Tender and juicy is the best way to describe a properly smoked chicken breast with simple seasoning. Salt locks in the moisture and enhances the flavor while a little olive oil keeps the outside from drying out. You’ll only need a few ingredients and the result is a melt-in-your-mouth bite.
🍽️ Why This Works
Fast. As you probably know, smoking is usually a long game. So that’s pretty frustrating when you are passed for time but know what you are craving. The good news is this smoked chicken breast recipe can be ready in less than two hours depending on how long you leave the chicken in the dry brine.
Easy. A little salt. A little seasoning. An hour or two in the smoker. Prep the sides fast while the meat is finishing up and your meal is ready to go.
Leftovers. Oh my. You can use the leftover chicken for so many future meals during the week! Sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas, soups, salads. The possibilities are almost endless. Make extra because cooked chicken is like finding gold in the fridge.
Cheap. Perfect when you need to feed a crowd economically. Boneless chicken breast is one of the cheapest meats per pound you can buy and it still tastes so good!
📝 Ingredient Notes
Chicken Breast – If you have purchased thick chicken breasts, or whole chicken breasts, you will need to flatten each piece so that they are thin and ready for smoking.
Oil – You can use either olive oil or vegetable oil. Brushing the chicken with olive oil will help keep the outside from drying out as much.
Salt and Pepper – simple seasonings – but the salt serves a different purpose in sealing the pores as well.
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
Wood Chips – Any type of wood chips will work well with chicken. Always reference our Wood Smoking Cheat Sheet for all the wood pairing choices.
Temperature Probe – We always recommend using an Instant Read Thermometer, such as the one pictured, for the best results.
Step One: Flatten the chicken. You want thin pieces to absorb plenty of smokiness and cook more quickly.
Step Two: Pat the chicken dry and salt it. Let it sit in this dry salt brine for up to an hour. This helps seal the juiciness inside.
Step Three: Add olive oil and pepper. Place wood in your grill or smoker to create the smoke.
Step Four: Place the breasts on the smoker grill grate and smoke until it reaches 160°F. Remove them and tent in foil to let it come up to 165°F, which is the USDA recommended safe chicken internal temperature.
❗ Recipe Tips and Tricks
We let the salt sit on the chicken for 5-15 minutes for a very quick dry brine – but you can use a wet brine such as the one we used in this Smoked Turkey Breast recipe.
You want to smoke chicken breasts thin. Flatten the chicken using a meat mallet.
Place each piece of chicken between two pieces of Saran Wrap and hit it with the mallet until it gets to your desired thickness.
For extra thick pieces of chicken, you can halve them in thickness using a sharp knife first and then use the mallet.
Always tent the chicken for at least 5 minutes. When you remove the meat from the grill and off the heat, the juices will begin to redistribute through the meat.
Tenting the meat or wrapping it in foil while you get everything to the table will benefit that process for perfectly juicy chicken.
We recommend pulling the chicken at 160ºF because those last five degrees will be reached in the tent.
What does it mean to tent smoked chicken? Form a tent with aluminum foil and place it over the chicken to hold a pocket of heat close to the meat as it rests.
🧑🍳 Storage and Reheating
Leftover cooked chicken should be used within two days. Keep it refrigerated in an airtight container until you are ready to use it.
If you cannot use it within two days your best option is to freeze the chicken.
To freeze cooked chicken, you can freeze whole breasts or dice the meat and freeze pieces. Dicing the meat makes it fast and easy to thaw when you want to quickly add cooked chicken to other dishes.
Freezing it whole makes it perfect for sandwiches. Place the chicken in an airtight container in the freezer where it will keep for up to three months.
Pro Tip: Once chicken has been reheated from the freezer, it should not be placed back in the freezer or refrigerator for food safety reasons.
So only thaw and reheat what you will use. This is one reason it is very handy to freeze diced chicken. Spread it out flat to freeze for a couple hours, then move the diced pieces to an airtight container and later you will be able to pull out exactly what you need.
Be sure to make extra! Having extra cooked chicken in the fridge is such a boon to packed lunches, last minute salads, and quick rice dishes.
It’s also great to add to prepared foods like Yakisoba noodles or meatless skillet meals from the freezer section.
For the sake of variety, you might want to try these smoked chicken legs too. They’re also great for feeding a crowd, meal prep friendly, and affordable!
When you find chicken breasts on sale, fill your smoker on the weekend and then fill up your freezer with the resulting cooked meat. Your busy weekday meals will thank you and so will your taste buds!
Additions and Substitutions
We used a very simple approach with just salt and pepper for our chicken. That doesn’t mean you are limited! You can use virtually any seasoning blend for this recipe.
We particularly love the seasonings by Dizzy Pig, or the various Kinders blends. You can even make your own dry rub!
Different wood will change the flavor of your meat. Hickory is strong and traditional. Apple or cherry is subtle and sweet.
Pecan is nutty and maybe a little sweet. Change it up every time you make a dish for subtle variations in flavor to keep things interesting. In the end, the best wood for smoking chicken is the one you like most!
Refer to our printable wood smoking chart to easily decide what new smoking wood you should try for smoking chicken.
Add a sauce. If you love a good BBQ sauce, start basting the meat with sauce about 15 minutes before it is ready to pull from the smoker. You can also always have sauce ready for dipping on the side.
What do I serve with smoked chicken breasts? Oh the possibilities! This lovely main dish works perfectly with traditional sides like mashed potatoes, baked beans, and biscuits. It also works great on a salad, or as a sandwich. For a different approach, serve your smoked chicken over rice and beans, or with a plate of pasta and Alfredo sauce. What is your favorite way to eat chicken? Let us know in the comments!
❓ Recipe FAQ
1-2 hours. This depends very much on your smoker, the thickness of the chicken, and how consistent you keep the temperature.
If smoked at 225ºF, it should take between one and two hours. Chicken should always be cooked to 165ºF.
3.5 ounces will have about 165 calories.
Brine it. This is exactly why we apply a dry salt brine to the chicken for at least five minutes before putting it in the smoker.
The salt seals up the pores and blocks the moisture from escaping during the smoking process. A wet brine will also keep the chicken nice and moist.
This really depends on how you plan to use it. Warning: Chicken turns to rubber in the microwave very quickly.
For best results, reheat diced chicken in a skillet on the stovetop or reheat it directly in a sauce or soup.
Whole chicken can be reheated on the grill, oven, air fryer or stovetop. Watch the chicken carefully and do not overcook it. Your goal is 165ºF.
Tried this recipe? Please leave a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page. You can also stay in touch with me through social media by following me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook!
Smoked Chicken Breast
- 4 Chicken Breasts
- 1 tbsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tbsp Coarse Black Pepper
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- Heat up the smoker to 225°F.
- If the chicken breasts did not come already flattened, spend the time to use a mallet to pound them flat in between two pieces of saran wrap until they are thin.
- Using paper towels, pat the chicken breasts dry and sprinkle with salt on both sides. Allow to sit for 10-60 minutes so the salt to work as a dry brine, sealing the outside and making the juices stay in the meat.
- Once chicken is done with sitting, either using a little bit of olive oil or olive oil spray and then sprinkle coarse pepper.
- Place on the smoker grill grate and smoke until it reaches 160°F. Remove it and tent in foil to let it come up to 165°F, which is the USDA recommended safe temperature.
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