Learn how to make delicious smoked chicken thighs using an electric smoker such as a Masterbuilt!
Additionally, learn how to get CRISPY skin on your smoked chicken thighs.
We take you step-by-step through seasoning and dry brining your smoked chicken thighs, setting up your electric smoker for the cook, and smoking and saucing them to perfection.
But some nights you just want something nice and simple but still done right, like our crispy electric smoker smoked chicken thighs.
We've previously done our famous smoked whole chicken in an electric smoker, some simple smoked chicken breasts, smoked chicken legs, boneless skinless chicken thighs, and even some simple smoked chicken quarters.
But we thought, what could be more classic than some simply smoked bone-in skin-on chicken thighs right in the good old trusty Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?
You can really use any electric smoker, it doesn't have to be a Masterbuilt, and follow our step by step instructions below!
How to Prepare Chicken Thighs for the Electric Smoker
Clean and Trim the Chicken Thighs
Take some time to clean, rinse and dry your chicken thighs with paper towels after removing them from the packaging.
Spread out the skin that may be bunched up and tucked under and around the sides of the chicken thighs.
Flip the thighs over to see where the skin spreads out longer than the edges of the chicken.
Then flip them back over and you should have some nice and neatly trimmed chicken thighs ready for seasoning.
How to get Crispy Skin on your Masterbuilt Smoked Chicken Thighs
The problem with "most" smoked chicken is that while the meat inside gets tender and delicious, the skin is usually a little rubbery and unappetizing.
Typically we would roast the chicken thighs anywhere from 325-375°F in order to render out the fat underneath the skin, but many electric smokers, including those made by Masterbuilt only go up to a 275°F cooking temperature.
So rather than using HEAT to get crispy skin on a smoked chicken thighs, we need to use CHEMISTRY.
And if you want the crispiest skin possible at the end, it all starts with dry brining at the beginning.
This is what will separate you from all the chicken smoking amateurs out there.
It works on all cuts of chicken...and turkey too.
Crispy Smoked Chicken Thigh Skin Secret #1: Baking Powder
Mixing a little baking powder into your smoked chicken thigh rub will go a long way to give you crispier skin, even at the lower temperatures of an electric smoker.
This works great for all kinds of roast chicken, turkey, and even duck as outlined by Epicurious here.
You don't need a lot, we add about ⅛ teaspoon for every 4 tablespoon of BBQ Rub.
This works best if you combine it with dry brining the chicken overnight in the refrigerator to allow the alkali baking powder to interact with the skin of the chicken along with the salt in your rub to dry everything out before putting it in the electric smoker.
Crispy Smoked Chicken Thigh Skin Secret #2: Dry Brine Overnight
After cleaning and trimming, simply sprinkle the chicken thighs with kosher salt, or your favorite BBQ rub that has salt in it, along with some baking powder mixed in as described above.
Do NOT use oil to help the rub adhere.
As you apply the rub the skin will start to get more wet as the salt in the rub pulls the moisture up to the surface.
This is all the moisture you need to get the salt and rub to adhere.
Store the chicken thighs on a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight.
We like this wire rack and baking sheet combo because you want maximum airflow around every side of the chicken.
This overnight seasoning does 3 things:
- That salty moisture that formed on the surface will work its way BACK into the meat to help flavor the chicken meat.
- The salt inside will help the chicken retain moisture and not dry out while it smokes in the Masterbuilt.
- It pulls moisture OUT of the skin allowing it to dry out before you smoke it and therefore crisp up better while it cooks.
Moist meat, and dry crispy skin.
Exactly what we want.
The next day the skin may look kind of powdery and dry.
This is OK.
It means the salt has penetrated down into the meat where you want it to be and has taken all the moisture from the skin with it.
The skin will now crisp up nicely in the electric smoker while the inside meat stays moist.
If you need to add MORE BBQ rub, go ahead and do this before putting it in the Masterbuilt.
Pro Tip: DO NOT use cooking oil to help additional rub adhere to the chicken skin. The more oil you apply, the less the skin will crisp up when it cooks.
Our Favorite Rubs and Sauces for Smoked Chicken Thighs in an Electric Smoker
Best Store Bought Rubs for Smoked Chicken Thighs
Now, you can use ANY of your favorite BBQ rubs for smoked chicken.
Since we are only smoking these at 275°F (the highest many electric smokers such as a Masterbuilt will go) 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 thigh after mixing it with your baking powder.
Famous Dave's Chicken Rub is a great all around spice rub to use on any type of smoked chicken, and we especially like its dark color and deep flavors on our electric smoker chicken thighs
If you want a quality rub without ANY sugar, we are also 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 Masterbuilt smoked chicken thighs 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 electric smoker smoked chicken thighs 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:
- 2 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Paprika
- ½ tablespoon Kosher Salt (Or ½ tablespoon table salt, go easy, you can always add more salt later)
- ½ tablespoon Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon Coarse Ground Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Granulated Garlic or Garlic Powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder (adjust to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional for heat)
We find this makes enough for about 4 medium sized chicken thighs, so double the amounts if you are making more or if you just like a lot of rub!
