How to Smoke Chicken Breast in a Smoker (9 FAQ & Recipe)

By Autumn Ellenson

When people talk about smoking meat, it’s usually centered around pork and beef. Smoked pork shoulder and brisket are certainly favorites in the niche, but smoked chicken deserves its place on the menu.

Learning how to smoke chicken breast takes more practice than the fattier meats, but if you do it right, the results are oh-so-good. It’s a leaner, healthier option and makes great leftovers for wraps, sandwiches, tacos, chicken salad, and more.

If you’re just looking for a smoked chicken breast recipe, you can jump ahead by clicking the first link below. Although, the FAQ will help you make the most of the recipe!

How to Smoke Chicken Breast in a Smoker FAQ

10 Ways to Use Smoked Chicken Breast

Smoked chicken breasts are very versatile! So, if you’re tired of cooking Rosemary whole chicken, barbecuing chicken legs, or grilling up some teriyaki chicken thighs, smoked chicken will greatly add to your repertoire.

It’s always a good idea to cook up a double batch and use the extra chicken to meal prep other dishes. You can cook once and make a whole week of great dinners out of your leftover chicken breast meat for yourself and your family!

There are so many ways to use it. Here are 10 ideas:

  • Chicken sandwiches: try BBQ or chicken salad
  • Chicken pot pie
  • Chicken tacos
  • Use in your favorite pasta recipe
  • Chicken nachos
  • Asian rice bowls
  • Chicken quesadillas
  • Chicken soup
  • Chicken pizza
  • Top off salads

What’s the Best Wood for Smoking Chicken?

apple and cherry wood

Milder wood chip flavors tend to work better for chicken. Robust flavors, like mesquite, can pack your chicken with flavor, but can also overpower the chicken. So, most people opt for fruit wood, like apple and cherry.

Hickory is a bit milder than mesquite yet still gives a strong flavor. So, that can be a good compromise between mild and robust.

Maple wood chips are a good option, too, as they will give a hint of mild sweetness.

Whatever chips you choose, the smoke will infuse so much flavor into your meat and give you the perfect smoked chicken breast. It’s also fun to experiment with different flavors.

What is the Best Temp to Smoke Chicken?

smoker set to 225 degrees F

The best temperature to smoke pretty much anything is 225 degrees F. That goes for smoking ribs, chicken, tri-tip, and brisket. It’s widely agreed that 225 is the smoking sweet spot unless you’re dealing with a large cut of meat.

Smoking a 14-lb brisket, for instance, takes too long at 225 degrees. So, in those cases, 250 degrees F is preferred. But, with small chicken breasts, 225 is plenty efficient while still following the “low and slow” method of smoking.

How Long Does It Take to Smoke Chicken Breast in a Smoker?

1 hour timer

It takes about 1 hour to smoke chicken breast in a smoker. Of course, the actual amount of time depends on the size of the breasts. Larger breasts (8 oz. or more) may take up to 1-1/2 hours. Time doesn’t determine when chicken is done, though, internal temperature does…

I’ll tell you about the best internal temperature in just a sec, but here are a few quick tips. For one, try to choose chicken breasts that are close in size and shape. This ensures the most consistent cook through all pieces. Plus, they’ll be done at the same time.

If you do cook different-sized chicken breasts, just be sure to keep a close eye on the smaller breasts. Monitor their internal temps first, and remove them before the larger breasts.

How Do You Tell If Smoked Chicken Is Done?

chicken at 165 degree internal temp

Internal temp determines when chicken is done, not a kitchen timer! The best way to tell if smoked chicken is done and safe to eat is to use a meat thermometer. According to the USDA, the safe internal temp for chicken is 165 degrees.

I recommend using an instant-read digital meat thermometer. Stick it into the thickest part of the chicken breast and remove the chicken when it reaches 165 degrees F.

How Do You Keep Chicken Moist When Smoking?

water droplets

The best way to keep chicken moist when smoking is to brine it beforehand. Brining is optional, but a lot of people do it because it can tenderize and moisten the meat. Plus, it only takes 15 minutes at a minimum.

