Smoked Chicken Legs and Thighs Recipe and Tips

Chicken leg and thigh
To make smoked chicken legs and thighs, you should first marinate them for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator. After marinating, pat them dry, season with a dry rub, and place them directly on a pellet grill that has been preheated to 300°F. Smoke for 30 minutes uncovered, then wrap in foil and smoke for an additional 90 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Guide to Smoking Dark Meat Chicken

Smoking chicken thighs is similar to smoking other parts of the chicken, but there are a few tricks to take your dark meat to the next level!

Tools Needed to Make Chicken Legs and Thighs on a Smoker

To smoke chicken legs and thighs on a smoker, you will need the following equipment:

  1. A bowl for combining ingredients.
  2. A meat thermometer is used to determine when the chicken is fully cooked and safe to eat.
  3. A smoker is necessary to smoke meat. It can be a gas or electric smoker. You can also use a pellet grill or pellet smoker like a Traeger or Pit Boss. Another option is to use a charcoal water smoker. Choose one that is the right size for the amount of chicken you will be cooking.
  4. Meat injectors allow you to add extra flavor to the chicken. They allow you to marinate a chicken from the inside out.
  5. Wood chips or chunks are necessary to impart a smoky flavor to your chicken. Choose a type of wood that complements chicken such as hickory, pecan, or applewood.

How to Prepare the Chicken Legs and Thighs

To prepare the chicken legs and thighs, you can either use a whole chicken and split it into legs and thighs or buy them already separated.

If you are using a whole chicken, you will need to break it down by cutting through the joints that connect them to the chicken’s body.

Either way, you’ll have to pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season them with your desired seasoning before smoking.

Prepare the Smoker

To prepare the smoker, you must fill it with the appropriate amount of wood chips or chunks.

Preheat the smoker to the desired temperature, which should be between 250°F and 300°F for smoking chicken legs and thighs.

Smoke the Chicken Legs and Thighs

To smoke the chicken legs and thighs, place them in the smoker and cook them until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F.

You may need to baste the chicken with a sauce or spritz it with a liquid (such as apple cider vinegar) to keep it moist as it cooks. It is a good idea to turn the chicken over halfway through the cooking process to ensure it cooks evenly.

Rest the Chicken

After the chicken thighs are fully cooked, you should allow them to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. To rest the chicken, you can leave it uncovered or wrap it in foil. This will allow the juices to redistribute and make them more tender.

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chicken legs and thighs

Smoky Chicken Legs and Thighs with BBQ Sauce Recipe

  • Author: Alexandra
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes


This chicken legs and thighs recipe offers the perfect balance of smokey, juicy, and crispy, and is the ideal addition to any summer meal.


Units Scale


  • 3 pc chicken legs with skin on, bone-in
  • 3 pc chicken thighs with skin on, bone-in
  • 2 pc oranges juiced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 tbsp butter

BBQ Spice Rub

  • 1 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp paprika mild
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp Aleppo chili or 1/2 tsp standard ground chili
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon ground
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder


  • 1 cup BBQ sauce use your favorite brand
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar


  1. Combine BBQ spice rub ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Place the chicken in a large bowl and rub the mixture all over them, but don’t salt them. Keep the chicken skin on.
  3. Take the orange and squeeze the juice out of it. Combine with soy sauce and pour the marinade over the chicken legs.
  4. Cover the container and put it in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours and ideally overnight.
  5. Preheat the pellet grill to 300°F and add your preferred wood chunks. Allow the smoker to preheat for at least 15 minutes with the lid closed.
  6. Remove the chicken from the fridge and season them with salt.
  7. Place chicken directly on the grill grates and top each with a dollop of butter.
  8. Close the smoker’s lid and let them smoke at 300°F for about 30 minutes.
  9. After this time, take them out of the smoker and wrap them up in aluminum foil (the same way you’d wrap a brisket).
  10. Place the chicken back in the smoker and cook for another 90 minutes at the same temperature – or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  11. Mix bbq sauce and vinegar and bring them to a simmer in a pot.
  12. Unwrap the chicken pieces, smother them in the barbecue sauce mixture and place them back on the grill for another 10-15 minutes until the outside is crispy.
  13. Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes.
  14. Enjoy these delicious chicken drumsticks and thighs next to your favorite side dish!
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Rest Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes


  • Serving Size: 1 leg (with skin)
  • Calories: 220kcal
  • Sugar: 18g
  • Sodium: 1730mg
  • Fat: 14g
  • Saturated Fat: 9g
  • Carbohydrates: 23g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 22g
  • Cholesterol: 37mg

Best Smoker Temperature for Chicken Legs and Thighs

The best temperature for smoking chicken legs and thighs is around 250-300°F. This temperature range allows the chicken to cook slowly and evenly, ensuring that it is cooked through to the bone while also allowing the smoke to penetrate the meat and add flavor.

Cooking chicken at too high a temperature can result in dry, overcooked meat while cooking it at too low of a temperature can result in undercooked or unsafe chicken.

The recommended internal temperature for fully cooked chicken is 165°F to ensure safe consumption, but dark chicken meat can reach higher internal temperatures and become even more tender. You can let chicken thighs and legs reach an internal temperature of 175-180°F and up to 190°F for perfect tenderness.

