Biting into a smoked chicken leg brings back all the warm fuzzies of childhood with all of the sophisticated taste of an adult. It’s the best of both worlds in one bite. Our recipe for smoked drumsticks is perfect for a crowd or dinner for two.
🍽️ Why This Works
Fast | You can expect to finish smoking your drumsticks in about two hours or less.
Incredible Smoke Flavor | The size and thickness of the meat will allow the smoke to fully permeate the chicken and amp up the flavor.
Fun | Everyone loves a chicken drumstick. A perfect finger food, the chicken leg is easy to eat, full of that rich dark meat, and cooks perfectly without drying out in the smoker.
📝 Ingredient Notes
Chicken Legs – Plan on two to three chicken legs per person. Make a few extra because these are very popular!
Dry Rub – Use your favorite! We used Spiceology Black and Bleu if you want something new to try.
Dipping Sauces – There are so many to choose from: blue cheese, honey mustard, ranch, BBQ sauce, sweet and sour sauce, or teriyaki, to name a few options.
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
Apple Wood – This is a mild fruity wood that plays nicely with poultry, fish, pork, and cheese. It’s a great neutral wood to keep on hand.
Grilling Tongs – Chicken Legs are small and will roll easily. You will need tongs to move them around or take them off the grill grate. I recommend the grilling kind because the long handles will help prevent singed arm hair.
Step One: Preheat your grill for indirect heat and pat your chicken legs dry with a paper towel. We used apple wood chunks for smoke, a favorite for poultry.
Step Two: Season with your favorite dry rub. Finding and trying new rubs is addicting!
Step Three: When the smoker reaches the desired temperature, place all of the legs on the grill grate.
Step Four: Smoke until the internal temperature is 160ºF. Remove from the smoker.
Step Five: Heat the grill to about 400ºF and place the legs on the grate for about 2 minutes per side to sear them. This will make the skin crispy.
Step Six: Serve with dipping sauce or toss them in your favorite sauce.
❗ Recipe Tips and Tricks
Dry the chicken legs to avoid excess moisture. This will help the smoke penetrate, help the meat cook evenly, and will also help ensure you end up with a nice crispy skin once you put them on the grill. You can even air-dry the chicken legs overnight if you like. Place them on a cooling rack and then on a baking sheet and place them in the refrigerator to dry if you choose this approach.
Make sure you place your wireless instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of one chicken leg without touching the bone. This will allow you to get the most accurate temperature read.
🧑🍳 Storage and Reheating
Keep leftover chicken legs in the refrigerator for one or two days after they are cooked. Reheat them fast in a skillet or throw them back on the grill. Toss reheated legs in your favorite sauce.
If you prefer to use the leg meat in a new recipe, remove the meat from the bone and store it in an airtight container for up to two days in the refrigerator or up to three months in the freezer. I don’t recommend freezing cooked chicken legs on the bone since this will make safe reheating difficult.
Toss your chicken legs in seasoning using the bag method. Place all of the legs in a large plastic bag, add dry rub, seal the bag and shake until all of the chicken is coated.
Season the chicken legs the night before you plan to smoke them for a dry-brine effect that infuses the meat with flavor.
Additions and Substitutions
Use a similar approach to smoke chicken wings. Plan on six whole wings per person. The wings will smoke more quickly, but your internal temperature goal remains the same. Toss the wings in sauce after you finish them off on the grill.
After you pull the crispy smoked drumsticks off the grill, toss them with your favorite sauce. You are going to love the result. Place the smoked chicken in a mixing bowl and add the sauce. Cover it with a pot lid or kitchen plate. Shake until the legs are evenly coated. Remove them from the bowl and repeat until all of them are coated in sauce.
Mix up this all-purpose rub if you don’t have a store-bought rub you want to use. It’s really tasty!
This protein is fabulous with almost anything, and air fryer fries are one of the easiest traditional choices. You can also pair these smoked chicken legs with smoked sweet potatoes, baked beans, or a simple fruit salad.
❓ Recipe FAQ
2 – 2½ hours. Your chicken needs to smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 160ºF . The time it takes to reach a safe temperature depends on several variables. How thick are the chicken legs? How constant is your smoker’s temperature? How cold was the chicken when you started? Use a wireless internal meat thermometer for best results because you do not want to overcook them.
250ºF is the temperature we use. This level of heat sets a nice pace for getting the meat smoked without drying it out.
Smoke on indirect heat at 250ºF until the meat reaches 160ºF internal temperature. Then remove the drumsticks from the smoker and finish them off on a hot grill heated to 400ºF to crisp up the skin and finish off the legs. If you are using your grill as your smoker, remove the chicken legs to bump up the heat to 400ºF and then place the meat on direct heat to crisp them up.
No. You should remove the meat from the bones and freeze the meat. Freezing the meat on the bone is possible but makes reheating more difficult.
Tried this recipe? Please leave a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page. You can also stay in touch with me through social media by following me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook!
Smoked Chicken Legs
- 12 Chicken Legs
- ¼ cup Dry Rub we used Spiceology Black and Bleu
- Dipping Sauce optional
- Set up smoker for indirect heat for 250°F. We used Apple wood chunks for the smoke.
- Remove the chicken legs from the refrigerator and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the dry rub evenly over all sides of the legs, or use a gallon Ziploc bag and coat the drumsticks using the shaking method.
- When the smoker reaches desired temperature, place all of the legs on the grill grate and smoke until internal temperature is 160°F. Remove from the smoker.
- Heat up the grill to about 400°F and place the legs on the grate for two minutes per side to sear. This will cause the skin to get nice and crispy!
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