Even if you never enter a BBQ Competition in your entire life, this recipe for "Competition Style" BBQ Chicken Thighs should go into regular rotation for your family dinners. These tender thighs hit all of the right flavor notes resulting in a happy mouth symphony that will have you reaching for seconds (or thirds). The reason we call these thighs competition style is because they perfectly fit all of the criteria for award winning chicken. They make a beautiful presentation with a super sweet, shiny sauce, they have the bite-through skin (meaning just a piece of skin comes off with each bit of meat, not the whole piece of skin at once) that BBQ judges love, and they are amazingly tender, flavorful, and juicy.
The pros hand-trim all of their thighs into perfectly uniform pieces because that is what the judges are looking for, but if you're just cooking for friends then feel free to use pre-trimmed bone-in thighs from the super market. If you are trying to replicate that uniform competition styling, be sure to leave the top skin long enough to allow you to pull it taut and tuck it under the thighs when grilling. After you've prepped your thighs, it's time to cook!
Our method for the perfect chicken thigh is actually rather similar to our 3-2-1 rib method, but we've flipped a few of the steps. First, we braise our chicken in flavorful liuid to infuse it with moisture and soften the skin. Next, we season and smoke the chicken so it develops a beautiful color and deep smoky flavor. Finally, we sauce the thighs and let them set on the grill for a perfect shiny presentation. Let me tell you, these thighs are blue-ribbon worthy!
"Competition Style" BBQ Chicken Thighs
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus 3 hours of marinating time
Cook Time: 2 hours
Recommended Pellets 50/50 blend of Apple and Hickory
16 bone-in chicken thighs
1 16 oz bottle italian dressing
Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub
4 tablespoons salted butter
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
FOR THE SAUCE:
2 cups Traeger BBQ Sauce (or your favorite sauce)
1/2 cup Traeger Apricot BBQ Sauce (or 1/2 cup apricot preserves)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Trim your chicken thighs as desired and place in a large resealable bag with the italian dressing. Refrigerate for 3 hours.
Start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open for 4-5 minutes to establish the fire. Place a large dutch oven on the grill grate and fill the bottom with the butter, water, and 2 teaspoons salt. Close the lid of the grill and turn the temperature setting up to 300 degrees. Allow the grill and dutch oven to preheat for 10-15 minutes.
Remove the chicken thighs from the dressing marinade and place in the dutch oven skin side down. Season the top of each thigh with Traeger's Pork & Poultry Rub. Cover the dutch oven with the lid, close the lid of the Traeger and cook for 45 minutes.
After the 45 minute braising period is up, remove the entire dutch oven from the grill and let the chicken rest for 15 minutes. Leave the grill at 300 degrees for the next step.
Remove the thighs to a large workspace and pat dry with paper towels. Season liberally with more Pork & Poultry Rub. Pull the skin taut around the thighs and place back on the grill, skin side up, for 45 more minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the BBQ Sauce, Apricot Sauce, vinegar, honey and soy sauce. Whisk to combine.
Gently dip each of the chicken thighs into the sauce mixture and turn to coat evenly. Again, be sure the skin is tucked under and return to the grill for 30 minutes to set the sauce.
Transfer the thighs to a prepared platter and serve immediately.
Competition Style BBQ Chicken Thighs.docx (15.51 kb)