Grilled Chicken Thighs are delicious cooked on a Pellet Grill. Find out how easy it is to cook perfect BBQ chicken on your Traeger grill or Pellet smoker.
One of the recipes we practiced over, and over, and over again for our first BBQ competition was chicken thighs. We learned a ton about smoking thighs. One of them is how challenging it can be to get crispy skin when cooking low and slow. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to cook over a high heat. Or better yet, over direct heat (show me some flames, baby!), like this method. The only downfall of is losing some of that gorgeous smoke flavor.
What we have today is a happy medium. Chicken thighs cooked in a Traeger pellet grill, but over a high heat (450 degrees). What this does is allow a hot enough temperature to get a nice char and crispy skin, while still inviting some smoke infusion to get into the meat. This method works great with any pellet grill.
Smoke flavor + tender meat + perfect char = happy chicken lovers.
If you don’t have a Traeger, or Pellet Grill, don’t fret. You can still enjoy this recipe on a regular gas or charcoal grill.
How to Grill Chicken Thighs on a Pellet Smoker
You start by cleaning and patting dry your thighs. Then you’ll want to trim any excess fat. The idea here is to make the thighs look uniform, like handsome little soldiers. This way they all cook around the same time and look pretty on you serving platter.
Once trimmed liberally apply your dry rub. We’ve tested this with a sweet bbq style rub like this one, and also a savory rub (with a simple cracked peppercorn, salt, oregano, and chili powder). We prefer the savory. But you can use whatever dry rub you like. Then throw ‘em on your preheated grill.
While they are cooking, crack open a beer (or some rosé) and make your glaze. The glaze is going to give it gorgeous flavor and a sweet and spicy kick. For this glaze we use a combination of a Carolina BBQ Sauce (vinegar based), jam, and corn syrup (for shine), recipe below. Combine the sauce, the jam, and the corn syrup and bring to a medium high heat for ten minutes. Turn off heat and then let sit to thicken up.
When your chicken is close to temp (around 155 degrees internal temperature), dunk each thigh into the sauce and place back on the grill to cook a few more minutes until they are at 165 degrees. This will allow the sauce to adhere to the meat and get a little crispy and caramelized. Yum.
- 6 bone-in chicken thighs about ¼ lb each
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil approximately 1/4 cup
- Use approximately 1 tablespoon per thigh of the dry rub recipe, linked below (or your favorite dry rub)
For the Glaze:
- ¾ cup Carolina BBQ sauce recipe below, or your favorite bbq sauce.
- ¾ cup rasberry jam any red berry fruit works
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- Preheat Traeger Grill to 450 degrees (if using an alternative grill, preheat grill to medium/high heat)
- Rinse and pat dry each chicken thigh.
- Trim excess fat. The idea is to make each thigh look uniform.
- Drizzle each thigh with a little bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, then liberally apply dry rub to each thigh. Use approximately 1 tablespoon of the rub per thigh.
- Prepare Glaze: Place the glaze ingredients in a sauce pan over high heat and bring to a bubble. Turn heat down to simmer and let reduce for approximately 10 minutes. Set aside in a large bowl.
- Place chicken thighs on the grill. (If using charcoal, place over direct heat and sear each side. If chicken skin is browning too much move to an indirect heat, but leave the temperature at med/high.)
- When internal temperature of each thigh is 155 degrees glaze both sides of the chicken and then place back onto the grill.
- Cook until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
- Remove from heat and glaze the chicken thighs again and let sit for 10 minutes.
Wine Pairing for Traeger Grilled Chicken Thighs
This chicken dish comes out super juicy and tender, with a nice sweet bite from that glaze, and a mild smoke infusion. Remember we used a vinegar based sauce as the base for the glaze, so I wanted wines that had enough acidity and power to stand up to that flavor, but not so big as to overpower the tender meat. We decided to try it with a few Côtes du Rhône reds, and also threw in a couple rosés for good measure (it is summertime after all!).
Côtes du Rhône Red Wines — These wines come from Southern France, are generally based on Grenache or Syrah grapes, and tend to be affordable, easy drinking, and food flexible. They can be fruity but also tend to have some smoky or earthy tones, which work well with smoked or grilled meats.
Fruity Rosé — We tried the chicken with a couple different styles of rosé, from light and dry to fruity and bold. It worked best with a bolder, fruiter style. The light (Provence style) gets lost in the vibrant flavors of the chicken. You can stick with the Rhone theme and go with a Rhone rosé, but the dish would work equally well with a Spanish Rosado. Or if you want to drink local go with a rosé from the Willamette Valley.
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