How Long Does it Take to Smoke Chicken Legs and Thighs?

Remember that the actual smoking time will depend on several factors, like the size of the chicken pieces, the type of smoker used, and the internal temperature. It is essential to use a meat thermometer to ensure that the chicken has reached a safe internal temperature of at least 165°F.

Smoker’s TemperatureApproximate Smoking Time
225°F2 to 3 hours 
250°F1 to 2 hours 

Target Internal Temperature for Chicken Legs and Thighs

Poultry meat has to reach a minimum of 165°F to ensure safe consumption. Anything beyond that can put you at risk of sickness.

To measure the internal temperature of the chicken, you can use a food thermometer placed into the thickest part of the meat, making sure not to touch the bone, as the bone will conduct heat and give you a false reading.

Top Tips for Juicy Smoked Chicken Legs and Thighs

When it comes to juiciness, smoked chicken legs and thighs are hard to beat! If you want to get the most out of your smoked chicken, there are a few things you can do to ensure that they’re as juicy as possible:

  • Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute.
  • Brine the chicken before smoking. This will make the meat more flavorful and increase its moisture content.
  • If desired, you can baste the chicken with a flavorful liquid (such as BBQ sauce) during the last 30 minutes of smoking.
  • Make sure that you don’t overcook your chicken during smoking! When testing for doneness with a meat thermometer, you should look for an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Marinate your chicken for at least two hours before cooking it (and ideally overnight). This helps to tenderize it, adding flavor, and preventing it from drying out during cooking!
  • Smoke the chicken at a low temperature (around 225-250°F) for a longer time to ensure it is cooked and juicy.
  • Start with high-quality, fresh chicken legs and thighs from your local butcher.
  • Try to keep the lid closed at all times to maintain a consistent temperature throughout.
  • When serving the chicken, slice it against the grain to maximize tenderness.

Marinade Ideas for Chicken Legs and Thighs

No matter your reason for cooking chicken legs and thighs, you’ll want to try these marinades to bring your chicken to flavor town!

  1. Asian-Style Marinade: This marinade combines all the great staples in many Asian dishes – oyster sauce, soy sauce, soma sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger for an explosion of savory and sweet flavors.
  2. Honey Mustard Marinade: This classic sauce is the perfect choice for getting that sweet-and-sour taste in every bite. It combines Dijon mustard, honey, garlic, and olive oil.
  3. Italian Marinade: This recipe is perfect for those who love spicy flavors but don’t want extreme heat. You can never go wrong with some classic Italian spices.
  4. Mediterranean Marinade: This Mediterranean-inspired marinade recipe tastes fantastic on grilled chicken legs or thighs! It perfectly combines parsley, garlic, and basil to bring the best of all worlds.
  5. Teriyaki Marinade: This is the perfect combination of sweet and savory flavors for chicken. It’s simple to make and works well with chicken legs and thighs. The ginger gives it a bit of spice, while soy sauce balances it out.

Best BBQ Sauce Ideas for Smoked Chicken Legs and Thighs

Here are three ideas for BBQ sauce that will make your smoked chicken legs and thighs better:

  • Coca-Cola BBQ sauce: This sauce has a sweet and smoky flavor with the added depth of a classic cola drink.
  • Honey Chipotle BBQ sauce: This sauce has a smoky and spicy flavor, thanks to the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
  • Honey Mustard BBQ sauce: This Carolina mustard bbq sauce has a sweet and tangy flavor, thanks to the perfect combination of honey and mustard.

Side Dish Ideas for Smoked Chicken Legs and Thighs

Get inspired with these unique and creative side dish ideas for smoked chicken legs and thighs!

  1. Grilled Peaches with Ricotta: For a sweet and summery side dish, try grilling peaches and serving them with a dollop of ricotta cheese and a drizzle of honey.
  2. Lemon and Garlic Roasted Asparagus: This simple side dish is made with just a few ingredients but packs a punch of flavor. Roasted asparagus is tossed with lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil before being roasted to perfection.
  3. Lemon Herb Quinoa: This light and flavorful quinoa dish has an abundance of herbs and a bright lemon flavor. It’s a great complement to the smoky chicken.
  4. Mango and Black Bean Salsa: This is a refreshing and colorful addition to your smoked chicken. It combines sweet mango, protein-rich black beans, and a variety of diced vegetables.
  5. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Maple Syrup: This side dish pairs the smoky flavor of bacon with the slight bitterness of Brussels sprouts and a touch of sweetness from maple syrup.

How to Store and Reheat Smoked Chicken Legs and Thighs

Before storing smoked chicken legs and thighs, let them sit at room temperature until they cool down. Then wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and place them in the refrigerator. They will keep for up to four days.

To reheat smoked chicken legs and thighs, place them in an oven or toaster oven at 350°F for about 15-20 minutes or until they are heated. You can also reheat them in the microwave, using 30-second intervals and checking for doneness after each interval.

It’s essential to ensure that the chicken is reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165°F to ensure that it is safe to eat. You can use a meat thermometer to check the temperature.


Alexandra is a passionate writer who loves everything related to food: from buying local produce and sourcing the best ingredients to finding the perfect spice mix and sauce to complement each dish. She loves getting together with friends near a campfire and grilling up some barbecue goodness while having quality conversations - no screens allowed.

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