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How to Make Smoked Chicken Breasts on a Traeger Pellet Grill

Learn how to make the juiciest smoked chicken breasts on your Traeger pellet grill!

We take you step-by-step through dry brining and seasoning your smoked chicken breasts, setting up your Traeger to cook them, and smoking them to perfection.

traeger smoked chicken breasts

We love smoking chicken around here.

We’ve done Spatchcocked Chicken, Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters, Traeger Chicken Thighs, a Traeger Smoked Whole Chicken, and the always fun and popular Beer Can Chicken.

But today we are getting back to basics with some delicious smoked chicken breasts right on our Traeger 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 Traeger with medium heat indirectly until they are perfectly cooked and colored.

Then you can eat your Traeger smoked chicken breasts juicy and smoked “as-is” or brush on one of our favorite BBQ sauces to finish them off saucy!

 

Dry Brine the Chicken Breasts to Smoke on the Traeger

After rinsing and drying, simply sprinkle the top and bottoms of your chicken breasts with kosher salt, or your favorite BBQ rub that has already salt in it.

seasoned chicken breasts

 

Place the chicken breasts 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 breast.

This overnight seasoning does 2 things:

  1. That salty moisture that formed on the surface will work its way BACK into the meat to help flavor the interior of the chicken breasts.
  2. The salt inside will help the chicken retain moisture and not dry out while it smokes on the Traeger.

Moist, flavorful meat. Exactly what we want.

In the morning, if there is still A LOT of salt or seasoning on the outside, wipe it off with a dry or only slightly damp paper towel.

If you need to add MORE BBQ rub, go ahead and do this before putting them on the Traeger.

Pro Tip: DO NOT use cooking oil to help additional rub adhere to chicken skin.  The more oil you apply, the less the skin will crisp up when it cooks.

If you are smoking boneless skinless chicken breast, go ahead and use a little oil to help the rub adhere.

 

Our Favorite Rubs and Sauces for Traeger Smoked Chicken Breasts

a bottle of three little pigs bbq seasoning

 

Best Store Bought Rubs for Smoked Chicken Breasts

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 Traeger 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.

mixing smoked chicken breast rub ingredients together in a bowl

If you just want to get a good classic BBQ rub on your Traeger smoked chicken breasts 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
  • 1/4 Cup Paprika
  • 1 Tbsp Coarse Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt (Or 1/2 Tbsp table salt, go easy, you can always add more salt later)
  • 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp Granulated Garlic or Garlic Powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Onion Powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1 Tsp 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 for Traeger Smoked Chicken Breasts

2 bottles of blues hog brand bbq sauce

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.

In fact, we actually like to cut it 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 as described here.

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.)

Kosmos also makes a great lineup of BBQ sauces that work great on Traeger smoked chicken breasts, especially if you want to try some more adventurous flavors such as their Peach Habanero or Honey Jalapeno.

 

The Best Wood Pellets for Smoking Chicken Breasts on a Traeger Pellet Grill

Poultry, like smoked 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.

pellets in a bucket

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 Traeger hopper outside.

Traeger pellets do not last forever, but will definitely last a LOT longer if stored indoors in a quality airtight container.

 

How a Traeger Pellet Grill Works

the traeger ironwood 885

In order to cook ANYTHING well on a Traeger pellet grill, you need to first have a basic understanding of how a pellet grill works.

***Completely New to Using a Traeger Pellet Grill?  No Worries!****

We’ve previously covered how to start a Traeger, how to season a Traeger, how to change the pellets in a Traeger, amd even how to troubleshoot a Traeger that won’t ignite.

We also recently compared our two favorite Traeger models head to head if you’re in the market for a new Traeger or to upgrade your old one.

Or hop over and check out this Complete Guide to Understanding How a Pellet Grill Works first if you are interested in learning more.  We’ll be here when you get back!

 

Add your Hardwood Pellets

First, you add hardwood pellets into the side hopper.

The Traeger pellet grill automatically feeds these small wood pellets via an auger mechanism to a fire pot where they are burned up, providing both heat and smokey flavor.

wood pellets in a traeger grill

The pellet grill automatically controls the flow of pellets depending on your temperature setting so that you maintain an even temperature throughout the entire cook.

 

How to Start up the Traeger

There is a specific start up process for the Traeger brand pellet grills you can read all about in depth here if you aren’t sure how to fire it up the first time.

Otherwise, here is the basic process for how to start a Traeger before throwing on your food:

  • Plug in the grill.
  • Flip the power switch to ON and turn the dial to “Smoke”.
  • You will hear the fan kick on and the auger start to move and begin to kick pellets into the fire pot.  Your fire rod will begin to heat up as well.pellets falling into ash pot
  • Leave the lid open for about 5-7 minutes until you start to see white billowing smoke come out of the grill.  This happens when the pellets are first igniting.traeger pellet grill making thick white start up smoke
  • Once a smoke is being produced, close the lid and change the temperature dial to your desired temperature setting.
  • Allow about 10-15 minutes to preheat the grill.
  • While you are waiting, make sure you’ve got the drip pan in place and the grease bucket hanging to catch any grease that comes out during the cook.  Use a grease bucket liner to minimize cleanup later.
  • Put your grates on if they aren’t already in place.
  • Using a good bristle free grill brush, clean off the grill grates if there is any leftover stuck on food from the last cook.
  • When the pellet grill comes up to temperature go ahead and put on your food!

Why Bristle Free Grill Brushes? 

Check out our Ultimate Guide to How to Keep your Family Safe by using ONLY Bristle Free Grill Brushes, along with a selection of some of our favorites!

 

Want to see a great example for how to smoke chicken breasts on a Traeger pellet grill?  Check out this video from Beginner’s BBQ.

 

How to Smoke Chicken Breasts on a Traeger Pellet Grill

raw chicken breasts on a traeger pellet grill

 

What Temperature do you Smoke Chicken Breasts on a Traeger Pellet Grill?

You will need to watch both your cooking temperature and internal temperature carefully when smoking the chicken breasts on your Traeger.

We recommend setting up the Traeger for indirect heat to cook at 300°F.

This seems to be the best temperature for smoking chicken breasts on a Traeger.

Any lower, your smoked chicken breasts will not only take forever, but the meat may dry out.

You have to be careful with lean meat like chicken breasts they will dry out if you try and cook them very “low and slow” like large fatty pieces of BBQ such as brisket and pork ribs.

Any higher though, 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 for Traeger Smoked Chicken Breasts

You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked chicken breasts on the Traeger.

internal meat probe reading 110 degrees

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 Traeger.

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.

 

How Long Does it Take to Smoke Chicken Breasts on a Traeger Pellet Grill?

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.

saucing a chicken breast on a traeger

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 Traeger, 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 Traeger 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 after that.

 

Serving Traeger Smoked 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.

chicken breasts smoking on a traeger pellet grill

Smoked chicken breasts are great on their own, or you can pair them with our maple bourbon smoked pineapple for a Hawaiian theme.

Smoked broccoli, smoked asparagus, and even smoked cauliflower and smoked carrots are great if you’re eating healthy.

If you want something a little richer, check out our Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes to cook and serve alongside your Traeger smoked chicken.

Enjoy!

 

What Else Can I Smoke on my Traeger?

So glad you asked!

Check out some of our other favorite recipes below that can all be easily modified for a Traeger if not done so already.

Pork

 

Beef

 

Seafood

 

Poultry

 

Lamb

 

Other Odds and Ends

traeger smoked chicken breasts

Traeger Smoked Chicken Breasts

Our Traeger Smoked Chicken breasts are first dry brined and seasoned overnight to get the most flavor and juiciest meat.
Then we show you how to smoke the chicken breasts with indirect heat on the Traeger pellet grill. They are finished with a delicious bbq sauce glaze.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Dry Brine Time 8 hrs
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Australian, barbecue, BBQ, Smoked
Servings 4 people
Calories 550 kcal

Equipment

  • Traeger Pellet Grill
  • Wood Pellets preferably a fruitwood like apple or cherry; or oak
  • Large Baking Sheet with Wire Rack
  • Meat Carving Knife
  • Paper Towels
  • Instant Read and/or Leave in Probe Thermometer
  • Basting brush
  • Cutting Board

Ingredients
  

  • 8 Chicken Breasts boneless skinless
  • 4 Tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Course Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp 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 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Paprika
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
  • ½ Tbsp Course Ground Black Pepper
  • ½ Tbsp Chili Powder
  • ½ Tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp Onion Powder
  • ¼ Tsp Cayenne Pepper optional

Instructions
 

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

Dry Brine Overnight

  • Place the chicken breasts on a wire rack placed on top of a baking sheet.
  • Mix together the 4 Tbsp Kosher salt and 1 Tbsp pepper, or use your favorite BBQ rub, and sprinkle generously over the tops and bottoms of each chicken breast.
    4 Tbsp Kosher Salt, 1 Tbsp Course Ground Black Pepper, 2 Tbsp Three Little Pigs BBQ Rub or your favorite BBQ rub for chicken or our "In a Pinch" Recipe Below
    seasoned chicken breasts
  • Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4-6 hours.

Remove the Next Day

  • Take the chicken breasts out of the refrigerator and wipe off any excess salt still remaining on the outside with a damp paper towel.
  • If you didn't use a BBQ rub to dry brine, mix the "In a Pinch" BBQ rub ingredients together and apply some to both sides of the chicken breasts. Or use some more of your favorite BBQ rub for chicken.
    2 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar, 2 Tbsp Paprika, 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt, ½ Tbsp Course Ground Black Pepper, ½ Tbsp Chili Powder, ½ Tbsp Garlic Powder, 1 Tsp Onion Powder, ¼ Tsp Cayenne Pepper optional

Start the Traeger Pellet Grill

  • Remove the fire pot from the bottom of the Traeger and clean out any ashes left over from the last cook. Replace it and make sure it is secured in place with the clips on either side.
    a dirty ash pot
  • Load the hopper of the Traeger with your chosen wood pellets.
  • Turn on the Traeger and move the dial to the "Smoke" setting.
  • Leave the lid open for 5-7 minutes until you start seeing white billowing smoke coming out of the grill. This means the initial pellets are igniting.
    traeger pellet grill making thick white start up smoke
  • Close the lid and turn the temperature dial to 300°F. Allow 10-15 minutes for the grill to come up to temperature.
  • Clean the grill grates with a good grill brush and close the lid again.

Smoke the Chicken Breasts on the Traeger Pellet Grill

  • Place the chicken breasts on the Traeger. You can flip and rotate periodically for even cooking on the Traeger.
    raw chicken breasts on a traeger pellet grill
  • Continue smoking the chicken breasts, rotating occasionally, until the internal temperature of each breast reaches 140°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
    saucing a chicken breast on a traeger
  • Once the internal temperature of the smoked chicken breasts reaches 165°F, remove them from the Traeger and place on a serving tray
  • Serve immediately with extra sauce if desired.
    chicken breasts smoking on a traeger pellet grill

Nutrition

Calories: 550kcal
Keyword barbecue, barbecue chicken, bbq, BBQ Chicken, BBQ Chicken Breasts, chicken breasts, Crispy Skin, pellet grill, Smoked Chicken, Smoked Chicken Breasts, traeger, Traeger Chicken, Traeger Chicken Breasts, Traeger Recipes, Traeger Smoked Chicken, Traeger Smoked Chicken Breasts, white meat
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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