Chicken thighs are my favorite part of the chicken and boneless is the way to go when you don't want to make your guests eat around bones or you want to slice the chicken for tacos or sandwiches. In this story, I'm sharing my methods for grilling boneless chicken thighs on a Meadow Creek Chicken Cooker, specifically my BBQ42 mounted onto Big Black. The method is the same for bone-in thighs, leg quarters, and halves.
Firing the Grill
Dump 25–30 pounds of charcoal briquettes into the grill and use a shovel to rake them into a mound. Light a weed burner torch and aim it into the middle of the pile for 10–15 minutes or until a section of briquettes are lit (white). Move the torch to a different area for another 10 minutes or so, or until the majority of the coals are lit. Spread the charcoal out evenly in the ash pan, mixing the unlit coals with the lit ones.
In this story, I'm doing multiple batches, so I used a heavy 30 pounds at the beginning and then added more after the second batch. The amount of charcoal needed for one batch can vary because of the wind, barometric pressure, and whether you're doing bone-in or boneless.
I like having plenty of heat, especially on a chicken cooker with a lid because I can throttle down the vents if it gets too hot. This helps control the heat and also infuses the chicken with more smoke than in an open pit with a ripping hot fire.
Loading the Grill
Spray the grate with cooking oil to help reduce sticking and fill the grate panel with the sliding latches. On the BBQ42 Chicken Cooker, you can fill the grate over the fire with the grate hooked on the lid hooks, but when the fire is really hot, it's easier to do it over a table and you don't have to worry about rushing to fill the grate or accidentally dripping juices over the side of the grill.
If you're doing more than one batch, use a steel table or saw horses to support the grate or the hot grate will melt your tabletop. Always make sure you sanitize surfaces which will come in contact with food.
A large chest works well for keeping the meat cold when you're doing several batches. Add ice if needed to keep the meat under 40 degrees F.
I like to arrange the chicken in rows, with the tops all facing up. Fold the grate "sandwich" to closed position and slide the latches over the rods to secure the meat.
You can season the meat now or wait until it's over the fire. In this cook, I mixed Meadow Creek's Gourmet Seasoning with Black Pepper Brisket Rub and seasoned both sides of the chicken. There's a bit of a trick to getting enough seasoning on the chicken without oversalting it. A boneless thigh is very thin but if you roll them up as shown above, you can put a fairly solid dusting of seasoning on each side.
Have an assistant help you carry the grate over the fire and drop it into the slot, and you're cooking!
Grilling the Chicken
This is the fun part. Let it cook on one side for a while, then flip it to the other side. How many times you flip it, is really up to you. I find myself flipping it for the fun of it sometimes. The overall cook time will be around 50–60 minutes. You can let it cook for 15 minutes on one side, then flip it for 15 minutes. Then keep flipping it as needed to keep it cooking evenly without burning.
Click here for more stories, videos, and photos of "Big Black", the customized TS250 tank smoker.
Removing the Chicken
Once the chicken reaches 165 degrees F, it's fully cooked. Probe several pieces in different parts of the grill because it won't all cook at the same speed. It can go a little higher and be fine, but you'll want to make sure every piece is at least 165 degrees.
If you're cooking bone-in chicken, take it up to about 180–190 degrees to loosen the meat around the bone and to crisp the skin more.
You can use leather gloves to hang the grate on the lid hooks and remove the chicken. I used tongs and disposable gloves over cotton gloves to transfer the chicken to meat lugs.
Ready to remove
Ready to cool
We tossed the thighs in Meadow Creek Hickory Barbecue Sauce and let them cool a bit in meat lugs. Then we bagged them in gallon zip-lock bags and put them in the fridge for an event later in the week.
You can put them in the freezer for 20 minutes to cool them quicker if you're tight on fridge space and worried about stacking them too tightly in the fridge before they're cold.
The BBQ42 is one of our best-sellers. If you're in the market for a tank smoker trailer, consider adding a BBQ42 chicken cooker to it. It's one of the smart ways to multiply the usefulness of your barbecue trailer.
If you need a stand-alone grill that's big enough to entertain a small crowd, the BBQ42 is a great choice. If you're only cooking for several people, check out our BBQ26S, or if you're getting into fund-raising and need several pits on a trailer, we have you covered too: