Learn how to make the best smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs on ANY grill or smoker.
Whether you are using a pellet grill like a Traeger, Camp Chef, or Pit Boss, an electric smoker like a Masterbuilt, or just a conventional propane grill like a Weber, we’ve got you covered!
If you’ve spent any time around the Mad Backyard family, you know we love smoking chicken around here.
But today we are getting back to a simple weeknight dish with some delicious smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs.
No trimming, no brining.
First we will season them up with one our all time favorite BBQ rubs for chicken and smoke them with low to medium heat indirectly until they are perfectly cooked and colored.
Let’s jump in and talk about what seasonings and sauces to use and then how to set up your smoker for perfect smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs!
Prepare the Boneless Chicken Thighs for Smoking
You shouldn’t need to do much trimming if you are buying a package of boneless skinless chicken thighs to smoke.
Take them out of the package and give them a rinse in the sink.
Lay them out on a cutting board or in an aluminum pan and dry them well some paper towels. Only trim fat is you see a lot of excess on any piece.
Our Favorite Rubs and Sauces for Smoked Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
Best Store Bought Rubs for Smoked Boneless Chicken Thighs
Once the boneless chicken thighs are rinsed and dried well, give them a little coating some regular olive oil to help the rub stick and keep the chicken moist on the smoker.
You don’t need a lot, just enough to help the seasoning stick.
Now, you can use ANY of your favorite BBQ rubs for smoked chicken.
Since we are only smoking these at 250°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 boneless chicken thigh after you
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 want 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 smoked boneless chicken thighs if you are looking for big savory flavor without any of 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 smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs before throwing them on, then we’ve got you covered with this simple rub recipe with seasonings most people have on hand in the pantry:
- 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Paprika
- 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
- 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt (or 1/2 a tsp Table Salt)
- 1/2 Tbsp Fresh Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- 1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional for heat)
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 it with more paprika, smoked paprika. or increase the amount of chili powder and other savory seasonings.
Our Favorite BBQ Sauces for Smoked Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
Now, there is no law you have to use a barbecue sauce on smoked boneless chicken thighs.
We actually think they taste great with a just a rub like Three Little Pigs.
But if you DO want a barbecue sauce, Blues Hog wins the day 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.
In fact, we actually like to cut it with a less intense sauce, OR, with their Tennessee Red Sauce, which is a thinner, more vinegar based sauce, that is our hands down favorite sauce to use on our pulled pork.
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.)
Best Wood Choices for Smoked Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
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.
If you want to keep it simple and straightforward, choose a lighter smoking wood like oak, apple, or peach.
Middle of the road? Try hickory or cherry.
We recommend staying away from mesquite unless you cut it with another type of wood chip or pellet.
A little goes a long way with mesquite.
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, if you are using a pellet grill or pellet tube smoker, store your unused pellets in a sealed room temperature container like this 20 lb pellet container rather than in the hopper outside.
Pellets do not last forever, but will definitely last a LOT longer if stored indoors in a quality, airtight container.
Best Times and Temperatures for Smoked Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
What is the Best Temperature to Smoke Boneless Chicken Thighs?
We are going to set up the grill or smoker for moderately low and slow indirect cooking at 250°F.
This will give the chicken thighs plenty of time to absorb smokey flavor and will not burn any sugar in our rub.
The extra fat in the dark meat thighs will keep them from drying out like smoked chicken breasts might do if smoked at this low of a temperature.
However, if you are more crunched for time, you can turn the temperature up to 300°F if need to but they won;t get as much smoke flavor.
Target Internal Temperature for Smoked Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked boneless chicken thighs, so as to make sure they are not over, or worse, under cooked.
We are particular fans of this one from ThermoPro because of its durability and affordable price.
We are targeting a final internal temperature of 175°F on the smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs to know that they are safe to eat and finished cooking.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Boneless Chicken Thighs?
At 250°F, our smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs will take about 1 hour to cook and come up to 175°F internally.
This gives the smoked chicken thighs plenty of time to absorb a good amount of smoke and really develop some great flavors on the smoker.
They may take a little longer or less time depending on the size of your thighs.
