Smoked Chicken Legs Recipes (7 Easy Steps)

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Are you looking for a recipe for smoked chicken legs?

Well you’ve come to the right place!

In this TheGrillingDad.com guide, you’ll learn:

  • Ingredients you’ll need
  • Seasoning for smoked chicken legs 
  • Step by step guide to cooking smoked chicken drumsticks
  • And much more!

Who doesn’t love a good BBQ smoked chicken drumstick? This recipe keeps it simple so you’ll have smoky, tasty smoked chicken legs that cook beautifully without much effort on your part. How cool is that?

So grab your tongs and a cold beverage of your choice, and lets get started on some delicious smoked chicken drumsticks.

Smoked Chicken Legs

Smoked Chicken Legs

Yield: 12 Chicken Legs
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

The best technique for delicious, tender smoked chicken legs that are packed with flavor!

Ingredients

  • 12 Chicken Legs
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup sweet chicken rub

Instructions

  1. Mix salt, sugar, water, and vinegar into brine solution. Submerge chicken into brine and refrigerate for minimum 30 minutes, maximum 24 hours. Note: For best results, we recommend brining the chicken for about 12 hours, or overnight.
  2. Remove chicken from brine solution and pat dry. Coat with olive oil
  3. Cover chicken with rub of your choosing. We recommend a sweet chicken rub for maximum flavor
  4. Place chicken legs on smoker at 250 degrees Fahrenheit and smoke for 2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  5. Remove from smoker and let rest lightly covered for 10 minutes
  6. Enjoy!

Notes

If you plan to use Barbecue Sauce on your chicken, monitor internal temperature until the chicken reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, using a basting brush, apply a barbecue sauce of your choosing liberally to all drumsticks, ensuring you rotate to get all sides. Close your smoker door and continue to cook at 250 until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 276Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 100mgSodium: 100mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: <1gProtein: 25g

Nutrition information may vary.

Smoked Chicken Legs

As with many of our recipes, we like to keep things simple and traditional, so the end result is a true classic smoked chicken leg that is absolutely bursting with flavor!

These smoked chicken drumsticks are prepared in a way that produces juicy meat and crispy skin. Your chicken legs will be loaded with flavor that your friends and family will talk about for years. 

Mix and match your seasonings and experiment to see what the best flavors are for smoked chicken legs. You can leave them dry or drench them in your favorite BBQ sauce. 

In this guide, we’ll be making our smoked chicken legs with a basic dry rub, but we’ll also include steps on how to baste your drumsticks with barbecue sauce during the smoking process.

Want to know the best part of it all? Chicken drumsticks are cheaper than most other smoker meats so you can hone your BBQ skills without breaking the bank.

Ingredients for Smoked Chicken Legs

  • 2lbs chicken legs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sweet rub
  • BBQ sauce if desired

Preparing Smoked Chicken Legs

As is true with all of our recipes, properly prepping your meat is critical to getting that perfect flavor and texture. Smoked Chicken Drumsticks are no different. 

 

Brining Chicken Drumsticks

Brining meat is a culinary technique that has been around for centuries. There are both wet and dry brines you can use for your smoked chicken drumsticks. 

At TheGrillingDad.com, we believe that quality smoked chicken drumsticks starts with a nice overnight soak in a wet brine bath.

Personally, I like to make sure my smoked chicken legs get no fewer than 12 hours in brine. This gives plenty of time for the brine to begin its

Keep them refrigerated during this process – it only takes chicken drumsticks a short while at room temperature to become unsafe to eat.

Mixing the Brine

Soon, we’ll have a detailed step-by-step guide on how to prepare a proper brine in a variety of ways. until then, we’ll keep our smoked chicken legs to very simple ingredients that yield incredible tasting drumsticks.

  • 3 cups Water
  • 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Salt
  • 2 tbsp Sugar
Optional:
  • 2 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • White Onion (quartered)

Mix water, apple cider vinegar, salt, and sugar in a large container with a lid until the dry ingredients are completely dissolved. 

Once dissolved, add garlic and onion to the brine solution. The oils in these ingredients will mix with the brine to permeate the meat of your smoked chicken legs. 

There isn’t much risk in overdoing it with the chopped ingredients, so modify quantities to your liking when mixing your chicken drumstick brine.

How to Brine Chicken Legs

Place your chicken legs into your container, ensuring all are fully submerged in your brine. You want to make sure that all surfaces of the chicken drumsticks are in contact with the brine solution.

If the drumsticks are tightly packed into your container, you can give them a shake midway through the brining process to ensure they rotate and have a chance to contact the brine.

Brine your chicken legs in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Be aware that because this brine contains apple cider vinegar, the acidity can begin breaking down the structure of the meat the longer you let the drumsticks soak in the brine. 

This can result in soft, almost mushy meat if overdone. Of all the batches of this recipe we’ve made, we’ve never had this problem with an overnight brine.

Our recommendation is to brine the chicken drumsticks in your refrigerator for 12 hours, but you can allow them to brine for up to 24 hours safely. 

