Perfectly Grilled Chicken Drumsticks are fast and easy with this never-fail recipe. Tender, flavorful, and budget-friendly, everybody from picky kids to grandma will love these crispy grilled drumsticks.
Chicken Drumsticks (chicken legs)
Seasoning—salt, black pepper, and garlic powder mixture (All-Purpose Seasoning) OR
Optional seasoning of your choice
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You only need the correct grill and final internal temperatures to cook perfect chicken drumsticks. With only 10 minutes of preparation and simple seasoning, it only takes 35 minutes on the grill.
This grilled chicken drumstick recipe is part of a group of recipes that started with my work on Chicken for a Hundred. For oven-based recipes, see Baked Chicken Legs or Oven Baked Chicken Thighs. And don't miss Grilled Chicken Thighs.
👨🍳How to Grill Chicken Drumsticks—Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
1. Clean, oil, and preheat the grill to a surface temperature of about 450°.
2. Prepare the chicken legs for grilling by trimming loose parts in the joint area and excess skin.
3. Pat dry with paper towels and season to your taste.
4. Place over direct heat with a closed lid.
5. Flip every 5 minutes until an internal temperature of 185°—about 30-35 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
For more details, keep reading. See the Recipe Card below for complete instructions and to print.
⏰How long to grill chicken drumsticks
It will take 35 to 30 minutes, assuming a medium-high grill surface temperature of 450°, to reach a final internal temperature of 185°+, which is best for chicken legs and thighs.
Variables are the drumstick's size, initial temperature, and exact grill temperature. You can use a lower surface temperature, but it will add time and tend to dry more. You can not get acceptable results with a grill temperature over 500°.
Always remember, you are cooking to a final internal temperature and never by time alone. You must use a thermometer to be sure you get to 185°+. Do not guess.
How to spice chicken drumsticks
Spice as you want. I use my All-Purpose Seasoning ·7:2:2), which combines kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder. But other spice mixes may be used.
For BBQ chicken drumsticks, use a dry rub and brush with your favorite BBQ sauce the last 5 minutes to make great BBQ chicken drumsticks.
Chicken tips and options
Drumsticks and chicken legs are the same thing. But there are also chicken leg quarters with chicken legs and thighs attached. If you are doing leg quarters, please follow the Grilled Chicken Thighs recipe.
Just pat dry with paper towels, and do not rinse—which is unsafe. See Chicken... To Rinse or Not To Rinse? for more discussion.
Allowing the chicken legs to rest at room temperature for 15-30 minutes while setting up the grill will help get the final internal temperature without burning the skin.
You may use either a gas or charcoal grill, but you must get the grill surface temperature correct, which is easier on gas. The grill surface temperature is temp on the grill's surface where the food cooks, not in the grill's hood.
The surface temperature should be 450°-500°, which is medium to medium-high on most gas grills—see A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill for more details.
For a charcoal grill, you must adjust the venting, not build the hottest fire, and have a reserved cooler area.
🌡️The best final internal temperature is 185°
The best final internal temperature for chicken legs (and thighs) is 185°. The FDA minimum safe internal temperature is 165°, but there is too much connective tissue in chicken legs and thighs. At 165°, they will be tough and stringy—just not done.
To get moist and tender meat, you need to melt the connective tissue, which starts at 170° but is mostly complete at 185°. But cooking up to 195° will still be okay and may be beneficial, according to American Test Kitchen (subscription required).
Storage and reheating leftovers
Store leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for 4 days. You may freeze for 4 months, but there is poor skin texture, so it is not recommended.
To reheat leftovers, heat in a 325° oven or air fryer for 10-15 minutes.
Closed will be best and give you more control. Generally, grilling something less than ½ inch thick can be open. Between ½ and 1 inch can be open but is better closed. Over 1 inch should always be closed.
No, you will burn the skin long before the meat is cooked. They must be fully thawed first.
It is not needed. The skin will be crispier without it, but with oil, it will be softer and feel thicker.
There are two common causes. First, if the chicken is older, the older meat may release some myoglobin, which can cause pinkness. The second reason is if the drumsticks have been frozen, the bone marrow can break down and come out into the meat. Neither is harmful and as long as the temperature is correct, it is safe to eat.
Raw chicken and other poultry should be considered contaminated and handled with care. Wash your hands carefully before and after touching raw chicken.
We do NOT wash raw chicken routinely due to water splatter. See Chicken... To Rinse or Not To Rinse? for more information.
You must cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165° for safety, although for texture, cook to 185° for chicken legs and thighs. See the USDA for more information. You need to check this with an instant-read thermometer.
See Summer Food Safety for more safety tips.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
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Grilled Chicken Drumsticks
- 6 Chicken drumsticks
- Salt and pepper - to taste or seasoning of your choice
- Preheat the grill to get a surface temp of about 450°. That is medium-high on a standard gas grill and medium on a hot gas grill. Clean and oil the grill grates.
- Pat dry the chicken legs (chicken drumsticks) with paper towels. Rest at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before grilling if you have the time.
- Trim off excess skin and loose bones/tissue, especially in the joint area.
- Season to taste. Kosher salt and pepper will be fine, or you can use my 7:2:2 spice mix. Or use the seasoning of your choice.
- Check grill surface temperature and place chicken legs on the grill. Close the grill hood. Flip about every 5 minutes until the internal temp of 185° degrees—about 30-35 minutes.
- Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Your Own Private Notes
- Pat dry and season to taste. I like my All Purpose Seasoning - 7:2:1 and 7:2:2. Seasoning mixes or dry rubs work well. A light touch of cayenne pepper adds a bit of heat that most adults like but do not use with kids.
- Medium grill with a surface temperature of about 450°. Over 500° will not work well. 400° minimum.
- The final internal temperature of 185°+ is the key to this recipe. While 165° is safe, the texture will be much better at 185°.
- If you are cooking chicken leg quarters, use the Grilled Chicken Thighs recipe to learn to control the fat flair-ups.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor's Note: Originally published June 26, 2011. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.