are looking for big flavor without all the sugar.
Homemade "In a Pinch" Rub
Sometimes, you forgot you ran out of your favorite rub, or don't have all the ingredients on hand to make a complex one from scratch.
If you just want to get a good classic BBQ rub on your Pit Boss smoked chicken breasts before throwing them in , then we've got you covered with this simple rub recipe with seasonings most people have on hand in the pantry:
- ¼ Cup Dark Brown Sugar
- ¼ Cup Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Coarse Ground Black Pepper
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt (Or ½ tablespoon table salt, go easy, you can always add more salt later)
- 1 tablespoon Chili Powder
- ½ tablespoon Granulated Garlic or Garlic Powder (adjust to taste)
- ½ tablespoon Onion Powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional)
Mix thoroughly, (using a re-usable plastic shaker works best), and then sprinkle directly on your chicken.
If you don't want that much sugar, you can replace with more paprika, smoked paprika. or increase the amount of chili powder and other savory seasonings.
Our Favorite BBQ Sauces
Blues Hog again wins the day here with their amazing lineup of sauces. While their rubs are great, their sauces are WORLD CLASS.
Their Original BBQ Sauce is VERY thick, VERY sweet, and incredibly heavy on flavor, so a little goes a LONG way.
You can pick up both and mix them like we do, or mix some Blues Hog Original in with one of your other favorites (we'd suggest more savory sauces to balance the sugar, like this one from Aaron Franklin.)
Rather Watch than Read?
Check out our Step-by-Step video for How to Make Smoked Chicken Breasts on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill on our YouTube Channel!
Our Favorite Wood Pellets
Poultry, like fish, absorbs smoke very quickly and a little goes a long way.
The best woods for smoking chicken include the fruitwoods like apple, cherry, and peach, but also the milder smoking woods like pecan, oak and alder.
Mesquite and hickory will give a very aggressive smoke flavor and should only be used if mixed in with some of the other types mentioned above.
For fun, you can choose your woods seasonally, using beech and cherry in spring and summer and pecan and apple into the fall and winter.
For the best results, store your unused pellets in a sealed room temperature container like this 20 lb pellet container rather than in the Pit Boss hopper outside.
Pellets do not last forever, but will definitely last a LOT longer if stored indoors in a quality airtight container.
If you're looking for even more smoke flavor, you can add a pellet tube smoker right onto your Pit Boss grates. Another option is to use actual wood chunks and charcoal in a smoker box. Watch our video to show you exactly how to do it!
Setting up the Pit Boss
We have previously covered how to season a Pit Boss, how to start a Pit Boss, as well as how to troubleshoot the smoke level of your pellet grill.
So if you need a more in-depth review on how to use your Pit Boss for the first time, check those articles out first!
You will need to watch both your cooking temperature and internal temperature carefully when smoking the chicken breasts on your Pit Boss.
We recommend setting up the Pit Boss for indirect heat to cook at 300°F.
This seems to be the best temperature for smoking chicken breasts on a Pit Boss.
Any lower, your smoked chicken breasts will not only take forever, but the meat may dry out.
Any higher, and you risk burning the sugar in your BBQ rub.
However, if you are using a no-sugar rub like Bad Byron's, feel free to smoke the chicken breasts at 325-350°F.
If you are adding a barbecue sauce at the end you want to carmelize, its OK to crank the heat up to 350-375°F for the last 5-10 minutes after brushing on the sauce.
Target Internal Temperature
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked chicken breasts on the Pit Boss.
If your smoked chicken breasts are big enough, you'll want a good leave in probe thermometer like the Thermopro as well as a second instant read thermometer to spot check as you get close to pulling them off the Pit Boss.
If you don't yet own an instant read thermometer, ThermoPro makes a good one of these too.
While we have used and recommended ThermoPro for years, lately we have also become big fans of the MEATER leave in thermometer.
It is extremely accurate and has an incredible 165 foot bluetooth range and works right with your smartphone so you don't need to carry a separate controller around with you like many other remote thermometers require.
It's got a great free app that is constantly being updated and even has an algorithm to predict how much longer your type of meat will take to cook based on cooking temperature, target temperature, current internal temperature.
It's like a GPS for your meat!
Anyways, back to our smoked chicken...
We are going to bring the internal temperature of our smoked chicken breasts up to 165°F.
