How to Smoke Chicken Breast on a Pellet Grill: Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Learn the precise steps to perfectly smoke chicken breast on a pellet grill for a succulent and flavorful outcome.

Smoking chicken breast on a pellet grill is a simple process that yields flavorful results. The key lies in selecting the right wood pellets, maintaining the perfect temperature, and allowing ample time for the smoke to infuse the meat.

This guide will provide you with a step-by-step approach to achieve that succulent, smoky flavor in your chicken breast, including choosing the best wood pellets, prepping your chicken, setting the right temperature on your pellet grill, and determining the correct cooking time.

Stick around for detailed instructions and helpful tips to master this backyard culinary technique.

Key takeaways:

  • Choose the right wood pellets: Applewood, hickory, mesquite, cherrywood, or pecan.
  • Prepare your chicken: Boneless, skinless and well-pumped.
  • Temperature control: Set your pellet grill between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cooking time: Smoke the chicken breasts for 60-90 minutes until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Rest before cutting: Let the smoked chicken breasts rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Advantages of Cooking With a Pellet Grill

chicken breast Pellet Grill

Pellet grills offer unique benefits that make them a preferred choice for smoking and grilling food. Their functionality is based on a combination of electricity and wood pellets, resulting in magnificent BBQ flavors.

One of the main advantages is precision temperature control. With a pellet grill, you have the ability to set the temperature precisely, enabling consistent cooking and eliminating worries of over or undercooking.

Easy of use is another compelling benefit. With a push of a button, you can set the temperature and let the grill do its work, giving the cook an opportunity to focus on other tasks.

Pellet grills produce less ash compared to charcoal grills. This reduced ash production makes them significantly easier to clean up after a session of smoking or grilling.

Lastly, the variety of wood pellet flavors available allows different flavor profiles. From hickory and mesquite to apple and cherry, each type of wood pellet imparts a unique flavor to the food.

To reap these benefits, ensure your pellet grill is maintained properly, clean it after use to avoid ash build-up and always use high-quality wood pellets.

Best Wood Pellets for Smoking Chicken

Wood Pellets

When choosing wood pellets for smoking chicken, a variety of options stand out due to their ability to enrich poultry with distinct, pleasant flavors.

Applewood pellets are a popular choice, infusing a sweet, fruity taste that compliments chicken perfectly. They are subtle and not overpowering, resulting in a balanced flavor profile.

Hickory is another excellent selection, imparting a robust, smoky flavor that’s often associated with traditional BBQ. It’s strong, so it’s best used sparingly or mixed with a milder pellet like apple or cherry.

Mesquite pellets give a bold and earthy flavor. Known for their intense smoke, they are best used sparingly, or, again, mixed with milder woods to avoid overpowering the chicken.

Cherrywood pellets add a mild and fruity flavor, and they can create a beautiful reddish-brown color on chicken, enhancing its visual appeal.

Pecan wood pellets combine the best of both worlds, offering a sweet yet strong flavor.

Be sure to experiment with blending different types of wood pellets. Mixing can lead to discover a combination that creates a uniquely enticing flavor profile for your smoked chicken. Always remember that the key to successful flavor infusion lies in the correct balance and understanding the characteristics of each type of wood pellet.

Ingredients for Smoking Chicken Breast On a Pellet Grill

Chicken Breast

The primary ingredient, chicken breasts, should be boneless and skinless for best results. Go for a well-pumped chicken with firm, plump breasts as it ensures meatier cuts and a much juicier result.

Next, opting for quality wood pellets significantly influences your smoked chicken’s flavor. A combination of cherry and hickory gives a sweet, fruity taste, contrasted by a slightly smoky flavor hailing from the hickory.

The rub for the breasts can be a classic mix of salt, brown sugar, smoked paprika, and black pepper. For a bit of kick, add a dash of cayenne pepper. Garlic and onion powder lend an earthy undertone, making the rub versatile.

For extra juiciness, brine is key. A simple brine solution can be made with water, kosher salt, and a sweetener like sugar or honey.

