Bone in chicken breasts are a great value, easy to smoke and can come out juicy and delicious when you cook them on your pellet grill. If you are looking for a great recipe for smoked bone in chicken breasts on your Traeger, Pit Boss or Z Grills then you are in the right place!
Keep reading and we will cover:
- How to Prep the Chicken Breasts
- How to Set Up Your Pellet Grill
- How Long to Smoke the Breasts
Prepare the Split Chicken Breast for the Smoker
Getting the split breasts ready for the smoker is pretty simple as all you really need to do is trim off any excess skin and apply our dry rub.
If I were working with boneless, skinless chicken breasts then I would consider soaking them in a brine before smoking but since these breasts still have the bone and skin there is less risk of them drying out.
Before you apply the rub, pat the breasts dry with paper towels and then rub them with a little canola or peanut oil. The oil will help the rub stick and will help the skin turn out nice.
Use your favorite dry rub or mix up a batch of the recipe given below.
Dry Rub for Split Chicken Breasts
- 3 Tablespoons turbinado sugar
- 2 Tablespoons salt
- 1 Tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoons Gebhardt’s Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoons ground black pepper
Make sure you season both sides of the breasts and let the rub sit on the meat for 15-30 minutes before they go on the smoker.
Prepare Your Pellet Grill for Smoking
Everyone has their favorite setup for smoking on their pellet grills and mine is given below. I was cooking on a Z Grills pellet grill but you can adapt the technique to work on your Pit Boss or Traeger.
Start by turning on your pellet grill and setting the temperature to 225F.
Place an aluminum foil pan on the lower cooking grate and add 2-3 cups of hot water.
Fill a six inch smoke tube with wood pellets and place it on the lower grate beside the water pan. Light the pellets with a torch for 20 seconds and then blow out the flame. I was burning hickory pellets in the hopper and smoke tube but some folks prefer a milder wood like apple.
Place the seasoned chicken breasts on the top grate for smoking.
Smoke the Bone In Chicken Breasts at 225F
Once the chicken breasts on on the smoker close the lid and let them cook for one hour.
After an hour I give the breasts a good misting with a spray bottle of “I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter”. I realize that might seem strange but it helps with color and making sure the chicken skin stays tender and doesn’t either dry out into leather or turn into a rubbery mess.
You could probably spray the skin with some olive oil or Pam cooking spray and get similar results.
Once the chicken has been misted close the lid and let the chicken finish cooking.
The exact time it will take the chicken to cook will depend upon the size of the breasts. I was working with breasts that weighed about 1.25 pounds each and they took 2 hours and 40 minutes to finish.
Here is the BIG TRICK to cooking these breasts. It will seem wrong at first but trust me.
The breasts are DONE when the reach an internal temperature of 155F.
Our target temperature of 155F is ten degrees lower than what we have all been taught is the minimum safe temperature for cooked chicken of 165F but is still perfectly safe.
The minimum safe cooking temperature is actually based on what is required to kill all of the harmful bacteria in the poultry and these conditions are based upon a combination of time and temperature.
According to the USDA you get the exact same level of food safety in poultry when the chicken is cooked to EITHER of the following conditions.
- 165F for 3 seconds
- 150F for 3 minutes
Since we have been going Low and Slow on our pellet grill, hitting an internal temperature of 150F for 3 minutes is a piece of cake!
Personally I like to take the chicken up to 155F because I like the texture of the meat better. Regardless of whether you pull the chicken at 150F or 155F it will be much juicier and tender than if you cooked it to “overdone” at 165F.
You could sauce the chicken if you wanted but I am trying to shed some pounds and didn’t want the extra calories.
These breasts were tender, juicy, smoky and coated with an awesome dry rub. So, in a nutshell, they were pretty awesome!
Smoked Bone In Chicken Breasts
- Pellet Grill
- Water Pan
- 6 inch Smoke Tube
- 4 Bone In Split Chicken Breasts 1.25 lbs each
- Cooking Oil Spray
- Dry Rub Ingredients
- 3 tbsp Turbinado Sugar
- 2 tbsp Table Salt
- 1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
- 1 tsp Chili Powder
- 1 tsp Black Pepper
- Trim any excess skin from the breasts, pat dry with paper towels and coat the skin lightly with oil.
- Season the chicken with the dry rub on both sides.
- Smoke the chicken at 225F for one hour.
- After one hour spritz the chicken with a cooking oil like "I Can't Believe it's not Butter"
- Smoke the breasts for another 1.5 to 2 hours until an internal temperature of 155F is reached.
- Remove the breasts from the grill, serve and enjoy!