Brined and Smoked Chicken Thighs

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Very juicy, tender, and flavorful smoked chicken thighs. My skins got mostly crispy in the smoker. The smoke intensity is mild and the applewood flavor comes through nicely.


  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 4 large cloves garlic, mashed
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 4 (5 inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 medium lemon, sliced and seeds removed
  • 8 (8 ounce) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 3 applewood chunks, for smoking
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


Whisk together water, brown sugar, 1 cup kosher salt, black peppercorns, garlic cloves, and bay leaves in a large saucepan until sugar and salt dissolve. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.

Carefully pour brine mixture into a large heat-proof container and stir in rosemary sprigs and lemon slices. Place in the refrigerator until completely chilled, about 2 hours.

Add chicken thighs to the chilled brine. Place a small plate on top of chicken thighs to ensure they stay submerged, then cover container with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate chicken thighs in brine for at least 6 hours, or up to 24 hours.

Open the bottom vent of a grill completely. Light a charcoal chimney starter filled with briquettes. When briquettes are covered with gray ash, pour them onto bottom grate of the grill, and then push to 1 side of the grill. Place 3 to 4 applewood chunks on top of hot coals. Coat top grate with oil; place on grill. Cover and insert an instant-read thermometer into a vent in the lid; maintain a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees F (107 and 120 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove chicken thighs from brine and pat dry with paper towels, removing as much moisture on the surface of the thighs as possible. Sprinkle evenly with black pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon salt.

Place chicken thighs on the preheated grill, skin-side up, over the side without coals. Cover and smoke until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 165 degrees F (74 degrees C), about 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours.

Transfer chicken thighs to a large plate or platter and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Prep time: 20 mins / Cooking time: 2 hrs 5 mins / Total time: 10 hrs 35 mins

Serving: 8 / Yield: 8 chicken thighs

Calories: 492.9

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