Chicken breasts are perfectly seasoned with my go-to sweet BBQ dry rub then grilled on the pellet smoker until juicy, tender and flavorful. The chicken is then slathered with homemade sweet, spicy and tangy BBQ sauce and seared over direct flame until the exterior is nicely charred and the BBQ sauce is caramelized. This two-zone grilling ensures a perfect pellet grill chicken breast in just 30 minutes!
Hello, summer grilling! And hello pellet grill chicken breast!
In the spring, Nate and I purchased a pellet grill! Before this, we were using a hand-me-down gas grill, and it was time to upgrade! Learning to use our new Pit Boss pellet grill has been so fun and such a game changer! Being able to easily adjust the heat and knowing exactly what temperature the grill is it has really upped my grilling game.
But what has really taken my grilling to the next level is the use a meat thermometer. Before we bought our pellet grill, I rarely used a meat thermometer, and man, the difference it makes is unreal! Our pellet grill has a plug-in for a meat thermometer so I started using it out of convenience. Well, I really should have just bought a meat thermometer sooner.
Grilling meat to the perfect temperature results in the most juicy, tender, flavorful meat! Removing the guesswork. Seriously, I can't emphasize enough how crucial a meat thermometer is when grilling. You will honestly taste the difference!
I recommend using an instant-read meat thermometer, and if you're feeling fancy, you can even get a bluetooth meat thermometer so you can check the temperature of the meat right from your phone! How cool is that!?
Easy BBQ Pellet Grill Chicken Breast.
Okay, enough about meat thermometers. Let's talk delicious smoked chicken breast! Grilled chicken is so easy and quick to make, yet so delicious. Slather on some homemade BBQ sauce, and it takes it to another level.
This is my go-to pellet grill chicken breast recipe. It combines a dry rub marinade with BBQ sauce to create the most flavorful chicken! You likely already have the pantry staple ingredients for both the dry rub and the BBQ sauce in your home, and they both use a few of the same spices.
If you're wondering if homemade BBQ sauce is worth it, the answer is yes! It's actually incredibly easy to make and so dang flavorful. I like mine a little spicy, a little sweet and a little tangy. My inspiration for this chicken actually came from Voodoo chips. My friend got me hooked! The chips are like a combination of salt and vinegar and sweet BBQ, just like my BBQ sauce.
What you Need to Make Pellet Grill Chicken Breast.
I personally prefer to make BBQ chicken with breasts or thighs, but you can use whatever cut of chicken you like best! Chicken breasts, drumsticks, thighs, wings - they all work great for this recipe!
Depending on the cut of chicken you use, keep in mind that the grill time will change. But, the best way to ensure that you don't overcook the chicken and dry it out (or even undercook), is to use an instant-read meat thermometer. It is crucial when grilling meat. Trust me, you will notice the difference!
BBQ Dry rub.
This is my go-to BBQ dry rub, and it is made with simple pantry spices that you likely already have in your home. It's a little sweet, a little smokey and a little spicy. Not only is it great on chicken, but also on pork and beef, as well! So, I suggest making a double or triple batch and storing it for future grilling!
Sweet, Spicy, Tangy BBQ Sauce.
BBQ chicken is surprisingly easy to make at home, plus it's incredibly delicious! This BBQ sauce is lightly sweetened, a tad spicy, and a little tangy. The combination is absolutely perfect.
Feel free to reduce or increase the amount of cayenne pepper in the BBQ sauce to adjust the spice level to your liking. Keep in mind that simmering the BBQ sauce helps to bring out the flavor of all the spices, so do a taste test after the BBQ sauce has simmered for a few minutes before adding more cayenne.
There are two popular pellet grills on the market: Pit Boss pellet grill and Traeger pellet grill. Both allow you to achieve the same great results in the same amount of time. In my opinion, it comes down to personal preference and price.