Mix thoroughly, (using a re-usable plastic shaker works best), and then sprinkle directly on your chicken.
Don't forget to mix in about ¼ teaspoon baking powder if you want to dry up that skin too.
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 for Smoked Chicken Thighs in an Electric Smoker
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 and incredibly heavy on flavor, so we think it works great on plainer meats like smoked chicken thighs to really amp up the flavor
You can pick up both and mix them like we sometimes 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.)
The Best Wood Chips for Smoking Chicken Thighs in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
You want to go fairly easy with the woodsmoke on chicken thighs.
Poultry absorbs smoke fairly quickly and you don't want your smoked chicken thighs tasting like an ashtray when they come out of the electric smoker.
A subtle smokiness that sits on the back of the palate after taking a bite is what we are going for, not an "in-your-face" campfire taste that knocks you out of your chair.
Hickory has a distinctive flavor compared to oak or the fruitwoods and if you've never cooked with it before, go easy until you know whether you like it or not.
Mesquite is even more distinctive will give a very aggressive smoke flavor.
While hickory and mesquite CAN be used on smoked chicken thighs, they should probably be used only in combination with some other varieties of milder wood chips rather than as the sole type of wood.
Pecan, oak, apple, beech, alder, and cherry are all milder woods that great results on smoked chicken thighs in an electric smoker.
We especially like these apple wood chips from Western BBQ on smoked chicken.
Also no reason you can't mix a few different kinds together in your Masterbuilt!
For smoked chicken thighs, you will likely only need one load of wood chips in the electric smoker at the beginning of the cook and no more after that.
You will get plenty of smoke flavor without overdoing it.
More on that below.
Refilling Wood Chips is a Pain
Now, as we mentioned, you will not need to refill more than maybe once for the chicken thighs, but other types of meat such as pulled pork or brisket, you DO need to refill the wood chips every 30-40 minutes as they smolder out.
Now, if you are using a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, we recommend you check out their Slow Smoker Accessory Attachment.
It allows you to preload the wood chips, much like a pellet hopper on a pellet grill like a Traeger and smokes them more slowly so that you don't need to constantly refill.
This works great for longer smokes like beef brisket in your electric smoker!
Using a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
Now, if you aren't quite familiar yet with how to use your electric smoker, don't worry, we've got plenty of good resources for you.
You can tell we are big fans of this great electric wonder, especially for beginner smokers and bbq enthusiasts.
Now that you know how to properly set up and use your smoker, we will go over what is needed to properly smoke chicken thighs step by step in an electric smoker.
How to Smoke Chicken Thighs in an Electric Smoker
Now that the chicken thighs are washed, trimmed, seasoned, and have brined overnight,all that left to do is smoke them in our electric smoker!
Let's jump into the details of time and temperature and how to know when your chicken thighs are done smoking.
What Temperature do you Smoke Chicken Thighs in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?
Set the temperature of your electric smoker to 275°F, and let the electric smoker come up to temperature.
275°F is the highest temperature many popular electric smokers, including Masterbuilt electric smokers will go.
Any lower than 275°F and you risk drying out the chicken thighs by the time they fully cook.
If your electric smoker DOES go higher than 275°F, you can cook them as high as 325°F without burning any sugar in your BBQ rub.
Do NOT fill the water pan, and make sure to keep the upper vent completely OPEN during the cook.
This will keep the air dryer and circulating in the cooking chamber and help get the skin crispy.
You can place an empty disposable aluminum pan on the bottom shelf to catch drippings and make for easier cleanup.
How Much Wood Smoke Should you Use on a Chicken Thighs?
Chicken, like most poultry, and fish for that matter, absorbs a lot of smoke in a short amount of time.
You don't want to overdo it, especially if you are new to smoking chicken in your electric smoker.
Once the electric smoker is up to 275°F, fill the wood chip loader with wood chips and turn to dump them into the wood chip tray.
But we wouldn't recommend refilling with any more chips after that, this will be plenty of wood smoke flavor for chicken thighs.
Once the chips have smoldered out and stopped producing smoke you can empty them from the chip loading tray so that the now burnt and used up wood chips don't taint the flavor of the chicken while it is still cooking.
Target Internal Temperature for Masterbuilt Smoked Chicken Thighs
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of smoked chicken thighs or any other chicken you are smoking in the electric smoker.
If your smoked chicken thighs are big enough, you can use 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 out of the Masterbuilt.
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 thighs...
We are going to bring the internal temperature of our smoked chicken thighs up to 175°F.
Since the smoked chicken thighs are dark meat, they need to cook a little higher than smoked chicken breasts which only need to hit 165°F.
If they are small chicken thighs, you can try taking them off at 170°F and letting the residual heat from the outside bring the inside up to 175°F while they rest so as not to risk overcooking them.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Chicken Thighs in an Electric Smoker?
