Chicken breast can be tricky when you grill or smoke it – it can dry out easily. BUT I’ve got you covered!!!! This smoked chicken recipe will make you some extremely juicy chicken with that smokey flavor that only comes from those yummy Traeger wood pellets!
The trick to smoking and keeping your chicken juicy is brining the day before and using bone-in chicken breasts. I’ve got just the easy recipe for you to do it all! Even a Traeger newbie can serve up the best smoked chicken breast to their entire family!
Ingredients for Traeger Smoked Chicken Breast
For the brine recipe, you’ll need:
- table salt – you can use kosher salt instead – just double the amount of salt (1 Tbsp table = 2 Tbsp kosher)
- brown sugar
Then for the chicken, you’ll need
- bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts – this holds in all the flavor and moisture so you don’t have dried out chicken!
- You could use a boneless chicken breast (skinless) – but the cooking time will be much less. I would recommend marinating the chicken vs. a brine and then smoke. You want to keep as much of that moisture locked in.
For the seasoning – I think the easiest way is with fresh citrus and fresh herbs. I love how the smoke cures the citrus and herbs into the chicken. You could also rub with olive oil and then coat with a seasoning blend or your favorite rub – but this is my preference:
- lemon slices
- fresh rosemary and fresh thyme – fresh herbs makes the difference in your chicken
Why do you brine chicken breast?
The best way to make a smoked chicken breast is by brining it first! This helps impart as much juice into your chicken as possible through osmosis. I brined these bone-in chicken breasts in a mixture of water, table salt and brown sugar overnight.
How would I modify this for a whole chicken? Or chicken thighs?
You can definitely use this technique for any cut or part of the chicken. Here are some tips:
- For the whole chicken – you can definitely still brine it and follow the rest of the recipe. Cooking the whole chicken takes 30-60 minutes longer on the smoker. Be sure to check the internal temperature on the thickest part of the chicken.
- If you’re using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs – everything should be the same – although they will probably cook about 30 minutes quicker because they’re smaller.
- If you’re using boneless chicken thighs or breasts – you’ll want to skip the brine and marinate as I mentioned above. Cook time will drop 30-60 minutes.
How to smoke a delicious chicken breast
For smoking chicken breast in your Traeger pellet grill (or any electric smoker) – you have to go with a low temperature and cook it slowly. This recipe will quickly become a family favorite!
- Turn the Traeger Grill to the smoke setting for five minutes. Smoke will start billowing out!
- Once it smokes, turn the temp setting to 225 temp and let it come up to temp.
- Also – be sure your pellets are full! You don’t want to run out mid-smoke.
- While your Traeger is coming to temp – prep your chicken breasts. Remove them from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.
- Rub your chicken breasts with minced garlic. Then, lift the skin and put thinly sliced lemon and fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme) under the skin. No need for oil as leaving the skin on will add the oil you need.
- Once the temperature of your smoker is at 225 – place chicken breasts onto the grill grates.
- Smoke them bone-side down for 2 hours at 225 – no need to turn them.
- Grab that instant read thermometer and check the temp – be sure to take them off at 155-160 degrees and let them rest for 5 minutes.
What if I don’t have a smoker? How would I make this tasty smoked chicken breast recipe on a regular grill?
If you want that smoky flavor – but don’t have a smoker – you’ve got a couple of options!
- Wood chips – Soak them in water for 30 minutes before starting the grill. One cup of wood chips will last for about 20 minutes. Keep adding chips to the grill throughout the process.
- If you use a charcoal grill, light the coals, when the coals are ready, place them on one side of the grill. Place some of the wood chips on top of the coals. Place your food on the side without the coals to cook it with indirect heat.
- Smoker Tubes – My friend Nick introduced me to the wonderment of a smoke tube! It’s a metal tube with holes – fill that tube with Traeger pellets and then light it with a butane lighter. Once the pellets catch fire – let them get started – then blow the flames out. Set them in the grill with your chicken and shut the lid. The smoke flavor is all those tubes will leave behind!
When is smoked chicken breast done?
The one tool you need with any grill or Traeger smoker is an instant read meat thermometer – it’s the key to making sure meat is not overdone and you get a beautiful piece of chicken every time! For chicken – be sure to take it off the grill when the internal temperature reads 155-160 degrees. Be sure to put the temperature probe into the thickest part of the breast. Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes and it will still rise in temperature. Taking it off just a touch early will ensure you don’t dry out your chicken.
What to serve with Traeger Smoked Chicken Breasts
I love side dishes and this simple recipe for smoked chicken goes with pretty much anything! You can always go with a simple green salad – I had some cheesy rice and fresh tomatoes – but here are some of my other favorite recipes:
Other Delicious Smoked Traeger Recipes
Traeger Smoked Chicken Breast
- 1/3 cup table salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 gallon water
- 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
- 3 tsp minced garlic
- 1/2 lemon thinly sliced
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- For the Brine: Dissolve the salt and brown sugar in 1 gallon of water. Once dissolved, place the chicken in the brine and refrigerate overnight. Make sure chicken is fully submerged weighing it down if necessary.
- When ready to cook, set Traeger temperature to 225℉ and preheat, lid closed for 15 minutes.
- While the grill preheats, remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Rub with the minced garlic. Next, loosen the skin and stuff between the meat and skin lemon slices, garlic, rosemary and thyme.
- Place chicken directly on the grill grate, bone side down, and smoke for 2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer reads 160℉ when inserted into the thickest part of the breast. The finished internal temperature will rise to 160℉ in the breast as the chicken rests. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving. Enjoy!
- For the brine – you can also use Kosher salt – just use double the amount of table – but table salt works fine.
- If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use about 1 tsp dried herbs per chicken breast