Since the smoked chicken breasts are white meat, they don't need to cook as high as dark meat like legs and thighs.
If they are small chicken breasts, you can try taking them off at 160°F and letting the residual heat from the outside bring the inside up to 165°F while they rest so as not to risk overcooking them.
You'll want to monitor the internal temperature of the chicken breasts closely for doneness.
This is really the only way to know when they are close to being done.
Because chicken breasts come in a variety of sizes as well as whether they are boneless or skinless, the time it takes to smoke them can vary widely.
Remember, we are bringing them up to 165°F on your instant read thermometer.
In a 300°F Pit Boss, it will take roughly 40 minutes to smoke boneless chicken breasts and closer to 60 minutes for bone-in.
Depending on the size of your chicken breasts, how consistent your Pit Boss temperature is, the humidity outside, as well a number of other factors, your cooking time may be more or less, so be prepared.
Pro Tip: If you want the crispiest skin possible on skin-on chicken breasts, avoid basting or spraying the chicken breasts with anything while they are smoking.
Keep the lid closed as much as possible, and use the temperature probes to tell you when they are done.
Pro Tip #2: If you're going to apply a bbq sauce at the end to skin-on chicken breasts, wait as long as possible until the skin has fully crisped up. If you add sauce before the skin gets crispy, IT WILL NEVER GET CRISPY at that point.
Serving the Chicken Breasts
Serve your smoked chicken breasts while they are still hot, with some extra warmed up BBQ sauce on the side if your guests wish.
Smoked chicken breasts are great on their own, or you can pair them with our maple bourbon smoked pineapple for a Hawaiian theme.
If you want something a little richer, check out our Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes to cook and serve alongside your Pit Boss smoked chicken.
Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Breasts
- Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Wood Pellets preferably a fruitwood like apple or cherry; or oak
- Meat Carving Knife
- Paper Towels
- Instant Read and/or Leave in Probe Thermometer
- Basting brush
- Cutting Board
- 8 Chicken Breasts boneless skinless
- 2 tablespoon Three Little Pigs BBQ Rub or your favorite BBQ rub for chicken or our "In a Pinch" Recipe Below
- ¼ Cup Blues Hog Original BBQ Sauce
- ¼ Cup Blues Hog Tennessee Red BBQ Sauce
"In a Pinch" BBQ Rub
- 2 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
- ½ tablespoon Course Ground Black Pepper
- ½ tablespoon Chili Powder
- ½ tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper optional
Wash the Chicken Breasts
- Remove the chicken breasts from their packaging and rinse under cold running water. Pay dry with paper towels.8 Chicken Breasts
Season the Chicken
- Mix together the In a Pinch BBQ Rub, or use your favorite BBQ rub, and sprinkle generously over the tops and bottoms of each chicken breast.2 tablespoon Three Little Pigs BBQ Rub or your favorite BBQ rub for chicken or our "In a Pinch" Recipe Below
- Let the seasoning set on the chicken ideally for a couple hours before smoking.
Start the Pit Boss
- Add your chosen pellets to the hopper, start the Pit Boss pellet grill and put it on the "Smoke" setting and leave the lid open.
- Once the Pit boss begins to produce thick white smoke, let it run for about 5-7 minutes until the smoke turns more of a clearish blue color. This means the fire rod has fully heated up to burn the pellets more cleanly.
- Next, set the temperature to preheat the Pit Boss pellet grill to 300°F.
- Fill an aluminum pan with water pan if you want to add extra moisture, and place it on the far left side of the Pit Boss pellet grill. Place a disposable bucket liner in the grease bucket as well if you want to limit cleanup later.
- Place the chicken breasts on the Pit Boss.
- Continue smoking the chicken breasts, rotating and flipping occasionally, until the internal temperature of each breast reaches 150-155°F internally. This may take about 45 minutes.
- Mix the two types of Blues Hog BBQ sauce together in a small bowl, gently baste the sauce on with a basting brush. Close the lid and continue cooking.¼ Cup Blues Hog Original BBQ Sauce, ¼ Cup Blues Hog Tennessee Red BBQ Sauce
- Once the internal temperature of the smoked chicken breasts reaches 165°F, remove them from the Pit Boss and place on a serving tray
- Serve immediately with extra sauce if desired.