| |

The Best Smoked Chicken Legs

Smoked Chicken Legs are easy and oh sooo flavorful you will be licking your fingers!  The secret is in the amazing sweet and spicy rub and the simple smoking process. Enjoy them dry or brush some of your favorite barbecue sauce on them, either way they are perfect!

Smoked Chicken Legs on a wooden board with parsley and spilled spice rub.

Chicken is one of the easiest cuts of meat to smoke. One of the best things about smoking chicken legs is that they cook so quickly, so, you won’t need to wait hours to get that delicious smoky flavor.  I promise that this simple recipe will make you feel like a grill master!

The drumstick is all dark meat, which is the most tender and juiciest part of the bird.  This also makes them very forgiving.  The legs are small, so they are done in a little over an hour. Then a few minutes on a hot grill at the end of the cooking process is all you need to crisp up the skin.

The sweetly spicy and simple dry rub is so tasty and versatile that you can use it on a whole chicken, Smoked Turkey Legs and Oven BBQ Chicken Wings.  It is even great on ribs!

Bottles of spices necessary for a bbq spice rub.

Simple ingredients you will need 

  • Chicken Legs: Chicken legs or chicken drumsticks are the portion of whole leg (AKA chicken quarters) that has been separated from the thigh.  I recommend leaving the skin because it keeps the meat moist producing the juiciest chicken and most flavor.
  • For the spice rub: Brown sugar, Kosher Salt, black Pepper, Chili powder, Cayenne, Thyme, Cumin, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder. 
4 photos of chicken drumsticks being coated in spice rub, resting at room temperature, smoked and grilled to crisp the skin.

Easy Instructions for making this simple Smoked Chicken Legs Recipe

  1. Prepare your smoker:  We like to use apple wood, hickory, or cherry wood chips when we smoke chicken.  Bring the smoker up to between 225°F-250°F.  Cooking the chicken at lower temperatures means more smokey flavor will be absorbed.
  2. Make the spice rub: Combine all the herbs and spices in a bowl or jar and mix until completely and evenly combined.  
  3. Prepare the drumsticks:  Dry the chicken legs with a paper towel. Pull the skin down and rub a small amount of olive oil over the chicken. Sprinkle the dry rub evenly over the legs, pull the skin back up and rub the skin with olive oil and then coat it with the spice rub.
  4. Smoke the chicken legs: Place the chicken legs directly on the grill grates of your smoker, cover and cook them for between 1-1 1/2 hours.  Cooking the legs to an internal temperature of 170°F-175°F will produces tender juicy meat that falls off the bone.  
  5. Finish on high heat: If you want really crispy skin, place the legs on a hot grill for a few minutes on each side. When you remove them from the grill, tent them with aluminum foil and let them rest for about 10 minutes.
Smoked chicken drumsticks on a wood board with fresh parsley and spilled spice rub.

Cooking Tips

  • Don’t skip drying off the chicken legs.  Removing the extra moisture from the surface of the meat will help to create that crispy chicken skin.
  • Make extra rub and keep it in a jar so it is ready any time you want to grill or smoke chicken or ribs.
  • This dry rub recipe has a bit of a kick to it so if you want to tone down the spice, just cut back on the cayenne pepper or omit it all together.
  • Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes after you have put the dry rub on it. This gives the chicken some time to absorb some of the flavors from the rub.
  • Insert an instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the drumstick to check the internal temperature of the chicken legs.
  • Chicken is safe to eat at 165°F, but cooking the dark meat to a higher temperature will break down the tendons further resulting in tender and juicy meat.
  • The higher the temperature of your smoker the faster the chicken will cook.  I find that letting it cook at 225°F for a little while longer produces smokier flavor and more tender meat.  
  • This recipe works on any type of smoker (charcoal, electric or pellet smoker) as long as you maintain the proper temperature.  

Storing and Reheating

Leftover chicken legs can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days if they are in an airtight container or zipper bag with the excess air removed.  