That is why you need a good instant read thermometer and why we always cook to TEMPERATURE, not TIME.
Setting up your Grill or Smoker for Smoked Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
Ok, we have prepared our boneless chicken thighs for smoking and know all our times and temperatures.
Now it’s time to get down to the business of setting up the grill or smoker to cook these smoked chicken thighs
(Feel free to jump to the section with the kind of grill or smoker you own.)
Vertical or Offset Charcoal Smoker
Fill your firebox or lower charcoal basin with about a chimneys full of unlit charcoal and create a small hollowed out depression in the center where you can add your lit briquets.
If your smoker comes with a water pan, like the Weber Smokey Mountain, fill the water pan as well to help stabilize the temperature and add moisture to the cooking chamber.
Light a charcoal chimney about 1/4 way with charcoal and wait about 15 minutes for it to fully ignite.
You will not need too many lit briquets here because we are trying to keep the smoker temperature no higher than 250°F.
Fill your water pan first, then add the lit briquets to the center depression you created.
Keep the dampers about 1/2 way to 3/4 open until the cooking chamber temperature reaches about 200°F. Then slowly close them down until they are just barely open and you are maintaining a temperature of 250° F.
Place 1 chunk of your chosen smoking wood on top of your lit charcoal once the smoker is up to temperature and put your boneless chicken thighs on once the smoker is actively producing smoke..
Propane or Electric Smoker
Propane and electric options are some of the easiest smokers for beginners to start with.
For Propane: Open your gas valve and light the bottom burner. Adjust it to keep the temperature constant at 250° F.
Need a refresher? Check our our Complete Guide to How to Use a Propane Smoker HERE.
Fill the water tray if there is one and oil up the racks so the chicken does not stick.
Place your boneless chicken thighs either directly on the racks and close the door.
You will need to refill the wood chips every 30 minutes or so as they smolder out in the chip loader, which will end up being about 1-2 times during the 1 hour cook.
However, we recently found a great solution.
If you are tired of having to reload fresh wood chips into your electric smoker, especially on longer cooks like pork butt and brisket, then check out this Masterbuilt Automatic Slow Smoker Attachment.
It basically burns new fresh wood chips at a constant rate, much like how a pellet grill works, freeing you up to do other things while getting your food nice and smokey!
Fill the pellet hopper with your choice of smoking wood pellets.
Plug in the pellet grill, turn it on and let it run through its start up process.
Then turn the temperature to 250°F.
When the pellet grill has come up to temperature, oil up the grates and place your chicken thighs on them.
Never used a pellet grill like a Traeger or a Pit Boss before?
Read our ultimate guide to pellet grills to learn why they are so easy to use and how to set one up for success every time.
Gas or Charcoal Grill
And if you need a full lesson on how to smoke on a gas grill the RIGHT way, check out our Ultimate Guide to Smoking on a Gas Grill HERE.
In the case of smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs, we would opt for just using the smoker tube filled about half way with pellets since we will be cooking for longer than the 20-30 minutes a smoker box full of wood chips will last.
Set up your gas or charcoal grill for indirect cooking with the burners or a small amount of lit briquets on one side and plan for your chicken thighs to be on the other side.
Because we are keeping the temperature relatively LOW at 250°F, you don’t need much heat.
Probably just one lit burner if using a gas grill, and one handful of charcoal if using a charcoal kettle grill.
Once the temperature of your grill is around 250°F, light your pellet tube smoker and place it next to the chicken.
Or, place your smoker box over the coals or lit burners and once smoke begins coming out, place your chicken on the opposite side of the heat.
Make sure to oil the grates on the indirect side well so that the chicken thighs do not stick.
Monitor your Grill Temperature
Almost every grill and smoker will have some sort of temperature gauge on them.
This is what makes them so convenient!
If, however, you are using a charcoal or propane grill/smoker, you can’t rely on the cheap lid mounted temperature gauge that come installed on them.
We have found these can sometimes be up to 30°F off from the true actual temperature at the grill grate level!
This is unacceptable.
This is why you will always see competition cooks, and backyard chefs who know their stuff, using wireless digital probe thermometers to keep track of both their meat AND their cooking chamber.