Pit Boss grills aren't priced quite as high as Traeger grills, which is why we decided to go with the Pit Boss Sportsman 820 Wood Pellet Grill, and we absolutely love it! Make sure you shop around to find the best price. We ended up buying our pellet grill from Scheels because they offered the best price at the time.
Although, I used a Pit Boss for this recipe, I assure you, you can achieve the exact same results using a Traeger grill. Follow the same directions below in the recipe card to make Traeger chicken breasts.
Smoked BBQ Chicken Dry Rub Ingredients.
My BBQ dry rub is made with simple pantry-staple spices that you likely already have in your home. This is my go-to dry rub recipe for grilling and can be used on chicken, pork and beef! It's a little sweet, smokey and spicy and perfect for grilling meat!
- Black pepper.
- Brown sugar.
- Chili powder.
- Garlic powder.
- Onion powder.
- Cayenne pepper.
Sweet, Spicy, Tangy BBQ Sauce Ingredients.
Homemade BBQ sauce is the condiment you never knew you needed! It's actually super simple to make and you likely already have all the ingredients in your pantry and fridge. This is my favorite go-to BBQ sauce because it's lightly sweetened, a little spicy and deliciously tangy. The combination is amazing. I'm obsessed.
- Ketchup. I prefer to use ketchup made without corn-syrup, so either organic ketchup or ketchup made with cane sugar.
- Brown sugar.
- Dijon mustard. You could also use spicy brown mustard or yellow mustard, if you're in a pinch.
- Vinegar. Both distilled white vinegar and apple cider vinegar work great.
- Onion powder.
- Garlic powder.
- Chili powder.
- Cayenne pepper.
Frequently Asked Questions.
Pit Boss Chicken Breast vs. Traeger Chicken Breasts.
Whether you use a Pit Boss or a Traeger, you will achieve the same results by following the recipe card below.
Both pellet grills work great, it's just a matter of personal preference when it comes to brand name and price.
I own a Pit Boss Sportsman 820.
Do I need to use a meat thermometer?
I HIGHLY recommend it! The difference will shock you - it will forever change grilling! When you cook chicken to exactly 165 degrees F, it is so tender and juicy. You can say goodbye to dry, tough chicken!
I also recommend that you use an instant-read meat thermometer because the temperature of meat rises fast when grilling! If you're feeling fancy, you can get a bluetooth meat thermometer that allows you to see the temperature from an app on your phone!
What is Two-Zone Grilling?
Two zone grilling means you have two zones of heat on the grill. One zone with direct flames and the other zone without direct flames.
Two zone grilling allows the meat to cook more evenly, resulting moist and tender chicken, pork or beef. You can also get a perfectly charred sear without burning or overcooking the meat.
Direct heat. This is when you cook over direct flames. Direct heat is great for searing meat and fast cooking.
Indirect heat. This is when you cook on the other side of the grill away from direct flames. This allows for slow cooking and prevents burnt and overcooked meat.
Two-zone grilling on a charcoal grill. Only place coals on one side of the grill to create direct heat over the coals, and indirect heat on the other side of the grill.
Two-zone grilling on a gas grill. You need a grill with at least TWO burners for two-zone grilling on gas grills. Turn the burners to high on one side of the grill, creating direct heat. Leave the burners off on the other side of the grill for indirect heat.
Two-zone grilling on a pellet grill. When using a Traeger or Pit Boss pellet grill, two-zone grilling is very easy. For indirect grilling, close the sear plate and cook on the opposite side. To cook over direct heat, open the sear plate, allowing the flames to come through then place the meat over the direct flame.
What is sear vs. reverse sear?
When grilling with two zones, I traditionally use the reverse sear method.
Reverse sear. Reverse searing is when you first cook the meat over indirect heat, allowing the meat to slowly rise in temperature, typically resulting in more juicy, tender meat. To get a nicely browned exterior, finish by searing the meat over direct heat. This is the method I use most often when I'm grilling, and the method I use for this recipe.
