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Primo Smoked Chicken Thighs 

A cast iron pan with smoked chicken thighs with fennel orzo. There is an asparagus side dish next to the chicken.
Smoked Chicken Thighs on a bed of Toasted Orzo!

When it comes to smoking on my Primo my go-to-recipe has to be hot smoked chicken thighs! The reason I return to this method is because it is inexpensive, creates the juiciest chicken, there’s a great variation of rub combos, it is easy prep, crowd appeal, and a short cook time! A cast iron flat surface is used, during the final step, to crisp the chicken skin to perfection. In my blog today, I’ve included international rub combinations and the smoking chips just so you can change it up while hot smoking chicken!

Light up the Primo Grill, choose the seasoning and smoking chunks, and give the thigh-a-try! Be sure to report in to me, and let me know what your faves are!

A Primo Oval XL 400 Grill, with the hood down, has the chicken and pasta that will be smoked in it.
The Primo Oval XL400 Grill never disappoints!

In partnership with Primo Grills! #TeamPrimo2021 Go #TeamPrimo!

Chicken thighs are on a Primo grill grate over indirect heat.
Smoke chicken over indirect heat then grill it on a cast iron flat surface.

Why Hot Smoke Chicken Thighs

Chicken Thighs are one of the easiest meats to grill or smoke! The juices that are retained in a bone-in chicken thigh are so much more than chicken breasts. And I love how relatively quick it is to smoke chicken thighs when using the Hot Smoke method.

The skin seems to be easier to crisp with hot smoke method versus the low slow method. Give both methods a try and let me know what you think. The method of using a hot cast iron flat surface is a must!

Honestly, I know some say smoking chicken thighs at 225°F for 2 hours is best. However, I have found success with smoking chicken at 300°F for 45-60 minutes (140°F internal chicken temp) then transferring to hot direct heat on a griddle, flipping it back and forth until a crispy skin is achieved. And hey, I am a mom with lots of things to do so I benefit from a quicker smoke than low and slow!

A Primo Grill is opened. The picture shows lite lump charcoal on one side and empty on the other side. This is how to set a Primo grill for indirect heat.
This is how to set up indirect heat in a Primo!

What About the Temperature

Once the hot smoked chicken hits about 140°F remove the chicken from the grill and crank up the direct grill heat to 425°F or so. Transfer the chicken to direct heat, and turn as needed to create that crispy skin chefs seek for. The internal temperature of the chicken is done when it is 170°F to 180°F. Technically, chicken is safe at 165°F but the texture of the chicken meat benefits at the higher temperature.

Why a Primo Grill

My Primo Ceramic Grill XL 400 smokes chicken thighs to perfection due to the grill being able to hold a low steady heat; the design is outstanding. Another plus is the ease in setting up indirect heat and direct heat. On another note, Primo Grills are made in America! Go Team USA! Additionally, the size of the Primo Grill can hold a massive amount of chicken thighs on the grate…and let’s face it, smoked chicken thighs with crispy skin is a huge crowd pleaser!

Note: Crisping chicken skin takes time, patience, and attention. Don’t walk away!

Chicken thighs are on a cast iron flat surface in order to crisp the skin.
Crispy skin can be achieved after the chicken is smoked and placed on a hot cast iron flat surface.

A great tip to developing crispy skin on smoked chicken is to use a cast iron flat surface
during the final step!

How to Change Seasoning for Chicken Thighs

Dry Rubs Rule for Chicken Thighs!

Asian: brown sugar, white pepper, Sichuan pepper, garlic, onion, five spice, and ginger

African: coriander, cumin, black pepper, sweet paprika, cayenne, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, clove, and lemon

American: smoked paprika, mustard, garlic, onion, pepper, brown sugar, chili powder

Mexican: ancho, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, garlic, onion, oregano

Southern: brown sugar, paprika, black pepper, Kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper.

