Smoked Chicken Thighs with Pineapple Barbecue Sauce

While I’ve professed the wonders of brining turkey to ensure a moist bird, I’d never brined chicken before. However, after seeing what Jeff did with some chicken thighs, it seemed like it was time to give this a try. So I brined, smoked, and glazed some chicken thighs with a tangy pineapple barbecue sauce.

This was absolutely delicious and very well suited to July 4th weekend (or any summer weekend) kind of grilling/barbecuing occasion. The effort is pretty minimal and the results are very flavorful. If you were to taste the sauce alone without the chicken, it will taste a little unbalanced as far as a barbecue sauce goes (in my opinion–it leans most heavily towards sweet and spicy), but when combined with the chicken as a glaze after being flavored with the brine and smoked with the spice rub, you get that full four-way flavor experience that is good barbecue (sweet, savory, spicy, smokey).

The chicken was crusty, sticky, smoky, tangy, spicy–just a lot of really enjoyable bold flavors. The hoisin and the pineapple really helped the sauce shine as more than just an everyday barbecue sauce, giving it that peculiar tang while the marinade left the chicken with a sweet and savory undercurrent. I would definitely do this alongside burgers if I were grilling for a crowd. Plus, just look at it. Does that not scream good, sticky fingers, messy, lick your lips barbecue or what?

  • 2 lbs chicken thighs
  • Orange Marinade
    • 28 oz vegetable stock
    • 2 cups orange juice
    • 1/4 cup salt
    • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup mirin
    • 3 tsp black peppercorns
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 star anise
    • pinch of fennel seeds
    • 3 cloves
    • water (if needed)
  • Rub
    • sweet hungarian paprika
    • granulated garlic
    • granulated onion
    • black pepper
    • ground cumin
    • ground coriander
    • ground thyme
    • dried oregano
    • dried basil
  • Pineapple Barbecue Sauce
    • 5 cloves garlic
    • 1 shallot
    • knob of ginger
    • 5 dried red chilis
    • 2 Tbsp sake
    • 2 Tbsp hoisin
    • 1 Tbsp worchestershire
    • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup ketchup
    • 1/2-3/4 cup of pineapple chunks (fresh is obviously better than canned)
    • 1/2 cup water
    • black pepper
    • ground chipotle
    • ground thyme
    • ground cumin
    • celery seed
    • dried oregano

Begin with the marinade. Simply mix everything in a pot and get it boiling, stirring until the sugar is entirely dissolved and mixed in. Once this has cooled down sufficiently (ice cubes speed up the process), put the chicken thighs in a container with this, adding water if you need any to ensure every piece is totally covered (I didn’t need any water–I had more than enough marinade!). Seal this up and give it at least a few hours in the fridge, preferably a day.

So now you’re getting hungry for dinner, so get the chicken out of the fridge and out of the marinade. Give this some time to warm up to room temperature and pat the chicken pieces dry.

Since the chicken will be smoked, don’t forget to soak the wood you intend to smoke with. I don’t have a proper smoker, so I just soak some wood chips (I used mesquite. Many would argue for a milder flavored wood with chicken, like apple, but I think this really works) for 30 minutes and then make a little tin foil envelope with holes (ta da! The poor man’s smoker!) to throw on the grill alongside the chicken.

Mix the spice rub in a bowl, not getting too hung up on proportions. Coat all sides of the chicken with the spice mixture.

Get the grill/smoker up to about 225-250°F and add your wood. If you have bone-in chicken thighs, good. If you have boneless (I totally forgot I didn’t mean to buy boneless until this point of cooking, lol), just wrap the thighs up again around where the bone would have been (you don’t want the meat unrolled and spread out so thin!). Place each piece of chicken on the grill and set a timer. In theory, they’ll be done in about 1-1.5 hours, so just ensure the temperature stays close to 225-250°F, and when you think you’re done, ensure the chicken registers an internal temperature of 160°F. Turn them once during the middle of cooking.

While the thighs are smoking, prepare the barbecue sauce. Fortunately, this is a real quicky. Mince the shallot, garlic, and ginger, also dicing the pineapple and dried chilis down to a smaller size. Sauté the shallot for 5-8 minutes, adding the garlic and ginger for an additional minute or two.