One optional ingredient for a unique twist is a brush-on coating – a BBQ sauce, honey glaze, or a spicy mix towards the end of the smoking process every five minutes, for about 20 minutes, will create a slightly caramelized surface.

Lastly, a spritz to keep everything moist – an apple juice and apple cider vinegar mixture works well, spritz the chicken every 30-45 minutes during the smoking process.

Remember, the quality and combination of these ingredients can make or break your smoked chicken breast result, bring them with care.

Equipment Needed for Smoked Chicken Breast Recipe

empty pellet grill

Starting out, you’ll need a pellet grill, which plays the central role in this cooking process. Opt for a model that allows for temperature adjustments to ensure thorough and even smoking.

To add flavor, a selection of wood pellets is essential. Hickory, oak, and apple are popular choices for smoking chicken, each providing a unique nuance.

Next on the list, a reliable meat thermometer is a must-have. It permits efficient tracking of internal temperature, vital for achieving safe yet juicy chicken breasts.

For prepping the chicken, keep a quality boning knife handy. This tool is invaluable for trimming fat and gristles, if present.

A set of grill tongs is necessary for safely placing chicken on the grill and flipping it midway without burning yourself. The longer, the better, to help you keep distance from the grill’s heat.

Directly on the chicken, you’ll be using a spice rub. Having a set of mixing bowls is advisable to thoroughly combine your chosen herbs and spices.

Lastly, don’t forget aluminum foil, which you’ll utilize for wrapping the chicken for a period during smoking, as well as for resting the meat once cooked. The foil helps trap juices, making your chicken breasts even more succulent.

Proper Temperature for Smoking Chicken Breast On a Pellet Grill

Smoking pellet grill

Managing the right heat levels is paramount when smoking chicken breast on a pellet grill. Ideally, set your pellet grill between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. In this range, it allows for a slow and thorough cook, infusing the meat with smoky flavor and keeping it juicy.

Keep in mind the following ideas to maintain consistency:

  • Preheat your pellet grill. This step ensures reaching the ideal temperature for smoking and prevents overcooking from direct heat later.
  • Invest in a good meat thermometer. It can accurately measure the internal temperature of the chicken. It’s ready when it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Use the vents to control temperature. Opening vents allows more air in, raising temperature, while closing vents reduces air circulation, lowering temperature.
  • Regularly check the temperature. While pellet grills are great at maintaining consistent heat, occasional fluctuations could occur, especially in windy or cold conditions.
  • Understand the effect of outside temperature. It can influence the grill’s temperature control. During colder weather, your grill will work harder to maintain the desired temperature.

Estimated Time for Smoking Chicken Breasts On Pellet Grill

man checking time grilling

Factor in both preparation and cooking time. Prepping the chicken breast doesn’t take long – merely minutes for washing, pat drying, and applying seasoning.

However, the cooking process is where time consideration really comes into play. The actual smoking process for chicken breasts on a pellet grill typically takes about 60-90 minutes.

Remember, chicken breasts are lean and can dry out if smoked for too long. It’s ideal to maintain an internal smoker temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit to facilitate slow and even cooking.

Use a meat thermometer to verify if your chicken is fully cooked. Poultry is safe to eat once it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The resting period is another element to think about. It’s recommended to let smoked chicken breasts rest for at least 5 minutes post smoking. This lets the juices redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring moist and tender chicken breasts.

In total, a rough estimate for the entire process is about 1.5 – 2 hours. This includes preparation, smoking, and resting time.

So plan your meal accordingly, permitting time for each of these stages to optimize your smoked chicken breast outcome.

Suggestions for Seasoning Smoked Chicken

Seasoning Smoked Chicken breast

Selecting the right seasoning for your smoked chicken breast can be pivotal in enhancing its flavor profile. Here are some simple tips to guide you through:

Mix Dry Rubs: Combine ingredients such as brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste. Applying this rub generously and evenly on the chicken breast will create a flavorful crust when smoked.

Use of Sauces: An option is to use BBQ sauce. Liberally slathering your smoked chicken breast with BBQ sauce will add a tangy, smoky kick. For a lighter note, consider lemon-based sauces that impart a refreshing zest.

