Smoked Chicken Quarters Made Simple

I love Smoked Chicken Quarters. Chicken Quarters are juicy, versatile, and delicious. If you need to feed many people cheap or get lots of practice in, they are just what you are looking for. When I first started smoking Chicken Quarters, I hated them because the kitchen would always end up a wet ass mess, and it seemed to take forever to clean them all. But I stuck with it, and after many hours of smoking Chicken Quarters, I came up with a process that will make the Chicken Quarter one of your favorite cuts to smoke.

chicken quarters done smoking shot
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How do you prepare the chicken quarters for smoking?

Most people do not like Chicken Quarters because they remember biting into a chicken quarter or chicken thigh and being greeted by a huge glob of fat. If the blob of fat isn’t enough, let’s top it off with some leathery ass skin. Yuck. There is a better way, let me show you.

Never purchase Jumbo Chicken Quarters for smoking. In my opinion, they are terrible. They come from tough-ass old Chickens. Look for Chicken Quarters that are from Young Chickens. Most 10lb bags of Chicken Quarters will have between 10-12 Chicken Quarters with an occasional odd piece like a thigh or leg.

Supplies needed

How to set up your work area.

Setting up the cutting board

I place the cutting board over the sink and keep it in place by putting moist paper towels underneath the cutting board. The paper towels will keep the cutting board from slipping as we work. Keep the Jaccard and Boning knife at the top of the cutting board. Since I am right hand dominant, I use my right hand as my dry hand to handle the boning knife and Jaccard. My left hand is used as my wet hand to hold the chicken.

Cutting board setup with paper towels.
cutting board setup on sink with jaccard

Placing the Chicken Quarter bag and slicing the bottom.

Start by placing the 10lb bag of Chicken Quarters in the sink opposite of your cutting board. I start running a No. 2 pencil-sized stream of water to rinse the large nasty bits and bones from the chicken quarters, as necessary. Use your boning knife to cut a slit in the bag’s bottom corner to allow the blood and fluids to drain from the bottom.

10lb bag of chicken quarters cutting the bottom to drain blood and bits

Trimming the Chicken Quarters

Removing the big glob of fat and the tail.

Trimming is one of the most critical steps. A big glob of fat is attached to the thigh that you must remove during the trimming process. This glob of fat is what makes most people hate chicken quarters. Hold the blob of fat in your hand and use your knife to cut it away from the thigh area into the drumstick, exposing the meat for seasoning later. Cut the tail off if present. We do not want the chicken quarters to have any parts that stick out because the pieces that stick out will dry out.

glob of fat that needs to be trimmed
glob of fat that needs to be trimmed bottom view
bottom view leg quarter trim completed
chicken quarter final trim

Jaccard each chicken quarter.

Jaccard each piece 2-3 times. Using the Jaccard tenderizes the meat and will make the brine we use more effective by creating more surface area for the brine. It does this by creating channels in the chicken meat.

jaccard trimmed chicken quarter

Place the chicken quarters in your brine bag/bucket.

In this example, I am using a brine bag inside a 5-gallon bucket. If you do not have room in your refrigerator, use an Orange 5-gallon drink cooler to brine your chicken quarters.

chi ken quarters in brine bag and bucket

Brine for your Smoked Chicken Quarters

The quarters will remain in the brine for 6-12 hours. Do not brine for more than 12 hours, or the chicken will be too salty. Check out my article on Brining.


Step 1. Pour in one cup of cold water into the 4 Cup Glass Measuring Cup.

Step 2. Use any plain salt and pour into the water until the water level reaches 1 ½ cups.

Step 3. Pour the saltwater slurry into the 1-gallon container, fill to the 1-gallon mark, and stir until it the salt has dissolved. If you just feel the need to throw some money down the sink. Now is the time to do it. Go ahead and add your fruit juices, soy sauce, and herbs etc.

Your brine is now ready to use.

How do I season my Smoked Chicken Quarters?

Remove from the Brine and Rinse.

Remove the chicken quarters from the brine one at a time. From personal experience, if you dump the chicken quarters in the sink all at once, you risk making a huge mess. Rinse the chicken using a small stream of water the size of a No. 2 pencil or spray with a light setting.

rinsing the chicken quarter after removing from the brine.

Place the Chicken Quarters so they are facing the same direction.