You'll want to monitor the internal temperature of the chicken thighs closely for doneness.
This is really the only way to know when they are close to being done.
Because we are cooking them "low and slow" (for chicken at least) they WILL take longer than you are used to in a conventional oven.
Remember, we are bringing them up to 175°F on your instant read thermometer.
In a 275°F electric smoker such as a Masterbuilt, it will take roughly 2.5 to 3 hours to smoke large bone-IN chicken thighs.
Depending on the size of your chicken thighs, how often you open the electric smoker door, and the humidity outside, your cooking time may be more or less, so be prepared.
For the fastest results, keep the door closed as much as possible, and use leave in 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 thighs, wait as long as possible until the skin has fully crisped up and the internal temperature is already at least 165°F. If you add sauce before the skin gets crispy, IT WILL NEVER GET CRISPY at that point.
Serving Smoked Chicken Thighs
Serve your smoked chicken thighs while they are still hot, and before the skin starts to soften up from the sauce.
You can always hold the sauce and serve it warmed up on the side just for those that want it to make sure the skin stays nice and crispy.
Smoked chicken thighs 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 electric smoker smoked chicken.
Electric Smoker Chicken Thighs
- Masterbuilt Electric Smoker or any brand electric smoker
- Wood chips Hickory, Oak, or Fruitwood
- Large Cutting Board
- Paper Towels
- Boning Knife
- Large Baking Sheet with Wire Rack
- Internal Meat Thermometers
- Basting brush
- BBQ Tongs
- 4 Chicken Thighs Bone-In, Skin-On
- Your Favorite Barbecue Sauce such as Blues Hog Original or Tennessee Red.
- 6 tablespoon Your Favorite BBQ rub or our "In a Pinch BBQ Rub" below
- ¼ teaspoon Baking Powder to crisp the skin
In a Pinch BBQ Rub
- 2 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt add more as desired
- ½ tablespoon Course Ground Black Pepper
- ½ tablespoon Chili Powder
- ½ tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper optional
Rinse and Trim the Chicken Thighs
- Clean, rinse, and pat dry the chicken thighs well with paper towels.4 Chicken Thighs
- Spread out the skin that may be bunched up and tucked under and around the sides of the chicken thighs. Flip the thighs over to see where the skin spreads out longer than the edges of the chicken.
- Using a good meat knife, (we love our trusty boning knife from Imarku for trimming skin and fat), cut any excess skin hanging beyond the edges of the meat of the chicken thighs.
- Then flip them back over and you should have some nice and neatly trimmed chicken thighs ready for seasoning.
Dry Brine the Chicken Overnight
- Place the chickens on a wire rack placed on top of a baking sheet.
- Mix together the In a Pich BBQ rub with the baking powder, or use your favorite BBQ rub that contains salt mixed with the baking powder, and sprinkle generously over the tops and bottoms of each chicken thigh. DO NOT use cooking oil to adhere or skin will not get crispy.6 tablespoon Your Favorite BBQ rub or our "In a Pinch BBQ Rub" below, ¼ teaspoon Baking Powder, 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
- Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4-6 hours.
Remove the Next Day
- Take the chicken thighs out of the refrigerator the next day and get the smoker started.
- You can leave the dry brined chicken on the counter for up to an hour while you are getting the smoker ready.
Start the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Open up the electric smoker door and make sure the racks are all cleaned off and in their proper place. Spray some canola oil on the racks to keep the chicken from sticking.
- Do not fill the water pan. You can place an empty aluminum foil pan on the bottom shelf to make clean up easier later. Close the door.
- Plug in and turn on the electric smoker and set the temperature to 275°F.
- Once the electric smoker is up to temperature, load your wood chips in the chip loading tray. There is no need to soak the wood chips in water.
Smoking the Chicken Thighs in the Electric Smoker
- Once smoke is being produced, place your seasoned chicken thighs on the grates with the skin side up.
- Place an internal temperature probe if you have one into the center of one of the largest thighs.
- Close the door.
- You can add another load of wood chips when the smoke has subsided but we wouldn't recommend any more than the two loads total. Keep the vents completely OPEN for maximum airflow to keep the skin crispy.
Sauce the Smoked Chicken Thighs
- Warm up some of your favorite barbecue sauce in a microwave safe bowl and set aside.Your Favorite Barbecue Sauce such as Blues Hog Original or Tennessee Red.
- When the internal temperature of the thighs has reached 165°F and the skin is crispy, baste some of the barbecue sauce on the tops of each of the smoked chicken thighs. Do not flip or you may ruin your fragile skin on the tops. Then close the door.
Remove and Serve
- Once the smoked chicken thighs reach an internal temperature of 175°F as measured on an instant read thermometer, remove them from the electric smoker and transfer to a cutting board or plate. Do not cover with foil or anything else.
- Plate and serve immediately with some extra BBQ sauce on the side!