We are big fans of the ThermoPro Wireless Digital Meat Thermometer series for doing this.
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...
Again, we are going to bring the internal temperature of our smoked bonless chicken thighs up to 175*F.
Since the smoked boneless chicken thighs are dark meat, they need to cook up a little higher than say a white meat chicken breast that only needs to hit 165°F internally.
We also think the meat just tastes better when cooked that high as all the fat really renders out completely.
Saucing and Serving Smoked Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
If you are going to apply a barbecue sauce, don’t put it on when the boneless chicken thighs are still raw and have just gone on the grill or smoker.
Give the rub some time to firm up on the chicken, and rotate and flip as needed depending on how even the temperature of your grill or smoker is.
Once the chicken has about 20 minutes left, then you can baste on some barbecue sauce using a good silicone basting brush.
This will give the barbecue sauce time to firm up on the chicken without drying out or interfering with the rub.
Serve your smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs while they are still hot, with some extra warmed up BBQ sauce on the side if your guests wish.
Smoked chicken thighs are great on their own, or you can pair them with our maple bourbon smoked pineapple for a Hawaiian theme.
What Else Can I Smoke?
Looking for some more smoky inspiration?
You’ve come to right place!
- Traeger Baby Back Ribs
- Traeger Smoked Pulled Pork
- Traeger 3-2-1 Pork Ribs
- Traeger Smoked Pork Loin
- Traeger Smoked Pork Spare Ribs
- Pit Boss Pulled Pork
- Pit Boss Smoked Baby Back Ribs
- Pit Boss Smoked Pork Loin
- Pit Boss 3-2-1 Ribs
- Camp Chef Pulled Pork
- Masterbuilt Electric Smoker Boston Butt
- Masterbuilt Baby Back Ribs
- Pellet Grill Smoked Pork Chops
- Pellet Grilled Bratwurst
- Gas Grilled Bratwurst
- Smoked Fresh Holiday Ham
- Spiral Sliced Smoked Hot Dogs
- Smoked Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions
- Roasted Pig in Your Backyard
- Traeger Smoked Prime Rib
- Traeger Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream
- Traeger Smoked Beef Brisket
- Traeger Smoked Chuck Roast
- Traeger Smoked Pot Roast
- Traeger Smoked Beef Short Ribs
- Pit Boss Beef Brisket
- Pit Boss Smoked Beef Tenderloin
- Pit Boss Smoked Prime Rib
- Pit Boss Smoked Chuck Roast
- Pit Boss Smoked Beef Ribs
- Pit Boss Smoked Tri-Tip Roast
- Pit Boss Grilled Hamburgers
- Camp Chef Smoked Beef Brisket
- Masterbuilt Smoked Chuck Roast
- Masterbuilt Beef Brisket
- Perfect Smoked London Broil
- Smoked Ribeye Roast
- Smoked Corned Beef
- Smoked Ribeye Steaks
- Smoked Filet Mignon
- Hot and Fast Pellet Grill Beef Brisket
- Pellet Grilled Steak
- Perfect Grilled Hamburgers
- Smoked Eye of Round Roast Beef
- Easy Smoked Flank Steak
- Smoked Tomahawk Steaks
- Smoked Bottom Round Roast
- Smoked Sirloin Tip Roast
- Smoked Rump Roast
- Pit Boss Smoked Salmon
- Traeger Smoked Salmon
- Honey Smoked Salmon
- Smoked Oysters in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
- Smoked Scallops with Lemon Butter Sauce
- Smoked Lobster Tails
- Easy Smoked Tilapia
- Perfect Smoked Halibut
- Smoked Mahi Mahi Fillets
- Smoked Swordfish Steaks
- Smoked Crab Legs with Cajun Clarified Butter
- Smoked Mackerel with Maple Balsamic Glaze
- Smoked Catfish with Cajun BBQ Rub
- Smoked Red Snapper with Blackening Rub
- Smoked Trout
- Smoked Tuna Steaks
- Pit Boss Smoked Whole Chicken
- Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Thighs
- Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Breasts
- Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Legs
- Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Wings
- Pit Boss Smoked Boneless Turkey Breast
- Traeger Smoked Whole Chicken
- Traeger Smoked Chicken Thighs
- Traeger Smoked Chicken Breasts
- Traeger Smoked Chicken Legs
- Traeger Smoked Chicken Wings
- Smoked Whole Chicken in Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Smoked Turkey in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters
- Beer Can Chicken on a Pellet Grill
- Spatchcocked Chicken on a Pellet Grill
- Pellet Grill Smoked Turkey Breast
- Pellet Grill Turkey
- Easy Smoked Turkey Legs
- Spatchcocked Smoked Turkey on a Pellet Grill
- Smoked Chicken Salad
- Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill or smoker but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours!
