Smoked chicken, corn, mushrooms, and tofu on a kettle grill.

Smoked Chicken Breast


Chris made this recipe so he could host outdoor parties while grilling, but not have to worry about undercooking or overcooking the meat.

Special Equipment



  1. Let the wood chips soak in water overnight. (4 handfuls, though some may be left over.)
  2. Season the raw chicken breast as desired (simple salt and pepper will be fine, as the idea is to really get a prominent smoky flavor).
  3. Sous vide the chicken breast at 138°F for 1 to 4 hours. People don’t typically find rarer chicken like this palatable, but once we get it to the grill we are going to lose some moisture. We (and people we’ve tested this on) seem to find the end result a good texture, but the temperature here may vary with your preferences.
  4. Remove the chicken from the water bath and let chill (if we’re really on our game we put it in the fridge overnight).
  5. When getting ready to eat, light the coals in the charcoal grill. We use a chimney filled ~¾ of the way. You’re going to want to keep the temperature as low as you can, keeping the lid on, so close up the bottom vents nearly all the way (lid vents stay open). See notes below for more on temperatures.
  6. When the coals are ready, migrate them over to one side of the grill and keep them spread out to reduce the temperature. Before putting the cooking grate in the grill put an ~9 inch aluminum foil pan on the cold side and fill half way with water (for moisture).
  7. Add 2 handfuls of wood chips on top of the coals (add more over time, if they are consumed).
  8. Put in the cooking grate.
  9. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and place on the cool side of the grill, thick ends pointing towards the coals. Cover the grill with the lid. Rotate the lid so the vents are above the chicken to promote smoke flow across the breasts.
  10. About every 10 minutes, take a thermometer read of the chicken. The chicken is already cooked through, so we’re just looking to reheat while picking up smoky flavor. So as soon you get it to your desired eating temperature it’s going to be ready. Flip once when the chicken’s temperature reaches ~115°F (mostly just to get marks on both sides).
  11. Once your desired temperature is hit (see note below), move the breasts to the hot side of the grill for 4 minutes, flipping once.
  12. Serve with a touch of BBQ sauce. Eat.


Like with straight sous vide you can easily choose the temperature of chicken you like (assuming you are keeping the grill temperature pretty low). Keeping in mind that the grill is a dry heat (even with the water tray), and is usually still greater than your desired temperature (we aim for 138°F internal temperature). With our grill registering at 225°F to 250°F (after adding wet wood chips) we’ve found this takes ~30 minutes, but it will depend on the temperature you’ve achieved in your grill.

If you don’t have an aluminum foil pan, fold a double layer of aluminum foil into an ~9 inch square “pan” with at least a 1 inch lip.

This gives you a delicious smoky flavor, while letting you do most of the classic “low and slow” in the much easier to control water bath. And you still get that summer grill-party atmosphere as the food prepares.

Leftovers are also delicious cold (and the smoky flavor will be even more prominent the next day having let your nose readjust)!