Make sure your smoker grill is cleaned out.
Pick a seasoning wood for a flavorful smoke.
Chicken that you want to have a sweet smoked taste will come from using a fruit wood such as apple or cherry.
Barbeque flavored chicken thighs blend well with hickory smoke. Oak and other hardwoods may not deliver as much of the flavor you are looking for to season the meat.
Maintaining the correct temperature is very important. Use two thermometers in the barrel smoker, one near the top and the other about one third from the bottom. In order to not only flavor the meat, but to keep it juicy, brining is a very important step.
Start with a kosher dill pickle juice base and add some peppers for spice. Red or green minced peppers are also a choice if you don't want a hot element, or going with an Asian glaze.
Use a glass dish, layer the chicken thighs, cover the meat with the brine mixture, and sealed the dish. It is important that the meat be fully covered, so add water if needed.
When ready to cook, remove the thighs, discard the brine mixture, and pat the meat dry.
Coat the grates with a nonstick coating such as olive oil. Place a metal chimney starter in the base of the grill and fill with charcoal. Light it and allow the charcoal to create hot coals.
Remove the chimney and add wood chips.
Place a metal pan of water on top of the fuel to give some humidity inside the grill.
The goal of creating perfection is having a crispy skin that your teeth will just sink into.
Smoking chicken at low temperature without a bit of help can produce rubber or leather-like skin that is tough to chew.
The secret to solving this problem is to peel the skin back, remove any chicken fat, including the back of the skin, coat the muscle with butter, and pull the skin back over the thigh, the outer skin down against the meat.
The skin should appear transparent. Because of the low-temperature smoking method, the butter will crisp the skin without burning. The buttery crunch is a delight combined with the smoky flavor of the meat.
Once all the thighs have been buttered, now is time to apply the dry rub to the meat's skin.
When you want to show off, out comes the touch of cocoa powder, a little known secret ingredient, that will add a new level of taste to the rub with or without the spicy pepper powders.
Lay the prepared chicken thighs on the grates, not touching, so the heat and smoke can surround them. You are seeking a temperature of between 165F-180F in the meat.
To achieve the results you want for the end product, remove them about five degrees below your temperature goal. They are "fall off the bone" tender at around 180F. If you want more structure to your thigh, pull them off around 160F. You can expect the cooking time to be about 35 minutes per pound of thighs cooking.
Even though your mouth begins to water just smelling the smoke, resist the urge to lift the lid. Keeping that smoke, heat, and flavor sealed inside the grill is a must. Adjust the baffles to regulate the heat. Close them down after adding the thighs to the grill.
When they are ready, use tongs to remove them from the grill and place them onto a platter. Allow them to rest about five to eight minutes before serving.