Mouthwatering smoked chicken quarters are all you need to satisfy your soul food craving. It’s super easy and convenient, even if you don’t have a smoker. I’ll show you how to smoke chicken quarters perfectly so you’ll be the smoking hot chef on your next barbecue!
My cravings for comfort food can be tough to satisfy. Fortunately, this recipe is solid enough that one piece is enough for me. But I can’t resist the second one because it’s just that delicious. You can ask my friends about my smoked leg quarters, and they’d probably tell you the same thing.
What are Chicken Leg Quarters?
Leg quarters are simply the drumsticks, thighs, and a piece of the back together. And they’re perfect for smoking! The high-fat content makes it juicy, tender, and fall-off-the-bone when cooked low and slow!
It’s also economical! Yup, you read that right! It comes at an affordable price. Why? Well, it’s because leg quarters aren’t processed as much as other cuts. Buying less processed parts and cutting them up at home will save you money!
Should You Brine Chicken Before Smoking?
If you want tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone chicken, then yes! You can dry brine or wet brine. Personally, I like to wet brine for chicken for smoking.
Wet brine for bigger cuts: Wet brine loads the chicken with enough moisture to keep it from drying out. We don’t like dry chicken, right?
Dry brine for smaller cuts: Dry rubs work better for cuts that cook faster because they’re smaller.
Which Smoker Is Best?
Several smoking methods work great for poultry. Personally, I think there’s no specific way to perfectly smoke chicken. That said, here are some of my preferred techniques for this recipe:
- Distinct Flavor – You’ll taste its distinctive flavor, although it takes longer to smoke chicken in a pellet smoker.
- Flavored Wood Chips – Pellet smokers primarily use compressed and flavored wood chips for smoking in a closed chamber.
- Indirect Heat – Indirect heat means the heat source is distant from the meat for a lower, slower, more delectable chicken.
- The smoker unit can be bulky, especially if you have limited space.
Although a pellet smoker takes longer, you’ll notice the characteristic smokey flavor. Pellets are compressed and flavored woodchips that slightly burn, filling the chamber with flavorful smoke. This uses indirect heat, which means the heat source is distant from the meat.
How to Use a Pellet Smoker
- Preheat: Pre-smoke your smoker with your wood of choice until they start producing smoke.
- Positioning the Meat – You simply place the chicken in a rack indirect to the heat source. This ensures that your meat will cook evenly without one side burning.
- Install the Water Pan – Add half a cup of water in a pan to the smoking chamber to prevent the chicken from drying out while infusing delightful flavor.
- Trap the Heat – Close the lid to trap the flavorful smoke and heat.
The wood chips in the pellet smoker infuse the smokey flavor into the chicken. (Apple, peach, and cherry are popular, but feel free to get creative.)
Verdict: This is the easiest way to smoke because it automatically feeds the heater with pellets and blows the heat around the chamber. 👍 I highly recommend Traeger’s pellet smoker because it’s super versatile!
- Compact Unit – Its small size makes it truly convenient.
- No Electricity – You don’t need to plug it in to enjoy your smoked chicken leg quarters even when you’re in the great outdoors.
- Low Cost – It’s a low cost, making it really affordable and waaay easier to clean!
- Direct Heat – Although technically the heat is indirect, the source is with the meat in the same chamber. Honestly, you’re slow roasting it rather than smoking it, so be careful not to burn it.
A compact charcoal grill can also smoke, perfect if you don’t have much space. I’d be careful, though, because it’s a little messier than a standard smoker.
The charcoal smokes the chicken with low but direct heat. But flavored wood can also infuse a smoky aroma to the bone!
Barbecuing vs. Smoking
Actually, they’re almost the same. The biggest difference is trapping that mouthwatering smokey aroma so it can’t escape for smoking and slow roasting your meat on an open fire for barbecuing. If you want to use high heat for faster cooking, that would be grillin’.
How to Use a BBQ Grill as a Smoker
- Light the Coals: Place the hot charcoals on one extreme side of the grill.
- Catch the Juices: Add a tin catch just below the grill to catch any juices that drip off.
- Placement: Put the chicken leg quarters on the other extreme side furthest from the coals, and then put a water pan beside it.
The longer cooking process helps make the chicken super tender. However, be careful because it’s easier to burn your chicken.