They can be reheated in the microwave, but to make sure they stay moist it is best to reheat it in the oven.  Set your oven to 350°F.  Place the chicken on a rack set over a baking pan and pour a little water in the bottom of the pan.  Bake the chicken for 10-15 minutes or until it is heated through.  

Smoked chicken legs on a wood board with parsley.

What to serve with smoked chicken drumsticks

As with BBQ chicken there are endless possibilities for side dishes to pair with smoked chicken.  Some of our favorite sides include traditional cornbread or Sweet Potato CornbreadItalian Pasta SaladWatermelon SaladGreen Bean and Potato SaladGrilled Eggplant with Garlic and BalsamicSteak fries or even Roasted Sweet Potatoes.  

FAQ

Why is my chicken skin rubbery when I smoke it?

Chicken skin needs to be cooked at a higher temperature for it to dry out and crisp up.  Removing any excess moisture before cooking it and finishing it over high heat will result in the crispiest skin.

Why is smoked chicken pink?

Smoking meat creates a “smoke ring” which is pink in color.  The same thing happens with chicken when it is cooked low and slow on a smoker.   Red’s True Barbecue explains the science behind it. So don’t mistake the pink coloring for undercooked chicken.

Other Chicken Recipes

Other chicken recipes that are popular with my family and that you may want to try are my easy Marinated Chicken Spiedini and delicious Chicken Rollatini.

I love to get your feedback so if you tried this recipe for Smoked Chicken Legs (Drumsticks) or any other recipes on this website, please leave me a comment below.  I hope you enjoy our recipes and look forward to hearing from you!

You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest for more recipes your family will love!  

Smoked chicken legs on a wood board with parsley.

Smoked Chicken Legs

Smoked Chicken Legs are easy and oh sooo flavorful you will be licking your fingers!  A sweet and spicy dry rub adds to the delicious smokey flavor of these tender juicy drumsticks.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Resting time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 12 pieces
Calories 179 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 12 Chicken drumsticks
  • ½ cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 tbsp Chili Powder
  • ½ tsp Black Pepper ground
  • ½ tsp Cayenne
  • 1 tsp Thyme dried
  • ½ tsp Onion Powder
  • ½ tsp Garlic Powder
  • ½ tsp Cumin
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the smoker to 225℉ and add several chunks of apple, hickory or cherry wood.
  • Combine all of the ingredients except the chicken legs, in a bowl or jar and mix until evenly combined.
  • Pat the chicken legs dry with a paper towel. Brush the drumsticks with olive oil then sprinkle completely with the spice rub, including under the skin.
  • Place the chicken legs on the grate of the smoker, cover and cook until the internal temperature reaches 170-175℉.
  • Turn up the heat of the smoker to high or move the drumsticks to a hot grill and cook for about 5 minutes per side, or until the chicken skin is crisped to your liking. Remove from the heat, cover with aluminum foil and rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

Cooking Tips

  • Don’t skip drying off the chicken legs.  Removing the extra moisture from the surface of the meat will help to create that crispy chicken skin.
  • Make extra rub and keep it in a jar so it is ready any time you want to grill or smoke chicken or ribs.
  • This dry rub recipe has a bit of a kick to it so if you want to tone down the spice, just cut back on the cayenne pepper or omit it all together.
  • Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes after you have put the dry rub on it.
  • Insert an instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the drumstick to check the internal temperature of the chicken legs.
  • Chicken is safe to eat at 165°F, but cooking the dark meat to a higher temperature will break down the tendons further resulting in tender and juicy meat.
  • The higher the temperature of your smoker the faster the chicken will cook.  I find that letting it cook at 225°F for a little while longer produces smokier flavor and more tender meat.  
  • This recipe works on any type of smoker (charcoal, electric or pellet smoker) as long as you maintain the proper temperature. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1pieceCalories: 179kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 13gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 1255mgPotassium: 202mgFiber: 0.3gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 277IUVitamin C: 0.4mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 1mg
Keyword cayenne, chili powder, sugar, smoked, grilled, barbecue, drumskticks
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Similar Posts

3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.