Try to arrange the chicken quarters, so they are all facing the same direction in the sink. Placing the chicken this way helps make the season go faster.

chicken quarters facing the same direction

Separate the skin from the meat.

Use one finger and pull the skin in a downward motion from the joint down the drumstick. Make sure you separate the skin from the thigh but do not remove it completely from the backbone. By keeping the skin attached to the backbone, it will minimize the shrinking that occurs while smoking.

separating the skin by pulling down on drumstick area
separating the skin from thigh without tearing from the backbone

Season the Chicken Quarters with Raw Cane Sugar and your SALT-FREE Seasoning of choice.

I usually use Raw Cane Sugar to add a sweetness that compliments the spiciness in Uncle Bird’s Henpeck Seasoning (Salt-free). Season underneath the skin with the Raw Cane Sugar first because it helps make the meat sticky and hold the rub better. After seasoning with Raw Cane Sugar and a Salt-free rub under the skin, I lightly season the outside skin. Go heavy with the seasoning on the bottom of the chicken quarter.

sprinkling raw cane sugar under chicken skin
salt free seasoning under the skin
lightly season outside the skin
chicken quarters bottom seasoned

What is the best temperature to smoke Chicken Quarters?

I smoke Chicken Quarters between 275-325 degrees using Indirect Heat. I smoke at a hotter temperature because chicken does not have the same amount of fat and connective tissue as meats such as Pork Shoulder or Brisket. So it does not benefit from an extended smoking time. Indirect Hot and Fast is the way to go when smoking chicken. You don’t have to deal with flare-ups from the fat dripping onto the coals using Indirect heat.

chicken quarters being smoked with indirect heat

What kind of wood do you recommend for smoking Chicken Quarters?

Hickory is the go-to wood on my smoker for chicken quarters. I cook hot and fast, so it is essential to get as much smoke as possible into the meat during the smoke’s relatively short time. Hickory will give the chicken a subtle bacon flavor. If you prefer a lighter smoke, I recommend Oak or Pecan wood.
split pile of hickory wood

How long does it take to smoke Chicken Quarters?

With my preferred cooking temperature range of 275-325, it takes about 2 hours to smoke the leg quarters. The leg quarters are safe to eat at 175 degrees, but I prefer to get a little more color and render more fat by cooking to 185 degrees. The brine will keep the meat juicy by protecting it from overcooking.

Do my Chicken Quarters need to rest when I take them off the smoker?

Yes. Preheat a small cooler by filling halfway with hot water and keeping it closed for 30 minutes. Empty the water from the cooler and dry it out. Place the chicken quarters into the cooler. Rest 30-45 minutes and enjoy.

chicken quarters done final shot

Smoked Chicken Quarter Recipe



Plain Iodized Salt


Your SALT-FREE rub of choice.

Raw Cane Sugar

10lb bag Leg Quarts

Tools Needed


Polypropylene cutting Board


Boning Knife

Paper Towels


5-Gallon Bucket

Brine bags

4 Cup Glass Measuring Cup

1-Gallon Container for mixing the brine. 

Instant Read Thermometer


Step 1. Prepare your supplies. Cutting Board, Boning knife, and Jaccard.

Step 2. Clean and Trim the 10lb bag of Chicken Quarters. Remove the extra fat and tail from each chicken quarter.  

Step 3. Make 1 Gallon of Brine.

Step 4. Place chicken in a container with brine for 6-12 hours.

Step 5. Remove from the brine one piece at a time and rinse.

Step 6. Try to arrange the chicken quarters so that they are facing the same direction.

Step 7. Season the Chicken Quarters first with Raw Cane Sugar and then your favorite SALT-FREE seasoning.

Step 8. Light your smoker/grill. Get the temperature to 325 degrees to start.

Step 9. Place the chicken quarters on your smoker/grill and cook using indirect heat. Maintain a temperature between 275-325 degrees. Smoke the chicken quarters for approximately 2 hours.

Step 10. Remove the chicken quarters from the smoker/grill once they reach an internal temperature of 185 degrees. They are safe to eat when pulled at 175, but I feel the texture is better when cooked to 185. Place the chicken quarters in a preheated cooler for 30-45 minutes and enjoy!


BBQ, Brined Chicken, Hickory Wood Smoked, Indirect Smoking, Smoked Chicken, Smoked Chicken Quarters

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