Incorporate fresh Herbs: Key herbs like rosemary, thyme or sage can bring a refreshing contrast to the smoky flavor. Mince them finely then mix with salt, pepper, and olive oil before applying to the chicken.

Choose Spices wisely: Spices like smoked paprika, cumin, and coriander can add a distinctive smoky flavor. Consider this if you’re looking for a deeper, richer taste profile.

Add Citrus: The acidity from citrus fruits like lemon can enhance the smoky flavor of the chicken. Either squeeze the juice on directly or zest the peels for a subtler taste.

Remember, always rub your seasonings into the chicken breast well in advance for a richer and deeper flavor when the chicken breast is smoked.

Detailed Procedure for Smoking Chicken Breast On a Pellet Grill

preheating the pellet grill

Start by preheating the pellet grill to approximately 225 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the ideal temperature for slow smoking, leading to a juicy and flavorful chicken breast.

Prepare your chicken breasts by patting them dry with a paper towel. Do make sure they’re at room temperature before they hit the grill.

Next, apply your chosen dry rub generously over each chicken breast. Go for a robust blend of spices and herbs that complements the smokiness imparted by the wood pellets.

Place the seasoned breast pieces on the grill grates. Remember to position them in such a way that they’re not directly over the fire. This is crucial as indirect heat is the secret to perfect smoked chicken.

Close the lid and let nature do its work. With the pellet grill set correctly, you can relax a bit. However, do keep an eye on the grill’s temperature to ensure it remains constant.

Around 30 minutes in, start checking the internal temperature of the chicken breasts using a meat thermometer. Your goal is to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once your chicken has achieved the recommended internal temperature, remove it from the grill. Wrap each piece in aluminum foil to help retain the heat and moisture. This process, known as resting, makes your smoked chicken breast extra juicy.

After a resting period of about 10 minutes, your smoked chicken breasts are ready to be carved and served. Enjoy the succulent and smoky flavors elevated by the unique cooking method of a pellet grill.

Storage Advice for Smoked Chicken Breast

chicken storage aluminum foil

To ensure your smoked chicken breast maintains its delightful taste, store it properly. Place any leftover meat in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. This will help retain moisture and reduce exposure to air, which can dry out the meat.

When stored correctly in the refrigerator, smoked chicken breast should be consumed within three to four days.

If you plan to keep the chicken for a longer time, freezing is an option. First, allow the smoked chicken breast to cool. Then, wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil or place it in a heavy-duty freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as possible before sealing. Generally, smoked chicken can be frozen for up to three months.

Remember, reheating should be done slowly and on a low heat to keep the meat juicy and flavorful. You can reheat it in a grill, oven, or a microwave. Be sure to monitor the temperature to avoid overcooking. Also, follow food safety practices and reheat the left-over chicken to at least 165ºF to ensure it’s safe to eat. Using a food thermometer will come in handy here.

Finally, avoid repeatedly freezing and thawing your chicken as it can compromise the flavor and texture of the meat. Always thaw in the refrigerator, not at room temperature to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

Helpful Tips for Smoking Chicken Breast On a Pellet Grill

Smoking Chicken Breast

To ensure optimum flavor and texture, brine your chicken breasts for at least an hour before smoking. This will also keep the meat moist throughout the smoking process. An easy brine recipe includes water, salt, and sugar in a 3-1 ratio.

Avoid overcooking the chicken breasts, as this can cause them to dry out. Your meat thermometer will play a crucial role here, enabling you to monitor the meat’s internal temperature.

Slightly oiling the chicken skin can promote a nice, crisp exterior. This should be done just before placing the chicken on the grill.

Maintain a consistent temperature on your pellet grill throughout the smoking process. Sudden changes in temperature can affect the chicken’s taste and texture.

Incorporate a variety of wood pellets for a unique flavor profile. Some preferred options include hickory, apple, and cherry wood pellets.

Rotate the chicken breasts halfway through the smoking process. This ensures that all sides get an even exposure to the smoke and heat for uniform cooking.

