Buttermilk Smoked Chicken

A pan of crispy buttermilk smoked chicken legs and thighs

When I think of BBQ and smoking meat, I typically think of brisket, pulled pork, or ribs. Now don’t get me wrong – I have always been a fan of smoked chicken, but it never really rivaled those other famous BBQ meats. But this recipe absolutely BLEW MY MIND. In fact, this has quickly become one of my favorites…and it’s pretty simple to pull off!

Chicken and Buttermilk?

You may or may not be familiar with the fact that buttermilk is an ingredient used in many fried chicken recipes. Due to its acidity, soaking or brining chicken in buttermilk will actually tenderize the chicken while also aiding in moisture retention. With some spices added to the buttermilk (I recommend our Open Fire BBQ rub), the brining process will also give the chicken even more flavor. I thought to myself “if this works so well with fried chicken, why not try it out on smoked chicken”. And oh boy did it surpass my expectations. Big time! It’s really as simple as putting some buttermilk into a briner bucket or large pot/bowl, adding some seasonings, whisking, and submerging your chicken. Refrigerate overnight- ensuring that the chicken is fully submerged. That’s it! Your chicken is buttermilk brined.

A combination of crispy BBQ smoked chicken breasts with wings attached, legs, and thighs on the grill.
Buttermilk chicken on the smoker!

Set the smoker and prep the chicken.

When it’s time to cook the chicken, the first thing you will want to do is light your charcoal grill and let it stabilize around 225ºF – 250ºF. Add any smoking wood of you choice – cherry, pecan, apple oak, etc. While your grill is heating up, remove the chicken from the buttermilk brine and wipe off any excess buttermilk. Then season your chicken all over with any seasonings that you like (again, I highly recommend our Open Fire BBQ rub). Once your grill is at temperature, it’s time to put the chicken on!

Always cook to temperature and not time!

Now that the chicken is on the grill, all that you have to do is wait. One of the best lessons I’ve learned from cooking is to cook to temperature and not time. This is why I highly recommend investing in a meat thermometer or probe. The thermometer I use is the Thermapen One and the probe I use is the Meater +, but there are many options out there. If you cook your chicken breast to 165ºF and your thighs & legs to 175ºF, you will never overcook or undercook it. I guarantee you that it will be juicy and delicious. I understand that you probably would like to have an idea of how long this will take. If I were to give an estimate, I’d say this usually takes me about 60-90 minutes but I’ve also had some stubborn pieces that have taken longer than that. Your best bet is to check the internal temperature around 45 minutes into the cook to get an idea of how much longer you will need. I’m telling you this is the best way to do it. Long gone are the days where I’d cook to time and end up with dried out chicken!

Juicy smoked chicken that's seasoned to perfection.
Tell me you don’t want to eat this. I dare you!

I told you this was an easy one!

Do you now believe me that this is simple to pull off? Let’s recap:

  1. Brine chicken in buttermilk overnight
  2. When ready to cook, light a charcoal grill and remove chicken from buttermilk brine. Add smoking wood.
  3. Season chicken all over and throw on the grill
  4. Wait until internal temperatures are reached
  5. Enjoy!

Honestly the most difficult part is waiting. Everything will smell so good that the wait can be unbearable. Patience is key but it’ll be so worth it!

A pan of crispy buttermilk smoked chicken legs and thighs

Buttermilk Smoked Chicken

Buttermilk smoked chicken is far from your average/boring chicken dinner. Tender and juicy on the inside with that smokey flavor that we all love. Whether cooking for yourself or a crowd, this one will not disappoint!
5 from 1 vote
Servings 4 people


  • 1 Whole chicken
  • 3 quarts Buttermilk
  • 4 tbsp Open Fire BBQ Rub for the brine
  • Additional Open Fire BBQ Rub for seasoning the chicken


  • Break down the chicken into serving pieces – I like to break it down into 2 legs, 2 thighs, and 2 breasts with the wings attached.  Combine buttermilk and Open Fire BBQ Rub (or any other seasonings that you would like to use) into a briner bucket or a large pot/bowl and whisk well.  Place the chicken pieces into buttermilk brine, making sure chicken is submerged.  Cover and let it soak overnight.
  • Light a charcoal grill and stabilize the temperature around 225ºF – 250ºF.  Add smoking wood to the fire.
  • While the grill is heating up, remove the chicken from the buttermilk brine and wipe off any excess buttermilk.  Season the chicken all over with Open Fire BBQ (or any other seasonings that you would like to use).
  • Add the chicken to the grill and smoke until an internal temperature of 165ºF for the breasts and 175ºF for the legs & thighs is reached.  Serve hot.
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    1. Thank you very much – I am happy to hear that you enjoyed it. There are new posts every Wednesday, so plenty of new content to come. Let me know if there’s anything that you’d like me to make.