Verdict: I like using this method because it’s convenient, and I don’t need a bulky unit in my backyard. 👍 All I have to do is add my favorite wood flavor and the charcoal.
- Indirect Heat – We won’t be using an open fire for this smoker, just woodchips and some heating rods.
- Built-In Thermometer – It has a thermometer so you can see the temperature.
- Longer Smoking Time – It cooks longer and slower because of the low maximum temperature.
- Electric Consumption – I think you should expect a slightly higher electric bill on this one.
- Tastes a Tad Different – You’ll taste a slight difference without the authentic smoke from a burning woodchip. Also, if you don’t preheat the smoker, you may experience a plastic taste.
Electric smokers use wood chips to produce smoke via heating rods to produce the smoke. It also uses convection to heat food, giving the food a different flavor due to the lack of fire. The parts are generally similar to a bullet smoker, with the wood tray substituting the fire chamber.
How to Use It
- Preheat: Pre-smoke the unit with the woodchips of your choice.
- Contain the Moisture: Once it reaches the desired temperature, place the water pan inside the lowest space inside the unit.
- Trap the Heat: Place the chicken meat on the racks and close the lid or door.
NOTE: If you’re using this grill for the first time, I suggest seasoning your grill with cooking oil. This should remove any manufacturer’s residue from the grating.
Verdict: Electric grills tend to cook at a lower temperature, meaning the meat cooks longer. I like this method as well because it’s so easy to navigate!
I’m very meticulous about the rub I use I use on chicken. Although the defining flavor comes from the smoking method and woodchips, the rub also offers a unique touch. Here’s what I used for these smoked chicken quarters:
- Chicken Quarters – Everybody’s favorite chicken part with a bit more meat (and juicy too)!
- Italian Seasoning – An ensemble of dried herbs that brings out authentic Mediterranean flavors for your dish. You can also use Creole or jerk seasoning for incredible results.
- Salt – A fundamental ingredient that intensifies all other flavors and is essential for your brine.
- Extra Seasonings – The rich onion, garlic, and smoked paprika really take this recipe places. Adjust the cayenne to your preferred heat level.
Different seasoning for Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters
I know you love playing around with flavors, especially with chicken. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? Luckily, you can play around with the seasonings for this chicken recipe. Having a wide collection of homemade seasonings you can use is exciting. Here are my recommendations for this smoked recipe:
- My favorite seasoning, which you can also use in many dishes, is Creole seasoning. It gives the whole recipe an aromatic kick of spice.
- Of course, this homemade poultry seasoning is perfect for the dish. It provides an earthy and aromatic touch.
- Add some color and exciting flavor with this simple blackened seasoning.
- Surprisingly, this taco seasoning also works well with smoked chicken. I suggest you try this one if you’re into exploring new flavor mixes.
How Long to Smoke Chicken Quarters
The fun part about smoking chicken is playing around with the temperature so you can adapt the cooking time. If you’re like me, you get a little impatient, especially with the smoky aroma of the dish enticing me. So here’s a quick guide on how long to smoke chicken quarters:
- 225℉/107℃ should cook your meat in about 4 hours; that’s too long for me, lol!
- 275℉/135℉ cooks the chicken perfectly in 2½-3 hours; I guess I can work with that!
- 300℉/150℃ smokes the dish quite quickly, between 45 minutes and an hour. This one is quick, but I also want the rich flavor of the wood incorporated into the meat.
How to Smoke Chicken Leg Quarters
Prep the Chicken
- Prepare the Chicken: Remove chicken quarters from packaging and place on a rack, in a single layer, over a baking sheet. (Photos 1-2)
- Refrigerate: Let them sit in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours or, preferably, overnight. Do not cover them; let the air-dry them out. You can omit this part and proceed with the spices if in a rush.
- Preheat: When ready to smoke, preheat the smoker to 250℉/120℃, using your choice of wood chips.
Season the Chicken
- Mix the Seasoning: Place the chicken in a large bowl with all the spices, and then drizzle with oil. (Photos 3-6)
- Placement: You can place chicken quarters directly on the smoker crates or on a chicken rack.
- Cover and Cook: Cover the smoker, smoke the chicken legs for about 90 minutes, and then move the chicken around for even cooking. Part of the smoker is hotter than other parts. Use your best judgment.
