Start to Finish: 4 hours
Smoking meat gives food flavor and also helps preserve it. However, in the case of chicken breasts, the primary benefit is for seasoning, as the meat is most frequently eaten soon after it is finished. While bone-in chicken breasts have more flavor during the slow cooking process of hot smoking, boneless chicken breasts can work well too. The trick to keeping smoked chicken breasts moist is to not overcook them and to keep the skin on, as it bastes the chicken during smoking. This recipe is adapted from one by The Black Peppercorn.
4 boneless, skin-on chicken breasts
2 tablespoons ground chipotle pepper
2 tablespoons Montreal steak spice
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup dark maple syrup
1 cup hickory wood chips
- 1 1/2 cups applewood chips
Place the chicken breasts, spices, salt, sugar and half of the vegetable oil in a large mixing bowl and combine, evenly coating the chicken. Let rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator, covered, to let the seasonings penetrate.
Turn on your smoker and heat it to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the wood chips to the smoker when hot, and let sit for 10 minutes.
Blend the maple syrup and remaining teaspoon of vegetable oil in a small bowl. Place the seasoned chicken breasts on the grill. Brush the breasts with the maple syrup mix and close the lid.
Let the breasts cook for 40 minutes, then brush the breasts again with maple syrup. Turn the breasts and brush the underside with maple syrup, and close the lid of the smoker. Brush the breasts every 30 to 45 minutes, until they are done.
Test the internal temperature of the breasts after 2 hours of smoking. Use a meat thermometer and insert it in the thickest part of the breast. Remove the chicken from the smoker when the internal temperature is 160 degrees F.
Remove the chicken from the smoker, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Test the internal temperature again -- it should now be at 165 degrees F. If it has not yet reached 165 degrees F, tent the breasts again and let them rest another 5 minutes. Once the breasts have reached 165 degrees F, slice them against the grain and serve while warm or at room temperature.
Chicken is safe to eat when the internal temperature reads 165 degrees F. Removing the breasts a few minutes early prevents overcooking, as the temperature will continue to rise after the chicken is removed from the smoker.
Increase the amount of spice in the chicken seasoning for spicier breasts. Similarly, increase the marination time for more flavorful breasts.
Different woods placed in the smoker will affect the taste and appearance of your chicken. Applewood gives chicken a burnished caramel color, while hickory adds depth of flavor. Maple or birchwood would boost the maple flavor, while a mix of mesquite wood chips and grape vines would produce a stronger, smokier flavor. For a lighter taste, use a mix of almond and alder woods.