Lasty, let the smoked chicken breast rest for a few minutes after taking it off the grill. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making it juicier and more flavorful.

Remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to smoking chicken breast on a pellet grill. Try different wood pellet varieties, seasonings, and cooking times until you discover your perfect combination.

Delicious Accompaniments to Smoked Chicken Breasts

Potato salad Chicken Breast

Smoked chicken breasts can be best enjoyed with a plethora of delicious accompaniments that help extenuate the rich, smoky flavor of the meat.

Creamy coleslaw adds a perfect touch of tangy crunch, making an ideal pair for the tender smoked meat.

Corn on the cob, either grilled or boiled, makes a classic barbecue side dish that complements the smoky flavor of the chicken.

Potato salad, seasoned with mustard and dill, offers a cool, creamy side that balances the robust flavors of the smoked poultry.

Baked beans, flavored with molasses or brown sugar, provide a sweet and savory element to the meal.

A fresh green salad with vinaigrette dressing can offer a light, refreshing counterpoint to the rich smokiness of the chicken.

Garlic bread, either toasted or grilled, serves as a simple yet satisfying complement.

Grilled vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers, and eggplant add both color and varied flavor profiles to accompany the chicken.

Any savory rice dish, like seasoned wild rice or dirty rice, will also pair well, as it can absorb any extra meat juices, enhancing its taste.

Each side dish offers its own unique taste and texture, thus creating a complete, balanced meal when served alongside smoked chicken breasts. Selecting two or three will provide a variety of flavors and make the smoked chicken breast the star of your meal.

Recommended Meat Thermometers for Smoking Chicken Breast

Meat Thermometers

When smoking chicken breasts, it’s crucial to use a reliable meat thermometer to ensure the poultry has reached the proper internal temperature of 165°F, which ensures safe consumption.

An instant-read thermometer is highly recommended for its accuracy and ease of use. You simply insert it into the thickest part of the chicken and read the temperature.

ThermoPro TP19, Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo, and the Habor 022 are all quality options that provide quick and accurate readings. These models also have backlit displays for easy reading, which is beneficial for smoking food in low light conditions.

A probe thermometer, such as the ThermoPro TP-17, is also a good choice especially when you are smoking multiple pieces of chicken at once. It can monitor the temperature of two pieces of meat simultaneously, and ensures you don’t have to continuously open your pellet grill to check the temperature which often leads to heat loss.

Keep in mind that the temperature of the chicken will continue to rise a few degrees after it is taken off the grill, known as carryover cooking. Therefore, remove your chicken from the smoker when the internal temperature reads a couple of degrees lower than your target temperature.

For optimal results and peace of mind, investing in a quality meat thermometer is a great decision for any home cook engaged in smoking chicken breasts, or any type of meat for that matter.

Food Safety Recommendations When Smoking Chicken Breast

Food Safety chicken

While smoking chicken breast, it’s crucial to adhere to some essential food safety guidelines:

  • Safe Handling: Always remember to handle poultry with clean hands and utensils. Use a clean cutting board and knife specific for poultry to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Proper Thawing: If using frozen chicken, ensure it is completely thawed. Doing so ensures even cooking and reduces the chance of bacterial growth.
  • Temperature Monitoring: Monitor the internal temperature of the chicken throughout the cooking process. The meat should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F to kill any potential pathogens.
  • Avoid Cross-Contamination: To prevent cross-contamination, don’t use the same plate for raw and cooked chicken. Also, utensils or surfaces that have come in contact with raw chicken should be thoroughly cleaned before reuse.
  • Safe Cooling and Storage: Once the smoking process is done, don’t leave the chicken at room temperature for longer than two hours. Store in a refrigerator within this window, at a temperature lower than 40°F to hamper bacterial growth.

Lastly, always make sure you’re taking the time needed to properly clean your grilling equipment after every use: remove all the grease and char from your grill grates and change out the drip pan to keep your pellet grill running optimally.