- Smoked Leg of Lamb with Guinness Marinade
- Smoked Lamb Chops with a Balsamic Butter Sauce
- Smoked Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary or Smoker
- Smoked and Pulled Lamb Shoulder with a Turkish Spice Rub
- Smoked Lamb Shanks
Sides and Desserts
- Pit Boss Corn on the Cob
- Pit Boss Smoked Mac and Cheese
- Pit Boss Smoked Baked Beans
- Smoked Potato Salad
- Smoked Baked Potatoes
- Smoked Twice Baked Potatoes
- Smoked Asparagus
- Easy Smoked Broccoli
- Smoked Cauliflower
- Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes
- Smoked Pineapple in a Maple Bourbon Sauce
- Smoked Carrots with a Honey Balsamic Glaze
- Smoked Hard Boiled Eggs
- Smoked Deviled Eggs
- Smoked Egg Salad
- Smoked Cream Cheese
- Smoked Cream Cheese Dip with Bacon and Cheddar
- Smoked Pig Shots
- Smoked Jalapeno Poppers
- Smoked Garlic
- Frozen Pizza on a Pellet Grill
- How to Steam Tamales
- Masterbuilt Smoked Cheese
- Smoked Gouda Cheese
Smoked Boneless Chicken Thighs
- Gas Grill, Pellet Grill, or Smoker
- Wood pellets, chunks, or a pellet tube smoker with pellets or a smoker box with wood chips
- Paper Towels
- Instant Read Thermometer
- Grill Tongs
- Basting brush
- 8 Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Your favorite BBQ rub or our "In a Pinch" BBQ rub below
- Barbecue Sauce optional
In a Pinch BBQ Rub for Chicken
- ¼ cup Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Paprika
- 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
- 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt or 1/2 Tbsp Table Salt
- 1/2 Tbsp Fresh Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- ⅛ tsp Cayenne Pepper optional for heat
Rinse, Dry, and Season the Boneless Chicken Thighs
- Rinse the chicken thighs under cold running water. Place on a cutting board or in an aluminum pan and pat dry with paper towels8 Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
- Brush a light coating of regular olive oil on all sides of each boneless chicken thigh.2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Sprinkle on your favorite BBQ rub or mix up our "In a Pinch Rub" and rub on all sides of each chicken thigh.Your favorite BBQ rub or our "In a Pinch" BBQ rub below, ¼ cup Dark Brown Sugar, 2 Tbsp Paprika, 1 Tbsp Chili Powder, 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt, 1/2 Tbsp Fresh Black Pepper, 1 tsp Garlic Powder, 1 tsp Onion Powder, ⅛ tsp Cayenne Pepper
Set up your Grill or Smoker
- Light or turn on your smoker, grill or pellet grill and set up the temperature to 250°F. If using a grill, only light a small amount of charcoal or light a single burner on one side for indirect cooking
- Brush the grill grates with oil to keep the chicken from sticking.
- Add your wood chunks directly to the firebox of a smoker, or use chips in a smoker box, or pellets in a tube smoker or pellet grill.
- Once smoke is being produced and the grill or smoker is at 250°F, put your seasoned chicken on the COOL side of the grill.
Smoking the Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
- Smoke the chicken for about 1 hour, flipping and rotating occasionally, until the internal temperature reaches 175°F using an instant read thermometer.
- Brush both sides with barbecue sauce if you wish during the last 10-20 minutes.Barbecue Sauce
- Remove the smoked boneless chicken thighs from the smoker and serve immediately.