Seasoning Smoked Chicken Legs

When it comes to quality smoked chicken legs and smoked chicken drumsticks, keeping it simple is the key to success.

By keeping the seasoning and cooking process simple, you get the juiciness and rich flavor of the chicken taking center stage. You don’t want your rub to overwhelm this excellent flavor.  

The goal here is to allow the smoked chicken meat to do most of the talking – our spices and herbs are to help support and enhance this flavor, not mask it. 

Before sprinkling with your meat rub of choice, drizzle the chicken legs with olive oil to help prevent the skin turning leathery and tough, instead making it nice and crispy to bite into. 

The oil also helps the seasoning by acting as a binder, allowing the rubs to stick to the meat better without falling off.

How Long to Smoke Chicken Legs

Ideally your chicken legs will be done in about 90 minutes, but the time can vary depending on your grill or smoker setup, the size of the chicken legs being smoked, and the humidity of the grill or smoker while cooking the chicken legs.

Use your preferred digital thermometer to monitor the meat temperature as you cook.

We recommend any high rated thermometer that has bluetooth capabilities, that way you can check the temperature of your smoked chicken legs from the comfort of your living room and set alarms at specific temperatures to make sure your smoked chicken legs are cooking at the appropriate pace.

As the cooking time nears the 90-minute mark, the chicken legs should be approaching their finished cooked temperature.

Chicken legs should be cooked to 165 degrees for food safety.

How to Smoke Chicken Legs

Smoked chicken legs are one of the easiest foods to make on the grill or smoker, so they are perfect for beginners. Before you fire up the grill, be sure to take your chicken legs out of the refrigerator and brine so that you can dry off the skin slightly and bring the meat up to room temperature before putting your chicken drumsticks on the smoker.

What Temperature to Smoke Chicken Legs at

Fire up the grill or smoker and bring the temperature up gradually until it reaches 275 degrees. If your smoker allows, place a water pan in the designated area to maintain moisture inside the smoker. This will help the chicken legs stay tender and juicy while smoking.

For a longer, slower smoke, you can smoke chicken drumsticks at 250F. You’ll simply need to extend your smoking time to make sure your chicken reaches a finished internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The Best Wood for Smoking Chicken Legs

While your smoker is getting to temperature, you can prepare your wood chips or chunks for the smoking process in the method that works best for your smoker. Some pitmasters like to soak their chips in water, others like throwing chunk wood right on top of the coals.

Three different pitmasters will tell you three different ways you should prepare your wood for smoking chicken drumsticks. At the end of the day, it’s all about preference. Try smoking chicken legs multiple times and trying a different wood or wood preparation technique. You’ll taste the difference!

For smoked chicken legs, we recommend Pecan, Apple, Cherry, or Hickory wood chips or chunks.  Be sure to visit our guide on selecting smoking woods and how to achieve the perfect smoke.

For your smoked chicken legs, you want to maintain a nice blue smoke coming from your smoker’s chimney. Billowy white smoke indicates that too much wood is being scorched at once, and your smoked chicken legs will end up with an over-smoked, ashy flavor. 

Once your smoker has the perfect amount of smoke, its time to get your chicken legs seasoned up and onto the smoking rack!

What Seasoning to Use on Smoked Chicken Legs

After drizzling a light amount of olive oil on the chicken, sprinkle with your favorite rub or seasoning combination. Some pros will instruct you to use a binding agent such as mustard to help the seasoning adhere to the chicken drumsticks, but we’ve found for this recipe that the olive oil works wonderfully for a nice light, crispy skin texture.

For the best smoked chicken legs, we recommend a mild, salt-forward rub to get the most flavor out of your finished drumsticks. 

A quick, simple rub of salt, pepper, paprika, and dry mustard will do the trick, but there are thousands of rubs you can buy that are specifically formulated for Chicken Drumsticks. Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to get our famous Kickin’ Cilantro Lime dry rub recipe delivered straight to your inbox!

Be sure to check out our other rub recipes for a variety of suggestions!

In the end, this site is all about learning. So, make sure to try new things to find what kind of rub you prefer most on your smoked chicken legs.

Smoking Chicken Drumsticks

After ensuring that your smoker is at the correct temperature and your wood is smoking at the proper pace, go ahead and place the chicken legs directly on your grill or smoker grates and close the smoker or grill lid.

Keep your grill or smoker closed as much as possible while smoking chicken legs. Remember: “if you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’.” Keeping the lid closed will trap the smoke and moisture in the smoker, allowing your smoked chicken legs to achieve the best possible flavor and texture when completed. 

A digital thermometer with an in-meat probe is ideal to allow you to smoke chicken legs without having to frequently open the lid.

Now, settle in and smoke the chicken legs for roughly 1 ½ hours or until they reach a safe finished internal temperature.

You will want to smoke the chicken until it reaches a finished internal temperature of 165 degrees at its thickest point to ensure food safety. 