Italian: oregano, thyme, basil, garlic, onion, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes

Orzo is in a cast iron pan on the Primo grill with asparagus next to it.
Brown the orzo then add liquids and allow to absorb and smoke.

What Sides To Make with Smoked Chicken Thighs

Grilled Vegetables

Fruit Salad

Vinaigrette Green Salad or Coleslaw

Black Beans

Grilled Corn Salad

Toasty Orzo with Leeks, Fennel, and Asparagus.

What’s the Tastiest BBQ Smoking Chunks for Chicken

Mesquite, apple, maple, cherry, pecan, and oak. Some say mesquite is too strong for chicken but from my experience it gives a tangy sweet smoke to chicken that is delicious!

For more information on Primo Grills check out:

Follow A Merry Recipe cooking, grilling, and smoking adventures!


Here’s how to smoke some perfectly juicy chicken thighs with crispy skin.

A close up photo of Crispy Smoked Chicken in a pan with fennel fonds and toasted orzo.
Smoky Chicken Thighs and Smoky Fennel Orzo! So delicious!

Recipe Primo Smoked Chicken Thighs
Download DOCX • 11KB

Primo Smoked Chicken Thighs


3 1/2 pounds (10 count) chicken thighs

2 tablespoons granulated garlic

2 tablespoons ground coriander

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon kosher salt


Primo Firebox Divider

Primo Heat Deflector Rack · Primo Ceramic Heat Deflector Plate

Primo Lump Charcoal Primo · Primo QuickLights Fire Starters

2 mesquite wood chunks or wood of choice


Serves: 4

Prep Time 10 min

Smoke Time 45-60 minutes

Grill Time 10 - 15 minutes

Seasons All

Category Chicken

Smoke source: Primo Lump Charcoal and 2 mesquite

Cooking method: Hot Smoke 275°F to 300°F Indirect heat zone for 45 minutes followed by 400°F - 425°F direct heat zone for 10-15 minutes

Side Dishes: Shown with Toasted Orzo with Leeks, Fennel, and Asparagus

Preparation Instructions

  1. Trim excess fat off chicken.

  2. Make the rub by whisking garlic, coriander, smoked paprika and salt. Season chicken for 1-2 hours before smoking.

  3. Set Primo Ceramic Grill for two zone cooking by inserting the Firebox divider. Load lump charcoal onto one side of the Firebox. Ignite the charcoal with a Primo QuickLight Fire Starters. Wait 5-8 minutes for the charcoal to build a small bed of embers.

  4. After small embers can be seen, close the dome lid. Fully open the bottom draft door and fully open the top vent.

  5. When the grill thermometer reaches 25°F from your target temperature of 275°F to 300°F., insert 2 chunks of mesquite wood chunks.

  6. Position Primo Heat deflector racks and plates either on the one side without coals or when cooking more than 8 chicken thighs on both sides of the grill. Position the grill racks.

  7. Close the top vent down to one-third open. Close the bottom vent to 1-inch open. Adjust vents to main no higher than 300°F.

  8. Wait 1-2 minutes for the temperature to stabilize to smoke temperature.

  9. Smoke the chicken thighs, skin side down, over indirect heat, for 45-50 minutes.

  10. Once the internal temperature of the chicken is around 140°F° remove it from the grill, do not eat it yet. Open the vents to increase grill temperature to 400°F to 425°F., adding more lump charcoal, if needed. Heat a cast iron skillet, pizza pan, or griddle over direct heat.

  11. Place chicken directly on the grill grates or a hot griddle. Turn chicken over every few minutes on the grill grate, over direct heat. Grill both sides for 3-5 minutes or until slightly charred.

  12. Remove the chicken from the grill when the internal temperature reaches 170°F to 180° or your desired internal temperature above 160°F.

  13. Allow chicken to rest 10 minutes before serving. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on the non-skin side of the chicken. Add a sprinkle of salt.

Side Dish Suggestions: Grilled Asparagus, Toasted Orzo Pilaf with Leeks and Fennel.



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