Nutrition Facts for Smoked Chicken Breasts

Nutrition Smoked Chicken Breasts

Smoked chicken breasts, being a lean, protein-rich source, can be a vital part of a healthy balanced diet. A single serving (approximately 3 ounces) of smoked chicken breast contains:

  • Roughly 150 to 166 calories, making it a low-calorie option for healthy meals.
  • High in protein, approximately 26 to 30 grams, which is more than half of the daily protein requirement for most adults.
  • Contains essential vitamins and minerals like B6, niacin, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.
  • Virtually no carbohydrates, suggesting that it can easily fit into a low-carb or keto diet.
  • A negligible amount of fat (approximately 3 grams), making it beneficial for heart health.
  • As the chicken breast is smoked, it may contain sodium due to added salt during the brining or flavoring process. One can control sodium intake by adjusting seasoning during preparation.

Keep in mind the above factors while aiming for balanced nutrition intake from meals. For a healthier option, consider pairing smoked chicken with abundant veggies or whole grains.

Strategy to Choose the Best Pellet Grill

preheat the smoker

Identifying the best pellet grill for your smoking needs involves careful consideration of several key elements.

The first one is capacity. Depending on the quantity of chicken breasts you’re planning to smoke, select a grill with a substantial cooking area.

The temperature range is also essential. For smoking chicken breast, a grill offering a well-managed temperature control becomes crucial. It allows the consistent, low heat necessary for perfect smoking.

Durability is a factor not to be overlooked. Grills made from high-quality materials, like stainless steel or cast iron, can withstand heavy usage and harsh weather conditions.

The hopper size in the grill is crucial, too. Larger hoppers hold more pellets, extending your cooking time without refilling.

Also, considering grills with PID controllers is a good idea. They help maintain precise temperature and provide consistent results.

Finally, though optional, extra features such as Wi-Fi connectivity or meat probes could add convenience to your grilling experience, and may be worth considering, depending on your budget and needs.

Remember, every griller is unique. The best pellet grill for you will align with your specific requirements and lifestyle.

Process of Preparing the Pellet Grill for Smoking

Preparing the Pellet Grill

Begin by cleaning the grill grate thoroughly to ensure there’s no residual grease or food particles from previous grilling. Once cleaned, preheat the pellet grill to the desired smoking temperature, which is usually between 225°F to 250°F for chicken breasts.

While the grill preheats, fill the pellet hopper with your chosen wood pellets. Hardwoods like maple, hickory, or apple often pair well with chicken. Be sure the hopper is well-stocked to maintain a consistent temperature during the smoking process. After filling the hopper, check your pellet grill’s settings. Some pellet grills have a smoke setting, but if yours does not, set it to the low-heat level.

To monitor the grill’s temperature and ensure even cooking, consider using a grill thermometer. Attach this to the grill according to the manufacturer’s instructions if the pellet grill does not have a built-in one.

Prior to placing the chicken on the grill, oil the grill grates lightly. This will help prevent the chicken from sticking during the smoking process. Now, your pellet grill is ready for the chicken breasts. Proceed to the actual cooking once the internal temperature of the grill has stabilized.

Guide to Quality Check Your Chicken Before Smoking

Quality Check Chicken breast

When it comes to the chicken itself, ensure you’ve got prime poultry. Fresh, quality chicken will always be a safer bet and produce the best results. Opt for organic, free-range chicken if possible. They’re healthier and often provide superior taste.

Look closely at colour and texture. Fresh chicken should have a pinkish hue and skin that’s somewhat bouncy to the touch. If it’s grey or slimy, that’s a sure signal of spoiling.

Smell is also a key factor. Fresh chicken will have a neutral or non-existent smell. If it has a strong, unpleasant odour, it’s likely bad and unsafe to consume.

Feel the weight of the chicken. It should feel dense and heavy relative to its size. Lightness may indicate dehydration and less juicy results.

Finally, check for any date stamps or sell-by labels on the packaging if available. These provide a straightforward way to confirm your chicken is fresh and safe to smoke.

These simple but crucial steps will ensure that the chicken you are about to smoke is of high quality and will result in a delicious, aromatic smoked chicken breast.

Next, ensure that the breasts are evenly sized for consistent smoking. If some breasts are significantly larger than others, they may require more time to smoke, creating an uneven cooking process. If necessary, you can pound the bigger pieces to a uniform size with the others.

Remember to remove any leftover feathers and give the chicken a quick wash before starting the smoking process.

Method to Rest and Cut the Smoked Chicken Breast

Cut the Smoked Chicken Breast

After the smoking process, chicken breasts require a resting period. It’s an essential step that allows juices to redistribute throughout the meat, leading to a moist and tender chicken breast. When removed from the grill, place the chicken breasts on a cutting board and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Allow them to rest for approximately 10-15 minutes.

When it comes to cutting smoked chicken breast, understanding the grain of the meat is crucial. The grain refers to the direction in which the muscle fibers are aligned in the breast. When you look at the chicken, you will notice that these fibers run in one direction.

Once rested, you can begin to cut. Here are straightforward steps:

  • Position the chicken breast with the pointed end facing your dominant hand.
  • Slightly tilt the knife at a 45-degree angle for a clean cut and more flavorful bites.
  • Start at one end of the breast, slicing through the thickness of the meat across the grain. This slicing method results in less chewing and more tenderness per bite.
  • Make sure you’re making smooth, sawing movements, not pressuring or pushing the knife down. If you’ve properly sharpened your knife, it should do the work without any force needing to be applied.
  • Aim each slice to be about 1/2 inch thick. This provides a substantial bite that is not too thick to chew comfortably.

Keeping in mind these steps, you will be rewarded with juicy and deliciously tender slices of chicken breast every time.

Recipe Variations for Smoking Chicken Breast On a Pellet Grill

Recipe Smoked Chicken Breast

Exploring different flavors with your chicken breast is a great way to keep your smoked dishes interesting and diverse. Here are some enticing variations that you can try:

Use different wood pellets: Experiment with various types of hardwood pellets such as oak, hickory, or apple for unique flavors.

Change your brine: Alternate between sugar-based and salty brines, or try herb-infused mixtures.

Modify your rub: Try out different combinations of herbs and spices in your rub. Think about combining cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, or even some brown sugar.

Infuse with beer or apple juice: Instead of using water in your smoker, try beer or apple juice. This will give a subtle flavor enhancement to your chicken breast.

Stuffed chicken breast: Add a delectable surprise by stuffing your chicken breast with ingredients like cream cheese, spinach, or sundried tomatoes before smoking it.

Glazing: Apply a glaze or barbecue sauce in the final hour of smoking. This glaze can be sweet, spicy, or tangy to add an extra dimension to your smoked chicken.

Each of these variations can offer a flavorful twist to your smoked chicken breast. Experiment and discover which combinations become your new favorites. Always remember to maintain the smoker’s correct temperature and ensure the chicken is safely cooked to the right internal temperature.


How long does it take to smoke a chicken breast on a pellet grill?

Smoking a chicken breast on a pellet grill at 225°F until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F typically takes about 1 hour.

What temperature do you grill chicken on a pellet grill?

Chicken should be grilled on a pellet grill at a temperature between 425 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Is it better to smoke a chicken at 225 or 250?

Smoking a chicken is ideally done at 225 degrees for evenly cooked and perfectly crisped skin.

How long to smoke boneless chicken breast on pit boss pellet grill?

The boneless chicken breast should be smoked on a Pit Boss pellet grill at 225°F for approximately an hour.

How do you maintain optimal smoke quality when grilling chicken on a pellet grill?

Maintaining optimal smoke quality when grilling chicken on a pellet grill can be achieved by keeping a consistent temperature of around 275-300°F, using high-quality hardwood pellets, and ensuring the pellets are dry for robust, flavorful smoke.

What type of wood pellets are best for smoking chicken breast on a pellet grill?

For smoking chicken breast on a pellet grill, fruit-based wood pellets such as apple or cherry varieties are considered ideal due to their mild, sweet smoke flavor.

How would you prepare the chicken before smoking it on a pellet grill?

To prepare chicken for smoking on a pellet grill, brine it for a few hours, pat it dry, and then season it with a mix of your favorite spices before placing it on the preheated grill.