These juicy, flavorful smoked chicken breasts are one of the easiest and most satisfying ways to make a perfect weeknight dinner, and there are so many ways to utilize them. With just 4 simple ingredients and around 2 1/2 hours total time, including mostly unattended smoking time, you’ll have incredibly juicy, tender and crave-able chicken ready for anything from sandwiches to the creamiest chicken alfredo pasta.

While boneless, skinless chicken breasts on their own can dry out and lack flavor, the slow, indirect heat and wood smoke work wonders to transform them into something delicious without complicated techniques. When you’re smoking something on the weekend, throw in some extra chicken breasts for meal prepping the week ahead.

ingredients for smoked chicken breasts

What You’ll Need

  • Chicken Breasts – I recommend boneless, skinless chicken breasts so you can better season the meat, as the skin won’t crisp up anyway in the smoker.
  • Vegetable or neutral oil – For coating chicken as a binder to help the seasoning stick.
  • Kosher salt – I prefer Diamond Crystal brand.
  • Dry Rub – Use your favorite sweet rub for chicken, or just combine black pepper, brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried herbs (thyme, rosemary), cayenne pepper (optional), or your favorite spices. You will need about 1/4 cup for 4 breasts.
  • Wood or Pellets – Apple, cherry, pecan or another sweet and mild wood.

See the full recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to Smoke Chicken Breast

You can optionally start by brining the chicken breast before seasoning to keep them especially juicy as they smoke. Or just proceed with the super simple season and smoke method.

seasoned chicken breasts for smoking
  1. Season the chicken (after an optional wet brine). Drizzle chicken breasts with a little oil, then generously season with kosher salt and desired dry rub. Allow to sit out for 1 hour at room temperature, or refrigerate overnight (dry brine) for more flavor.
  2. Preheat your smoker to 225°F using apple, cherry or preferred wood for smoke. Set up for indirect heat cooking.
chicken breasts in smoker horizontal
  1. Smoke the chicken breasts: Add chicken to the smoker, with a probe thermometer inserted in the thickest portion. Smoke until internal temp reaches 158°F, about 1 1⁄2 to 2 1⁄2 hours depending on the size of the chicken breasts.

Tip: Use a leave-in thermometer and always cook to temperature rather than by time.

smoked chicken breasts on sheet pan
  1. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Top Tips for the Best Results

An Overcooked Chicken Breast is a Dry Chicken Breast

For the juiciest chicken breasts, avoid overcooking them. Use a leave-in remote probe thermometer in the smallest chicken breast so you know when it is cooked. There will be carryover cooking (which means the temperature will continue to rise after it is out of the smoker), so it is super important to remove it from the smoker before it reaches 165° F. If you remove it at 165° F, the finished temperature will be well beyond that and they will be dry and tough.

Why Brine Chicken Breast

Soaking chicken breasts in a saltwater solution for a few hours before smoking helps ensure tender, juicy results. The brine lightly seasons the lean meat and allows it to retain more moisture. While requiring some planning, brining is an easy way to add insurance for juicy texture, even when the chicken is slightly overcooked.

However, properly cooked chicken that is well-seasoned can still turn out flavorful and moist even without brining. An alternative is dry brining – simply seasoning meat and refrigerating uncovered overnight allows salt to penetrate deep into the chicken. This method will help it retain it’s moisture, rather than adding more.

The choice comes down to personal preference for the hint of seasoned saltiness from brining versus pure chicken flavor. Both methods help retain moisture and prevent dry chicken.

How to Brine Chicken Breasts

  1. Make the Wet Brine: In a large bowl or container, combine 2 quarts of water, 1/2 cup kosher salt, and 1/4 cup of sugar. Whisk until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.
  2. Add the chicken to the brine and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  3. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse with cold water, and then pat dry with paper towels.

How Long to Smoke Chicken Breast

Smoking times vary quite a bit depending on a few factors including the starting temperature of the breasts (if they are chilled or at room temp), the thickness and size of – smaller breasts will cook faster. And the actual temperature of your smoker. With those variables of cook time in mind, here are some general timelines:

  • At 225° F
    • 6 to 8 oz chicken breasts – about 1 hour
    • 1 to 1 1⁄2 pound chicken breasts – about 1 1⁄2 hours to 2 hours
  • At 250° F
    • 6 to 8 oz chicken breasts – 30 to 45 minutes
    • 1 to 1 1⁄2 pound chicken breasts – about 1 hour

The most reliable test is still checking the internal temp, to 158°F before resting. The temperature will continue to rise to 165°F. But these estimates provide a good starting timeline range.

Ways to Use Up the Leftovers

Pile leftover smoked chicken on sandwiches with melty cheese and spicy mayo for a mouthwatering meal. Top tortillas with shredded chicken, cheese, and diced onions for simple yet flavorful tacos. Add diced smoked chicken to alfredo for the most flavorful and comforting smoked chicken alfredo pasta.

sliced smoked chicken breast on cutting board
smoked chicken breast on cutting board horizontal

Smoked Chicken Breast

Take your weeknight chicken dinners to new heights with succulent, craveworthy smoked chicken breast with just a few pantry ingredients and a few hours.
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Course: Main
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 to 4 pounds)
  • vegetable or other neutral oil
  • 1 Tbsp Diamond kosher salt

Dry Rub (about 1/4 cup)

  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (such as thyme and/or rosemary)
  • Cayenne pepper or other ground chile (to taste, optional for heat)


  • Season the chicken breasts 1 hour before cooking (or for the juiciest chicken, see note #1 about brining). Drizzle lightly with vegetable oil, then sprinkle with salt and evenly coat with the dry rub (or just salt & pepper). Let sit out while prepping the smoker.
  • Preheat the smoker to 225°F, using apple, cherry, or preferred smoking wood. Set up for indirect heat. Use "super smoke" mode if your smoker has it.
  • Place chicken breasts in the smoker, using a probe thermometer inserted into the thickest portion. Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 158°F, about 1 1⁄2 to 2 1⁄2 hours depending on the size of the breasts. (This allows for carryover cooking to a final temp of around 165°F).
  • Remove chicken from the smoker and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain and serving.


  • To Brine the Chicken Breasts: Dissolve 1⁄2 cup kosher salt and 1⁄4 cup sugar in 2 quarts water then submerge the chicken. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Remove from the brine, rinse in cold water, and pat dry before proceeding with seasoning and smoking.
  • The dry rub is optional – You can simply season with salt and pepper. Take into account final use when deciding on rub ingredients. For example, for a creamy pasta dish, stick to garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  • Be careful not to overcook the chicken. Even with brining, the lean meat of the breasts can dry out when over-cooked. 
  • For glazy smoked chicken: Brush with BBQ sauce during the last 15 minutes of the cook time.

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