How to smoke chicken thighs on the BBQ

Looking for a recipe for how to smoke chicken thighs on the BBQ? Andrew explains how to use an offset smoker to cook and flavour chicken thighs. He shows us how to make a simple brine, plus gives his tips on how to keep the chicken juicy while it cooks. He’s even got a recipe for a bean casserole to go with the chicken! Scroll down for his FAQs on BBQ smoking in general.


  • 2 cups mesquite chips
  • 8 chicken thighs skin-on/bone-in
  • Seven spice seasoning (available at BCF)
  • 2 thick pork sausages

For the brine: 

  • 2.5 litres water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup sea salt

Accompaniment of bean casserole: 

  • 1 tin 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 400g tin borlotti beans, drained
  • 1tsp crushed garlic
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1tsp smoked paprika


  • For brine, dissolve sugar and salt in water in a large bowl or tray. Submerge chicken, refrigerated, for a minimum of 2 hours.
  • Dry chicken well, then season with seven spice seasoning. Rub in well.
  • Meanwhile, soak mesquite chips in water for a minimum of 20 minutes before draining well.
  • Light charcoal and heat smoker to 120C.
  • When the cooking chamber is up to heat, place 1 cup mesquite chips in the smoke chamber.
  • Place chicken and sausages directly onto the cooking rack and smoke for 1 hour.
  • Remove sausages, refrigerate.
  • Add another cup of wood chips and cook chicken for a further 90 minutes.
  • To check the chicken is cooked through use a meat thermometer to check for 74C, or pierce flesh with a knife. Juices should run clear.
  • Remove chicken smoker and keep warm.
  • Slice sausages and add to a saucepan with beans, tomatoes, garlic and spices. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Serve chicken with sausage and beans.

Some FAQs on BBQ Smoking

How long does it take to smoke a big piece of meat?

It depends on the type and weight of the meat, and the cooking temperature.
Whole chickens, brined: approx. 4 hours @ 120-130C. Internal temperature needs to be 74C
Chickenthighs, brined:  approx. 2-3 hours @ 120-130C.  Internal temp 74C
Whole beef brisket, 6-7kg: up to 18 hours @ 120-130C. Internal temp 74C
Beef ribs: 4-6 hours @ 120-130C. Internal temp 74C
Pork Ribs: 4-6 hours @ 120-130C. Internal temp 74C
Pulled pork 2½kg approx. 9-10 hours @ 120-130C. Internal temp 93C.
Whole side of salmon, brined: approx. 6-10 hours @120C.   Internal temp 74C.

Can I use any old wood in it?

Never use pine or cypress. Australian iron bark is one of the best native timbers. Macadamia and black wattle are also suitable. Fruit woods such as apple, peach, nectarine are also excellent. Purchase prepared wood chips or sawdust and use charcoal or heat beads to provide heat and soaked timber to provide smoke and flavour.

How long does the wood take to burn?

Depends on type of fuel i.e. wood logs/charcoal/heat beads

Do you top up the wood in the process?

Yes; add accordingly to maintain even temperature.

What about the water dish, what does the water do?

Water provides humidity to keep the meat from drying out.

Do I need to top up the water?

Top up with hot water as necessary.

Can I keep opening the lid to check on it?

Open the lid minimally as this lets out heat and increases cooking time.

What is the best meat to use?

Almost all meats are suitable. Secondary beef cuts like brisket and short ribs are good for long, slow cooking. Whole rib fillets, eye fillets and t-bones require shorter times, and can be served from rare to well done. The same as standard oven cooking. Pork shoulder is good as it is better for slow cooking. Use it for pulled pork. Pork ribs are also popular.
Lamb shoulder and lamb ribs. Chicken is easiest. I always brine mine to keep in the moisture. Quail – brine first.

What about fish?

Whole sides of salmon, whole snapper, mullet, trevally, mackerel, kingfish, pilchards. Fish roe, mussels, oysters (marinate first). Fillets are OK but need to be salted or brined first.

What is your favourite rub?

I like brown sugar, paprika, chilly, onion, garlic, celery powder, mustard powder, salt, pepper. Prepared rubs like those sold at BCF are brilliant and provide a variety of options.

Do I have to use a rub?

No, but it adds a flavour and creates a crust that seals in moisture. When I am smoking brisket or pork ribs I use a wet baste or “mop” sauce.

Basting sauce

200ml apple cider vinegar
150ml tomato sauce
100ml honey
100ml BB sauce
150g brown sugar
100g French mustard
1tsp chilli sauce
½ tsp black pepper

For large cuts of meat like brisket and pork shoulder, basting is only necessary for a few hours. If you want to baste chicken or ribs, baste every 30-40 minutes. I don’t use baste on seafood and I prefer chicken unbasted – just flavoured with a rub then smoked. And I don’t put anything on sausages. Use good quality pork or beef sausages and add nothing other than smoke.