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Cranberry Cayenne Smoked Chicken

Disclosure: This recipe was created as part of Cape Cod Select’s Cranberry Recipe Contest. We received free cranberries to create this smoked chicken recipe. However, all content, ideas, and opinions are 100% our own. 🙂

Cranberry say what? Yes. We have combined the sweet-tart with the spicy for this delicious smoked chicken recipe. Why? Because cranberries are so full of flavor…tart and tangy…and make the perfect base for our spicy cranberry-cayenne sauce. Grab some chicken thighs and legs, and let’s get to smokin’…

Say Goodbye to Boring Smoked Chicken, Y’all.

I love cranbrerries. Cranberry sauce. Dried cranberries. Cranberries in all of my festive holiday drinks.

But did you ever notice how cranberries are a big deal from Thanksgiving to Christmas and then they disappear? WHY!?!? Sure, it is a seasonal thing, but with Cape Cod Select Frozen Cranberries, you can create flavorful cran-creations all year long. Click here to find a store near you.

To me, the cranberry has all of the qualities I love in my summer fruits: color, vibrance and wow-flavor. All of these things make it the perfect start to a tangy-sweet bbq sauce that we are going to use on smoked chicken.

Think about it…bursting cranberries favored with the spice of cayenne and cumin, sweetened with brown sugar and a touch of honey. Brush and baste all over tender, juicy chicken and you’ve got a winning recipe.

Ingredients Needed for Cranberry Cayenne Smoked Chicken:

  • Cape Cod Select Frozen Cranberries – These are amazing. Fresh from frozen, premium quality berries.
  • Water
  • Ketchup
  • Brown sugar AND honey
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Mustard – Dijon is my fave, but you can also use regular yellow.
  • Cayenne pepper – A little or a lot. We used 2 teaspoons of ground cayenne for the sauce. No worries…it mellows nicely.
  • Cumin
  • Garlic or onion powder
  • Salt + pepper
  • Chicken thighs and / or legs – You can also use quarters.

I highly recommend skin-on and bone-in chicken. The smoking process is low and slow, and this cut of poultry holds up very well to this cooking method and keeps the meat juicy.

The great thing about using frozen cranberries for our sauce is that the natural pectin in cranberries thickens the sauce. You don’t have to cook it down as long, and it clings to the chicken while it is cooking.

How to Smoke Chicken Thighs + Legs:

  1. First, make the sauce. In a medium-sized sauce pan, combine the frozen cranberries with all other ingredients (except the chicken).
  2. Next, bring the cranberry mixture to a low boil, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.
  3. When the cranberries start to burst, reduce heat to low.
  4. Using a handheld blender, blend the sauce until mostly smooth. Simmer for 20 minutes. Stir frequently and add more water if desired until the sauce is desired thickness.
  5. While the sauce is cooking, heat your smoker to 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Trim the chicken thighs and legs, removing any excess skin. Salt and pepper both sides lightly.
  7. Remove the sauce from heat. Pour 2 cups of the cranberry-cayenne bbq sauce into a bowl or shallow dish. Reserve the rest for basting and serving.
  8. When the smoker has reached temperature, using a pair of tongs, dip each piece of chicken into the sauce mixture and place skin side up on the smoker grates.
  9. Close the smoker and cook for 4 to 5 hours until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit when taken in the thickest part of the chicken.
  10. Baste the chicken once an hour with more of the sauce.
  11. Remove the chicken from the smoker, cover loosely with foil until ready to serve.

The recipe for the cranberry-cayenne sauce makes about 6 cups. This is plenty to smother the chicken in, baste it while it is smoking, and plenty leftover for serving.

You can easily half the sauce recipe if needed. Me? Sauce is always boss, and I like a lot. Plus the cranberry bbq sauce is great on sandwiches and for dipping.

More Cranberry Recipes to Try:

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Glazed Ham

Chili Cranberry Crockpot Meatballs

Pineapple Cranberry Sun Tea

We used a generous amount of cayenne pepper in this recipe to balance out the tartness and sweetness and to give the smoked chicken a kick. No worries, you can adjust the amount of spice you use. But, don’t be afraid to get a little wild. Once the chicken smokes, the heat of the cayenne pepper gets milder as it melds with the ranberry flavor and sweetness of the brown sugar and honey.

TIP: Not a fan of the cayenne? Swap it out with chili powder.

Tips + Ideas for Best Results:

  • Prepare the cranberry-cayenne sauce FIRST. I like to let the smoker heat while I’m getting it ready.
  • Trim any excess skin and fat away fro the chicken. This is super easy when you use a pair of kitchen scissors. Just snip it away.
  • Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Use chicken thighs and chicken legs instead of a chicken breast. The thighs and legs are a juicier cut of poultry and hold up well to smoking.
  • You can also try this recipe with a whole chicken or chicken quarters.. Adjust the cooking time as needed.
  • Smoking times will vary based on the size and type of chicken along with the size and type of smoker you are using. We used an electric smoker.
  • Be sure to use a digital meat thermometer and cook your poultry until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the chicken has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Create a thick and rich glaze by basting the chicken every hour with the prepared sauce.
  • Don’t own a smoker? No worries. You can grill the chicken using this sauce like you would a normal bbq or grilling sauce.

This is such a delicious twsit on a family chicken dinner. To make a complete meal, serve with cooked rice and a side salad. Cranberry Cayenne Smoked Chicken is great with seasonal grilled vegetables, too.

We hope you are inspired to try Cape Cod Select Frozen Cranberries in your family’s meals … an classic superfruit used in a new way! Click below to follow Cape Cod Select on your favorite social media channels:

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Cranberry Cayenne Smoked Chicken

Delicious smoked chicken glazed with a sweet tart + spicy sauce made with bursting cranberries, brown sugar, and cayenne.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword smoked chicken
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 45 minutes
Servings 14 Chicken Pieces
Calories 519kcal
Author Buy This Cook That

Equipment

  • Smoker

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Cape Cod Select Frozen Cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper more or less to taste, will mellow while cooking
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder or garlic powder (not salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 pounds chicken thighs and / or legs (bone in, skin on), about 12 – 14 pieces

Instructions

  • First, make the sauce. In a medium-sized sauce pan, combine the frozen cranberries with all other ingredients (except the chicken).
  • Next, bring the cranberry mixture to a low boil, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.
  • When the cranberries start to burst, reduce heat to low.
  • Using a handheld blender, blend the sauce until mostly smooth. Simmer for 20 minutes. Stir frequently and add more water if desired until the sauce is desired thickness.
  • While the sauce is cooking, heat your smoker to 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Trim the chicken thighs and legs, removing any excess skin. Salt and pepper both sides lightly.
  • Remove the sauce from heat. Pour 2 cups of the cranberry-cayenne bbq sauce into a bowl or shallow dish. Reserve the rest for basting and serving.
  • When the smoker has reached temperature, using a pair of tongs, dip each piece of chicken into the sauce mixture and place skin side up on the smoker grates.
  • Close the smoker and cook for 4 to 5 hours until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit when taken in the thickest part of the chicken.
  • Baste the chicken once an hour with more of the sauce.
  • Remove the chicken from the smoker, cover loosely with foil until ready to serve.

Notes

Nutritional Information provided includes ALL of the sauce. However, you will only use about half of the sauce during the cooking and basting process. The rest can be reserved for serving and storing for later use. 
The leftover sauce can be sealed and refrigerated and kept for up to 3 weeks.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Piece of Chicken | Calories: 519kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 191mg | Sodium: 326mg | Potassium: 488mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 354IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 2mg

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