- Check the Temperature: Smoke until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165℉/74℃, not touching the bone, about 30 more minutes. (See photo 7)
- Remove and Baste: When the chicken is done, remove from the smoker and immediately baste it with desired barbecue sauce. (See photo 8)
Cooking time varies depending on the size of the quarter, the condition, and the preparation used for the chicken. Use a meat thermometer to read the internal temperature just to be sure.
The wait ends once it reaches an internal temperature of 165℉/80℃. So invest in a meat thermometer like a handy ThermPro TP19H that’s super convenient for smoking.
Tips and Tricks
- Crispy Chicken Skin: I know; I love the delectable crunch of chicken. Boil the chicken legs for about 5 minutes to get rid of the fat before putting on the dry rub.
- Don’t Baste: Although this is a common practice in smoking to keep meats moist, too much moisture makes the chicken rubbery. Only do this if you feel like it’s drying out too much too fast.
- Foil Tent: Worried that you might overcook one side? Prepare foil tent, and cover the part where you feel like it’s burning. This redistributes the heat so that the heat doesn’t directly affect the dish.
- Don’t Wrap: Wrapping the chicken with foil will create moisture, leading to rubbery skin.
Now that you have your smoked chicken leg quarters, your cravings must be satisfied, right? What!? Do you still want more? That’s alright; I usually pair this dish with a perfect side that completes my comfort-food dining! Here are my top picks for the perfect pairings for this dish:
- Blue cheese dressing as a dip gives our chicken a delightfully creamy texture.
- Who wouldn’t love stovetop mac and cheese with juicy chicken for a Southern food experience?
- A cup of Cajun rice knocks my socks off whenever I pair it with smoked recipes!
Dips for Your Smoked Chicken
- Trust me, this homemade ranch dressing is totally worth a try.
- Caribbean pepper sauce will surely give you an extra kick of vibrant heat.
- The remoulade sauce is a popular pick among smoking enthusiasts. I also recommend trying this out for first-time smokers. You won’t regret it.
- Of course, we can’t forget about the classic homemade BBQ sauce. It needs no introduction.
More Mouthwatering Chicken Recipes to Try
- Baked Crispy Chicken Thighs
- Smoked Chicken
- Beer Can Chicken
- Piri Piri Chicken
- Baked Chicken Legs (Creamy and Spicy)
Watch How to Make It
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Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters
- 3-3½ pounds chicken leg quarters
- 1 tablespoon (5.5g) Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon (6g) salt
- 1½ tablespoon (10.5g) onion powder
- 1½ tablespoon (14.76g) garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon (2.40g) white pepper
- ¼-½ tablespoon (1.35-2.70g) cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon (2.4g) bouillon powder, you may replace with salt
- Remove chicken quarters from the packaging and place them on a rack, in a single layer, over a baking sheet.
- Let them sit in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours (preferably overnight). Do not cover them; let them air-dry. You can omit this part and proceed with the spices if in a rush.
- When ready to smoke, preheat the smoker to 250℉/121℃, using your favorite wood chips.
- Place the chicken in a large bowl with all the spices, and then drizzle with oil.
- You can place chicken quarters directly on the smoker crates or on a chicken rack.
- Cover the smoker, smoke the chicken for about 90 minutes, and then move the chicken around for even cooking. Part of the smoker is hotter than other parts. Use your best judgment.
- Smoke until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165℉/74℃, not touching the bone, for about 30 more minutes.
- When the chicken is done. Remove from the smoker and immediately baste it with desired barbecue sauce.
Using a Pellet Smoker
- Place the cuts in a rack indirect to the heat source. This will ensure that your meat will cook evenly without one side burning.
- Add a pan with half a cup of water to the smoking chamber to prevent it from drying out.
Using a Charcoal Smoker
- Place the hot charcoals on one extreme side of the grill.
- Add a tin catch just below the grill to catch any juices that drip off.
- Put the quarters on the other side of the grill furthest from the coals and the water pan beside it.
Using an Electric Smoker
- Preheat and pre-smoke the unit with the woodchips of your choice.
- Once it reaches the desired temperature, place the water pan inside the lowest space inside the unit.
- Place the chicken meat on the racks and close the lid or door.
Tips & Notes:
- Wet and dry brining help make juicy, fall-off-the-bone chicken.
- Please keep in mind that the nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used in the recipe.