At this point, simply add in the remaining sauce ingredients, raise to a boil, and then drop the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes. After this, simply puree the sauce in a blender or food processor and return it to the saucepan, simmering longer until it achieves a thickness that you’re happy with, at which point, you can set it aside.

Once the chicken is done cooking on the low heat, crank the heat up to medium/high. Lightly brush the chicken with your sauce, and after about 2 minutes, flip the pieces over and do the other side, giving it another 2 minutes to get nice and tacky and glazed. Plus, if you’re chicken thighs have skin on them, this step has the added bonus of crisping up the skin some which can get a little rubbery on chicken when you slow cook it like this.

At this point, you’re ready to serve, so get it on a plate and dig in. Enjoy!

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20 Responses to “Smoked Chicken Thighs with Pineapple Barbecue Sauce”

  1. joanne at frutto della passione Says:

    Wow, that looks and sounds great. My poor brother-in-law is going to have to fire up the grill a lot when I visit this summer!

  2. Kevin Says:

    That chicken looks really tasty! I like the sound of that pineapple barbecue sauce.

  3. Raquel Says:

    Yummo! Sadly, I am the only one in my house who likes anything with hoisin sauce. But I may try this the next time we grill anyway!

  4. Jeff Says:

    Looks awesome and happy it turned out great. Also, man great combo of flavors!

    Mesquite is a good all around smoking wood. I always use hickory or apple because I can always find that (heck a late night trip to my neighbor’s yard will get me apple). My favorite is pecan but I can never find it. :-(

  5. aforkfulofspaghetti Says:

    I’m not the biggest fan of pineapple, but I can see it’s absolutely the right thing to have with those thighs. It all looks BBQ-tastic.

  6. noble pig Says:

    The orange marinade and the sauce sound delicious! This would be perfect for the 4th!

  7. Sandie (Inn Cuisine) Says:

    Holy smoke does this look and sound delectable! Chicky with all my favorite flavorings! Now I’m in the mood to crank up the grill and get cookin’…

    In addition to brining chicken to make it moist and flavorful, a good soak in buttermilk (at least 6 hours or overnight) will do a similar job. I wrote a great comparison of the pros/cons of brining and/or doing a buttermilk brine on my old blog, Cork & Feast. Here’s a link to that article if you’re interested, for informational purposes only, as I don’t update that blog anymore:

    The paragraph of interest is the 9th one down (long article, I know,) directly above the first photo of the raw, marinating chicken.

    I’m not trying to drive readers there, as that site is now defunct, but I thought you might enjoy the information without me including it in this comment.

  8. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    Hoisin and pineapple and chile peppers? I’m in heaven!

  9. van Says:

    wow! this looks gorgeous. Amazing dish! I am so glad to discover your place!

  10. Peter Says:

    Whoa…that’s a pantry full of ingredients there…if these taste like they look…watch out…BBQ heaven!

  11. Denise Clarke Says:

    Oh Man … this sounds good … and we are real grilling folks here in SW Florida!


  12. Laurie Constantino Says:

    Wow! This is complex, but it sounds wonderful. Brining is the way to go with pork too (or any meat that tends to be dry). I love the pineapple – sweet and spicy is such a good pairing.

  13. Laura @ Hungry and Frozen Says:

    Wow, I LOVE this idea. And what do you know, I actually have nearly all the ingredients. Will have to try this next time I get some nice chicken.

  14. grace Says:

    goooood googa mooga, that’s quite an ingredient list! but if the end result crusty, sticky, smoky, tangy, and spicy, it’s gotta be totally worth it. glorious.

  15. Lore Says:

    Gorgeous and scrumptious with minimal effort? *My taste buds took over my brain, it’s getting harder and harder to write*

  16. Paul Says:

    Great Recipe! Brining chicken has to be on this weekends agenda.

  17. Bellini Valli Says:

    I’m willing to lick my lips and fingers Mike:D

  18. Helene Says:

    For this 1st of July, Canada Day, that would be a great meal. Delicious.

  19. Cathy Says:

    YUM….. I am thinking as I am licking my chops of other ways to use this great sauce…. So far it seems I will need to make a very big batch..


  20. Chicken And Pineapple Recipes | Cooking Blog - Cooking Blog Says:

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