I have been advocating for smoked bone in chicken breast dishes for a long time now! Although people enjoy the boneless version due to convenience, I will always contend that bone in is the way to go.
In this post I will show you exactly how to make this finger licking dish and offer up some top tips too!
I know that most people choose boneless chicken breasts due to ease and cooking time. Let's fast - boneless, skinless chicken breasts cook faster and are easier to serve to guests as well.
Here's the thing, though, this smoked chicken breast is also just not as tasty and as juicy as the bone in smoked chicken breasts.
The bones add flavor to the meat and also help to lock in some of the moisture. This makes for far more tender chicken breast meat.
OK, so your chicken is going to take longer to cook but not by much. At the most, your smoked chicken breast dish will be delayed by around 15 minutes.
If you have ever been confused by the term split chicken breast, I am here to demystify it for you. Split breasts simply refer to bone in chicken breasts, with the skin on.
As far as my professional opinion is concerned, bone in, skin on chicken breasts are the best options for smoking.
They result in a nice and tasty crispy exterior and a juicy, delicious interior - what more could you ask for?
As you are probably aware, chicken breasts are white meat. Now, white meat has far less fat than other parts of the bird. Less fat means less moisture which is why chicken breasts have a tendency to dry out more quickly.
It is because of this that I like to dry brine the breasts before smoking them.
I know that some people are more comfortable with brining the split chicken breasts in a salt and sugar bath but I am not as fond of this method. For one thing, it requires a lot more effort and ingredients.
You also need quite a bit of space in your refrigerator. You will be better off with the dry brining process.
Dry brining is super easy - it just requires a longer wait time. However, as long as you plan your meal ahead of time, this shouldn't be a problem.
Simply sprinkle kosher salt all over the breasts - make sure to work the salt over and under the skin.
Then, place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Arrange the breasts on the rack and place in the refrigerator for 2 to 12 hours. Make sure to leave the meat uncovered.
The salt breaks certain tissues in the muscles of the meat. In doing so, these tissues don't contract as much when smoking chicken breasts. This means that less moisture is lost.
Take the chicken breasts out of the refrigerator about 45 minutes before smoking.
Add all the ingredients of the dry rub to a bowl and mix well.
Apply a thin layer of mustard all over each breast. Then, sprinkle the dry rub onto the chicken and press into the surface.
Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F.
Place the seasoned chicken breasts on the grates.
Close the lid and smoke the breasts until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.
Take the smoked chicken breasts out of the smoker and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
As you will have noticed in the recipe, I have advised you to take the bone in chicken breasts out about 45 minutes before you smoke them.
This is so that the chicken has time to warm up before going in the smoker. In turn, this helps the meat to cook faster and more evenly.
Just make sure that you don't leave the chicken out for longer than an hour as this puts it at risk of foodborne diseases.
As you have seen from my chicken rub, I have kept the ingredients fairly simple - kosher salt, sugar, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and parsley.
This is quite different to some of the other smoked recipes that I have used. The reason for this is that chicken breasts are rather mildly flavored.
So, if you use strong or overpowering spices, then you are going to lose the natural flavor of the chicken along the way.
That being said, you don't have to go by my ingredients alone. Feel free to choose whatever herbs and spices that you feel works best with smoked chicken breasts.
A lot of my friends have complained in the past about how difficult it is to get the seasoning on the chicken to actually stick.
This is why I suggest applying a thin layer of yellow mustard on the chicken first and then sprinkling on the rub. This works as a perfect adhesive and adds an interesting touch of flavor too.
Now, in case you really can't stand yellow mustard, you can use olive oil instead. Make sure to use this really sparingly, though.
During the brining process, the skin was dried out so that it forms a nice crispy surface when smoked. If you dampen this with oil, then you won't get this delightful result.
As I said, chicken can be pretty mildly flavored. Due to this, I prefer to use milder fruit wood options for smoking chicken.
If you prefer a more notable smoky flavor, then oak wood chips are the way to go.
If this is a bit too strong for you, apple and cherry are a great option. I find that they add a little bit of sweetness to the mix.
Now, mesquite and hickory are pretty heavy duty woods. And, if you add too much, you could end up causing the chicken to taste bitter.
If you do want hickory or mesquite, only add a handful of chips or pellet into the mix. The rest should be made up of apple or cherry to balance out the flavor.
I have seen some smoked chicken recipes that set the smoker temp at 250 F. Personally, I find that this is just a little too high.
As chicken has a tendency to dry out easily, I find that sticking to 225 F is the best course of action. After all, the smoking process is all about going low and slow.
It is tricky to be certain about long it can to smoke split breasts. This is because the exact time can be vary based on everything from the smoker that you are using to the size and weight of each individual piece of chicken.
That being said, on average, it can take a bit longer than 2 hours for smoked chicken to be done.
Since it is difficult to estimate how long it is going to take to smoke chicken, it is important to monitor the internal temperature.
I would advise you to use a meat probe that can be kept inside the smoker. This way, you will be able to keep a closer eye on the cooking process.
Insert the probe into the thickest part of the breast. Make sure that the end of the probe is at least an inch away from the bone.
Bones tend to heat up faster than other parts of the bird. As such, they can also cause the surrounding meat to heat up and give off a false positive.
Now, technically, breast meat is done when it is cooked to 165 degrees F. The only problem is that I find that the meat ends up a little too dry when you take it out at this point.
This is why I like to take the chicken out when the internal temp hits 160 degrees F.
There is no need to worry about your meat not being cooked all the way through. See, just because you take the chicken out of the smoker doesn't mean that it stops cooking.
A process known as carryover cooking takes place here. During this time, the internal temp of the cooked chicken goes up by about 10 degrees. Your chicken will still end up cooked to perfection but will not be dry!
This can seem like such a simple point to make but it is an important one. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is to keep opening and closing the door of your smoker.
I get it, you are eager to see whether or not your chicken is done yet. However, every time you open the door, you let cold air in and let hot air out. This causes fluctuations inside the cooking chamber and can cause your chicken to take longer to cook.
To avoid this problem, get a meat thermometer that can be synced to an app or that has a digital interface that can be viewed outside of the smoker.
This way, you will always know what the internal temperature is without having to look inside the smoker.
The other key thing to remember when making smoked chicken is allowing the meat to rest.
See, when the chicken is given time to cool down, the tissues relax and can absorb moisture that has been lost during the smoking process. This makes the chicken juicier, tenderer, and tastier to boot.
This depend on the smoker temperature as well as the size of the chicken pieces. On average, though, it can take between an hour to 2 hours.
It can take about an hour to an hour and a half for the chicken to cook at this temperature.
As you can see, making smoked bone in chicken breasts is a lot easier than you could have imagined. Now that you know how to make this delicious dish all that is left for you to give it a go - it is definitely going to become a favorite!