Grilled Chicken Legs are one of my favorite go-to recipes for a quick weeknight dinner, a tailgate party, or a family cookout. A quick and easy dinner that only takes a few minutes to prepare and is mostly hands-off on the grill with indirect heat.
Why this works
- Low-cost dinner - grilled chicken legs are an easy recipe on a budget, and you can get a lot of them for a decent price that has lots of flavor because of the dark meat, like Spam Fried Rice.
- Simple recipe - with simple ingredients and simple steps like your favorite rub, a little olive, and your favorite BBQ sauce, you can make dinner so easily, just like smoked chicken wings.
- Great for parties - chicken drumsticks are a huge hit for parties because you cook many of them at the same time, and they are easy for guests to carry around, like Cuban Sandwiches.
Ingredients you will need
Here is a quick snapshot of the ingredients you'll need for this recipe. Scroll to the recipe card, where you will find the exact measurements.
- Chicken legs - bone-in skin-on chicken legs are best for this, but you can also grill chicken thighs just as easily in about the same amount of time.
- Rub - you can make your homemade chicken rub or use your favorite from the store.
- BBQ sauce - not pictured, but optional. You can make your own or use a classic barbecue sauce from the store.
How to make this
Step 1: Season the chicken legs
Pat the chicken legs dry with paper towels and place them in a large bowl or arrange them on a baking sheet. Patting the skin dry will encourage the grilled chicken legs to develop a crispy skin during the cooking process.
Coat the chicken legs lightly with olive oil, and toss to coat with the dry chicken rub.
Step 2: Cooking the barbecue chicken
Preheat until the grill temperature is 400 to 425 degrees. The high heat will sear them and make juicy chicken drumsticks. I like to add a smoker box over direct heat to give the meat lots of great smoky flavors. Clean the grill grates with a brush.
Cook on indirect heat, and place the grilled chicken legs on the side of the grill with no burners on.
To grill chicken drumsticks we like to use a chicken leg rack when cooking them. You can, however, just place them on the grill rack over the side of the grill so that the burners are off.
Plan on 30-35 minutes of cooking time. Cook the grilled chicken legs to an internal temperature of the chicken is 185 degrees. While chicken generally is cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, grilled chicken legs should cook a little longer, so they are more tender.
If you are using the rack, turn the grilled chicken legs halfway through the cooking time. If cooking directly on the grill grates, then turn every ten minutes. Be sure to use a meat thermometer to check the chicken's internal temperature at this time in the thickest part of the meat.
When the temperature reaches 165 degrees if using BBQ sauce brush the legs with the barbecue sauce and continue cooking until the desired temperature is reached.
Remove from the grill when finished and allow to rest 5-10 minutes prior to serving.
Take your chicken out at least 15 minutes prior to cooking so that it will cook more evenly. Oil your grill grates if cooking directly on them, as the chicken will stick less to them. For extra flavor, use the dry rub on the skin and underneath the meat.
The juices will run clear, and the skin will have pulled away from the end of the drumstick bone when done.
Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the chicken. Once it hits the desired temperature, remove it from the grill to rest.
Pair these BBQ chicken drumsticks with some of our favorite sides like potato salad, a blood orange salad, or smoked baked beans. Be sure to beat the summer heat with homemade chocolate ice cream for dessert the entire family will love it!
Storage & Reheating
Store for up to one week in an airtight container. Reheat in the microwave. It can be frozen for up to three months and thawed in the refrigerator prior to eating.
More easy chicken recipes
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Grilled Chicken Legs
- 1 Tongs
- 8 chicken drumsticks bone-in, skin on
- ¼ cup olive oil optional
- ½ cup dry rub
- ½ cup barbecue sauce optional
- Pat the chicken drumsticks dry with paper towels. Place on a baking sheet or in a large bowl.
- Toss with olive oil and then coat with dry rub.
- Preheat the grill to 400 to 425 degrees. Be sure to clean the grates with a grill brush.
- We are cooking these on indirect heat, so turn off most of the burners leaving one or two on high heat.
- Place the chicken legs on the grill in a chicken leg rack, or place them directly on the grill grates where the burners are off.
- Cook the chicken legs until they reach an internal temperature of 185 degrees. We cook drumsticks longer so they are more tender. Plan on at least 30-35 minutes of cooking time, possibly longer.
- Turn halfway through cooking, and check the temperature with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken. Brush with BBQ sauce once the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
- Once the chicken reaches the desired temperature, remove it from the grill, and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes prior to serving.
- Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to one week. If freezing, completely cool, and then store for up to three months.
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