If you can’t spare 15 minutes, don’t worry. Your chicken can still turn out great as long as you cook it low (at 225 degrees F) and take it out right when the internal temp reaches 165 degrees.

If you do have the time, then you might as well brine! Here’s how to brine chicken breast…

How Do You Brine Chicken Breast?

To make the brine mixture, all you need is:

  • 4 cups of water
  • 3 TBSP kosher salt
  • 1 TBSP sugar

1. Place the ingredients into a medium pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, allowing the salt and sugar to dissolve in the water. Remove the brine from the heat, and allow it to cool to room temperature.

2. Submerge the chicken breast in the brine. Allow it to brine for a minimum of 15 minutes or up to 6 hours.

3. Remove the chicken, rinse it, and pat dry with a paper towel.

Do You Rinse Chicken After Brining?

If you only brine your chicken for 15-30 minutes, you don’t need to rinse it. However, any longer than that you should rinse it off to ensure it won’t be too salty. I, personally, always rinse it off but that’s a personal preference.

Smoked Chicken Breast Recipe

chicken inside smoker

There is no doubt that achieving the best chicken breasts is by smoking them at a low temperature. And it’s easy! I’ll prove it to you with this easy smoked chicken breast recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds of chicken breasts
  • 4 TBSP mustard

Dry Rub Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup paprika
  • 3 TBSP garlic powder
  • 3 TBSP kosher salt
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper

Directions

1. If you are brining your chicken, be sure to do it at least 15 minutes before you start. (Jump back to the brine recipe & instructions)

2. Add your wood chips and preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F.

3. Combine the dry rub ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Pro tip: Make the dry rub ahead of time and store it in an air-tight container until you’re ready. Or double the batch for the next time you smoke chicken.

4. While the smoker is heating up, rub each chicken breast with mustard. Then season them well on all sides.

5. Place the chicken breasts in the heated smoker, spreading them evenly on the grill grate. Place the digital meat thermometer into the thickest part of the smallest chicken breast. Be sure that it only goes to the center of the meat.

6. Close the lid and cook until the internal temperature of the chicken breast reaches 165 degrees F. Check the larger chicken breasts’ internal temp.

7. Remove the chicken from the grill. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

What to Serve with Smoked Chicken Breast

smoked chicken plus question marks

There are so many different things you can serve with chicken. The possibilities are endless! But if you are stuck, try some of these ideas. The cool thing is that you can make some of these ahead of time and throw them onto the smoker with the chicken to infuse some extra flavor into them:

  • Cranberry Salad with Pecans
  • Double-stuffed mashed potatoes
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Rice Pilaf
  • Buffalo Cauliflower

How to Store Smoked Chicken

smoked chicken in fridge and freezer

According to USDA Leftovers and Food Safety, you need to store smoke chicken within 2 hours of removing it from the smoker. Tightly wrap or place any leftover chicken breasts in an air-tight food storage container. It can be a lidded Tupperware or a ziplock bag. Place the container in the refrigerator and use the meat within 4 days.

Freezing leftover chicken is an even better idea because it can extend the chicken’s shelf life and be used at a later date. You can freeze it for up to three months.

To freeze the chicken, let it cool to room temperature. Then place the chicken in a ziplock bag, and squeeze out as much air as possible. Seal the bag and label it before placing it in the freezer.

Then, remove the chicken from the freezer when you want to use it. Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Then use it in your next meal!

What Is the Best Way to Reheat Smoked Chicken?

smoked chicken reheating in oven

The best way to reheat smoked chicken is to wrap it in foil and pop it in the oven. Take the chicken out of the fridge and let it rest on the counter while the oven preheats to 325 degrees F.

Wrap the smoked chicken in foil, like a little packet that closes at the top. Before you close the foil, pour just a little bit of water or chicken stock. Just enough to barely cover the bottom. Then close the packet and put it on a baking sheet or baking dish.

Place it in the preheated oven. It’ll take about 10 minutes per pound to reheat smoked chicken. It’s ready to remove when it reaches 165 degrees F. Then let it rest for 2 minutes before eating.

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