For more information on the appropriate cooking temperatures for various meats, visit the USDA’s Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart. Also, be sure to check out our visual guide that you can print off and keep right in your kitchen!

BBQ Sauce on Smoked Chicken Legs

We think the best smoked chicken legs are served and seasoned with nothing more than a good dry rub, but we’ll never shame anyone for their preferences on smoked food. Everyone has their favorite way to eat their smoked chicken drumsticks! 

If you prefer your smoked chicken legs to be finished with a delicious, caramelized barbecue coating, monitor the thermometer until the chicken has reached a temperature of 150 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit before applying your barbecue sauce to the smoked chicken legs.  

Using a grill brush, liberally coat your smoked chicken legs with a barbecue sauce of your choosing, then return the chicken legs to the smoker to finish cooking until the chicken has reached a finished internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are doing a dry rub, simply continue smoking your chicken drumsticks on the smoker and pull the chicken from the smoker once it has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Smoked Chicken Leg Finished Temperature

The USDA recommends all chicken to be cooked to an internal safe temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any harmful bacteria or organisms that may be present within the meat. We recommend you smoke chicken drumsticks until they reach a finished temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Remember, the chicken will continue to climb in temperature just a few degrees after being removed from the grill, so keep that in mind to avoid dry, overcooked meat.

Experienced smokers and grill masters will take their smoked chicken legs off the heat once the temperature is a few degrees shy of the safe cooking point. This way, the chicken will reach the safe internal temperature during the beginning of the resting phase, ensuring the meat doesn’t get overcooked or dry. 

How Long to Rest Smoked Chicken Legs

As a newly minted Smoked Chicken Leg Pro, your final task is to allow the finished chicken drumsticks to rest lightly covered for at least 5 to 10 minutes prior to serving.

Resting your meats after smoking allows the juices to soak back into the meat and keep your drumsticks wonderfully juicy and tender.

With meats such as chicken and turkey, water content is easily lost through the cooking process. This is why overcooked poultry tends to be very dry rather than tough.

If you’ve overcooked your chicken drumsticks, resting them unfortunately won’t help much as the liquids have long since escaped and evaporated from your smoked chicken legs.

This is another example of the importance of monitoring the internal temperature of your smoked chicken legs while you cook them.

How to Serve Smoked Chicken Legs

Serve your delicious smoked chicken legs with some chopped carrots and/or celery on the side. If you’d like, you can offer your guests ranch or bleu cheese to dip their smoked chicken drumsticks in. But the flavor of your smoked chicken drumsticks will be so great that they probably won’t want to put any ranch on them anyway!

Garnish with finely chopped parsley or green onion depending on your preferred flavors and enjoy being the new undisputed Master of Smoking Chicken Legs in your family or friend group!

Preparing your Smoked Chicken Legs

As is true with all of our recipes, properly prepping your meat is critical to getting that perfect flavor and texture. Smoked Chicken Drumsticks are no different. 

Brining Chicken Drumsticks

Brining meat is a culinary technique that has been around for centuries. There are both wet and dry brines you can use for your smoked chicken drumsticks. 

At TheGrillingDad.com, we believe that quality smoked chicken drumsticks starts with a nice overnight soak in a wet brine bath.

Personally, I like to make sure my smoked chicken legs get no fewer than 12 hours in brine. This gives plenty of time for the brine to begin its

Keep them refrigerated during this process – it only takes chicken drumsticks a short while at room temperature to become unsafe to eat.

Mixing the Brine

Soon, we’ll have a detailed step-by-step guide on how to prepare a proper brine in a variety of ways. until then, we’ll keep our smoked chicken legs to very simple ingredients that yield incredible tasting drumsticks.

  • 3 cups Water
  • 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Salt
  • 2 tbsp Sugar
  • 2 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • White Onion (quartered)

Mix water, apple cider vinegar, salt, and sugar in a large container with a lid until the dry ingredients are completely dissolved. 

Once dissolved, add garlic and onion to the brine solution. The oils in these ingredients will mix with the brine to permeate the meat of your smoked chicken legs. 

There isn’t much risk in overdoing it with the chopped ingredients, so modify quantities to your liking when mixing your chicken drumstick brine.

How to Brine Chicken Legs

Place your chicken legs into your container, ensuring all are fully submerged in your brine. You want to make sure that all surfaces of the chicken drumsticks are in contact with the brine solution.

If the drumsticks are tightly packed into your container, you can give them a shake midway through the brining process to ensure they rotate and have a chance to contact the brine.

Brine your chicken legs in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Be aware that because this brine contains apple cider vinegar, the acidity can begin breaking down the structure of the meat the longer you let the drumsticks soak in the brine. 

This can result in soft, almost mushy meat if overdone. Of all the batches of this recipe we’ve made, we’ve never had this problem with an overnight brine.

Our recommendation is to brine the chicken drumsticks in your refrigerator for 12 hours, but you can allow them to brine for up to 24 hours safely. 

Brock Naylor

Brock Naylor

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