Sear. The other method of searing is when you first sear the meat over direct heat to get that nicely browned exterior, then you transfer the meat to indirect heat to slowly finish cooking. This method is great when you plan to slow cook in the oven or crock pot. For example, when you are making a roast, traditionally you start by searing the meat in a hot skillet until it's nicely browned on the outside, then you transfer it to a dutch oven or crockpot with liquid to finish cooking over 6-8 hours.
What temperature do you cook chicken breasts on a pellet grill?
To make quick and delicious smoked chicken breasts on a pellet grill, cook the chicken at 350 degrees. This temperature allows the chicken to cook slow enough to absorb smoky flavor without drying out the chicken, resulting in tender, juicy, smokey BBQ chicken breasts.
How long do you cook chicken breasts on a pellet grill?
Grill chicken breasts on a pellet grill over indirect heat for 20-25 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees. Finish grilling the chicken breast over direct flame until nicely charred on the outside and the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with tinfoil. Rest for about 10 minutes before serving to let the carryover cooking increase the internal temperature to 165 degrees F.
How long do you grill chicken breast at 400 degrees?
Preheat the grill to 400 degrees and cook chicken breast for 5 minutes, then flip and continue cooking another 5-7 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with tinfoil. Rest for about 10 minutes before serving to let the carryover cooking increase the internal temperature to 165 degrees F.
How long does it take to grill chicken breast at 350 degrees?
When grilling chicken breasts at 350 degrees, cook for 25-30 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160-165 degrees. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with tinfoil. Rest for about 10 minutes before serving to let the carryover cooking increase the internal temperature to 165 degrees F.
How long does it take to smoke chicken breasts at 200 degrees?
Preheat that smoker to 200-225 degrees, then smoke the chicken breasts for 75-85 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
- Store-bought BBQ Sauce. If you don't have the time or ingredients to make homemade BBQ sauce, then feel free to use your favorite store-bought brand. The chicken will still be great!
- Bone-in or skin-on chicken. I like to use boneless skinless chicken for this recipe, but feel free to use whatever cut of chicken you like best - you will just adjust the grilling time. Keep in mind that bone-in chicken takes longer to cook then boneless. Be sure to use a meat thermometer.
Delicious Sides to Serve with Grilled Chicken!
If you enjoyed this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below! I'd love to hear from you! If you’re on Instagram, share a picture of the food you created and tag me at Modern Farmhouse Eats! I enjoy seeing all the pictures! 😊
Smoked Sweet & Tangy BBQ Chicken
- 4-5 chicken breasts
- olive oil
Sweet BBQ Rub
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon each black pepper, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, and garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- ¼ cup white or apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon each dijon mustard and molasses
- ½ tablespoon worcestershire
- ½ teaspoon each garlic powder and onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon each salt, chili powder and paprika
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- Make the BBQ Sauce. In a small saucepan, combine all of the BBQ sauce ingredients and simmer over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, or until sauce thickens to desired consistency. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
- Make the Dry Rub. While the bbq sauce simmers, mix together the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl.
- Season the chicken. Drizzle the chicken breasts with a little olive oil and rub it around on all sides. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with the dry rub. Let the chicken marinate while you prepare the grill.
- Preheat the Grill. Preheat the grill to medium heat, about 350 degrees F.
- Grill over indirect heat. Place the seasoned chicken on the grill over indirect heat and close the lid. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees F, about 20-25 minutes. Using a thermometer is the best way to ensure you don't overcook and dry out the chicken.
- Grill over direct heat. Generously baste both sides of the chicken with bbq sauce and finish cooking over direct heat. Sear on both sides until nicely charred and the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.
- Let rest. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with tinfoil. Rest for about 10 minutes before serving to let the carryover cooking increase the internal temperature to 165 degrees F.
- Serve. Serve the chicken with more BBQ sauce for dipping.