Smoked Chicken Breasts [Bone In, Split, Skin On]

Yep.  Another basic chicken recipe.  But I’m totally amazed at how nobody cooks Bone in Chicken Breasts!  Do you even know how good they are?

My gosh, even if you did absolutely nothing to them, they’d be the best chicken breasts you’ve ever cooked.  So why do you keep buying boneless/skinless?

Smoked Chicken Breast Bone In Recipe

I’m going to ask you to do something for me:  Try these split breasts at least ONCE.  Just once, and tell me they aren’t significantly better than what you’re used to.  I dare you.

Here are our easy to follow instructions for smoking chicken breasts!

Prepare the Chicken Breasts for the Smoker

We are going to season the chicken with a two step process.

First we are going to brine the bird and then we are going to hit it with our poultry dry rub.

Brine the Breasts

Start by preparing a brine.  You can use a basic brown sugar brine but this chicken brine has a lot more flavor.

The Chicken Brine

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 tbls black pepper

Place the chicken breasts into a one gallon Ziploc bag, cover with the brine and refrigerate for at least one and up to four hours.

Remove the breasts from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.

If you are looking for a quick weeknight meal and do not have time to brine then you can speed things up and inject the breasts instead.  Here is a guide for injecting chicken that has a nice recipe for you to use.

Season the Breasts with a Dry Rub

Prepare the following chicken dry rub:

  • 2 T Sea Salt
  • 1.5 T Granulated Garlic
  • 1 T Granulated Onion
  • 1 tsp Ground Thyme
  • 1.5 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Dry Mustard

 Season the chicken liberally with the rub.  Make sure you lift up the skin and sprinkle some of the rub directly onto the meat.

Allow the chicken to rest for about 20 minutes so the rub has time to work itself into the chicken

Smoke the Chicken Breasts at 250F

The easiest way to cook this split chicken breast is on a Pit Boss, Traeger or other style pellet grill.  You can also use a Masterbuilt electric smoker or a simple Weber charcoal grill using indirect low heat.

Set your smoker to 250F using a mild wood like apple for smoke.  Do not use the SuperSmoke setting on your Traeger or “Smoke Mode” on your Pit Boss as chicken can easily be overpowered by smoke flavor.

Place the breasts on the smoker skin side up.  There is a lot of heat that radiates off of the grease tray on Traeger and Pit Boss grills so you want the bone side of the breasts to protect the meat.  Keep the breasts skin side up through the entire cook but rotate them around every 15 minutes or so if your pellet grill has hot spots.

This is a quick smoker recipe as it only takes about 90 minutes to smoke bone in chicken breasts at 250F.  Make sure to cook them to an internal temp of 165 – not a degree more and use a digital thermometer to be sure.

That’s critically important.  If you do that, you’ll love these.

Smoked Chicken Breasts on Lettuce

Serving the Smoked Chicken Breasts

This chicken is amazing when served up with Cole slaw, baked beans or, if you want to have a massive meal, these stuffed zucchini boats!

Cole Slaw for a Side Dish


The best part about these MIGHT be using them for leftovers.  Because they are on the bone and have their skin on, the meat stays much juicier for all your favorite leftover chicken recipes.  I always cook at least one extra just for that purpose.

So try them soon, okay?  And please, leave me a comment here or on Facebook and admit publicly they were the best you’ve ever cooked.  It feels good to tell the truth.

If you are looking for more ideas then check out these recipes for Grilled Boneless Chicken Breasts or Grilled Bone In Chicken Breasts with Rosemary and Lemon.

Chicken Breast Bone In Recipe

Smoked Chicken Breasts {Bone In}

Bone in, split chicken breasts are marinated in Italian dressing and smoked at 250F until an internal temperature of 165F is reached.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 275 kcal


  • 1 package split chicken breasts - bone in skin on.
  • Chicken Brine Recipe Follows
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 tbls black pepper
  • Chicken Dry Rub Recipe Follows
  • 2 T Sea Salt
  • 1.5 T Granulated Garlic
  • 1 T Granulated Onion
  • 1 tsp Ground Thyme
  • 1.5 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Dry Mustard


  • Brine the chicken for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours
  • Remove from Brine/Marinade, pat dry, and place on tray.
  • Set up your pellet grill for 250F or set your Weber kettle for indirect cooking.
  • Sprinkle both sides of chicken with chicken rub and get some rub under the skin as well.
  • Smoke at 250 using fruit wood until internal temperature reaches 165 (about 1.5 hours).


These breasts come out very juicy since they were marinated/brined and the meat is protected by both the skin on one side and the bones on the other.
The skin can come out a little rubbery on smoked chicken. One quick fix, especially if you are cooking them with indirect heat on a Weber charcoal grill, it to move the breasts, skin side down, directly over the coals after they have finished smoking to crisp up the skin a little.
Keyword Smoked Bone In Chicken Breasts

17 thoughts on “Smoked Chicken Breasts [Bone In, Split, Skin On]

  1. Thank YOU! My family said this was hands-down the best tasting bbq chicken ever. I accidently used ranch dressing instead of italian dressing, and would highly reccomend the substitution if you ever want to change up the flavor a bit.

  2. 5 stars
    This is our goto every time we smoke chicken breast, so easy and absolutely perfect chicken. We do use a Therm Pro 4 probe thermometer, so each piece gets pulled at exactly 165.

  3. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness. Thank you for sharing this. We just had the juiciest smoked chicken we’ve ever eaten. Absolutely delicious. Will be repeating this regularly. Thanks again.

  4. 5 stars
    I am an experienced smoker who is always willing to try another recipe to add to my “do this again” list. This recipe was easy to follow, I had most of the ingredients on hand (except the Itallian dressing). My wife LOVED the way the chicken turned out. The meat was tender and moist and the flavor was great! I will do this again!

    1. Absolutely agree. The danger is that I am afraid most people will only remember the lower temperature. I suspect many of them will forget how long the temperature needs to be maintained.

    1. “Split” means that the two whole breasts have been split into two individual breasts. It is a regional grocery term. Some stores sell these as ‘Split Chicken Breasts” while other stores sell these as “Bone In Chicken Breasts”.

  5. Made this tonight for dinner. Best chicken I have ever had. Marinated it in Italian dressing for 2 hours and smoked on the BGE until it was 165. YUMMMM!

  6. Found this post thru a Google search, tried it tonight. Didn’t have time to brine so I marinated in Italian dressing for 45 minutes prior to smoking. Delicious. Perfect, juicy, smoky deliciousness. Hubby and toddler daughter both went bonkers for it. Great recipe, thank you!!

    1. Just pay attention to internal temp. It depends on the size of your chicken and how close to the heat, but I’d guess 60-90 minutes. Just don’t cook it over 165!

  7. hot damn will never do smoked any kind of chicken without the skin on it. Might even leave the eyeballs in.
    All bull aside, this is the only way to do chicken. and the beans were, as my bride said, “to die for”. thanks again.

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