Perfectly Grilled Chicken Drumsticks are easy and quick with this never fail recipe. Fall off the bone tender with delicious flavor. They will be the hit of any meal.
Everybody needs great grilled chicken recipes, and this grilled chicken leg recipe is one of the easiest and best for home cooks. Crispy chicken legs that both picky kids and grandma will love.
All you need to do is correct the grill temperature and final internal temperature. With only 10 minutes of preparation and simple seasoning, then about 35 minutes on the grill, you will have an economical meal.
Please enjoy one of our favorite quick and easy grilled chicken recipes. If you want other grilled chicken recipes, check out Grilled Chicken Thighs or Grilled Chicken Breasts. For oven-based recipes, see Baked Chicken Legs or Oven Baked Chicken Thighs.
This grilled chicken drumstick recipe is part of a group of recipes that started with Chicken for a Hundred.
- Chicken legs(chicken drumsticks)—Trim loose skin and joint parts. Try to use legs of about the same size so they will cook in about the same amount of time.
- Seasoning—Just some salt and pepper is fine. But we always use All Purpose Seasoning - 7:2:1 and 7:2:2, which is salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. But use the seasoning you love. Even marinade is fine. If using BBQ sauce, skip other seasoning and brush on near the end of cooking.
👨🍳How to Grill Drumsticks
- Clean, oil, and preheat the grill to a surface temperature of about 450°—important.
- Prepare the chicken legs for grilling by trimming loose parts in the joint area and excess skin. Then pat dry with paper towels and season to your taste.
- Place over direct heat with a closed lid. Flip every 5 minutes until an internal temperature of 185°—about 30-35 minutes.
- Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
⏰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 are variables. 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. Chick the temperature with an instant-read or meat thermometer.
✔️Tips and Options
- Chicken Tips
- Drumsticks and chicken legs are the same thing. But there are also chicken leg quarters with the chicken leg and chicken thigh attached. If you are doing leg quarters, please follow Grilled Chicken Thighs.
- Just pat dry with paper towels and do not rinse—which is not safe. 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.
- Spicing and Cooking Tips
- Spice as you want. I use my All-Purpose Seasoning Recipe, which combines kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder. A dry rub or seasoning mix can be used.
- Skip the seasoning and brush with your favorite BBQ sauce the last 5 minutes to make great BBQ chicken drumsticks.
- The grill and final internal temperatures are the two most important things needed to get the best results.
- You must use a thermometer to be sure you get to 185°+. Do not guess.
- Grill Tips
- You may use a gas or charcoal grill, but the grill should be 450°-500° surface temperature which is medium or a bit more on most gas grills.
- For a gas grill, see A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill for more details.
- For a charcoal grill, you will need to adjust the venting, not build the hottest fire and have a reserved cooler area.
🌡️The best final internal temperature
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 that 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).
You must use an instant-read or meat thermometer to get this right.
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 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 some 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.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
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. Just Kosher salt and pepper will be fine, or you can use my 7:2:2 spice mix. Or use the seasoning of your choice. If you are using BBQ sauce, skip the seasoning and brush the chicken legs for the last 5 minutes of grilling.
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. They are way too hot, anyway.
Grillied Chicken Drumsticks-Quick and Easy
- 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. Just Kosher salt and pepper will be fine, or you can use my 7:2:2 spice mix. Or use the seasoning of your choice. If you are using BBQ sauce, skip the seasoning and brush the chicken legs for the last 5 minutes of grilling.
- 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. They are way too hot, anyway.
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 most adults like but do no use with kids.
- Medium grill with a surface temperature of about 450°. Over 500° will not work well.
- The final internal temperature of 185°+ is the key to this recipe.
- If you are cooking chicken leg quarters, use the Grilled Chicken Thighs recipe.
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.
Great recipe! My wife loved them, normally she doesn’t like drumsticks because of the ‘stringy’ things. Cooking to 185-190 was perfect and BBQ sauce the last 10 minutes made them delicious. I also made your 7-2-2 seasoning and used it on the drumsticks and again on some steaks. Glad to find your site!
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the site.
Glad the drumsticks work well for you. Like most cooking, the key is in the temperature. 165 is just wrong for thighs and drumsticks.
Thanks for the note and rating.
Mother of 3
Excellent Recipe. Very well written; appreciated the why behind the how! Hubby thought they were cooking too fast and turned down the grill without my knowing...sure enough, they took longer that way! Wonderful, crispy skin. Added some Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ last 10 minutes. Perfection! Hubby and kids licked the platter clean!
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Hi Mother of 3,
Welcome to the blog and sorry for the delayed reply.
Glad this works so well for you. I was thinking of kids as I did this but it is good for us big kids also.
Forgive the Hubby, that sounds like something I might do at times.
The "why" is how I taught my medical students for years. "What" is important but "why" will get you out of jams and help you adjust to ongoing developments.
Thanks for the note and rating. And again, sorry for the delayed response.
Very novice here. When getting the grilling temperature to 450, is this initial 450 with lid open or closed.
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog.
You want the cooking area to be about 450 degrees. Since you are cooking with the lid closed (due to the thickness of the chicken). That means to adjust that way, closed. For more help on grill surface temperature see https://www.101cookingfortwo.com/grill-temperature/
Please let me know if you have questions.
I use a chicken leg hangar. They come out perfect without turning or hovering over them.
So so so good. Finally decided to go out of my comfort zone and try these!
This went great! Thanks for all the tips!
Thanks for the tips. I'm going to try it tonight. First time grilling drumsticks. I'll let you know how they come out.
Loved it. And so did my kids, ages 3,5, and 7. I brined the chicken first in a salt and sugar water brine for an hour, so I just used pepper while grilling. Delish! I'm looking forward to trying and gently ramping up the rub so my girls will like it.
First time my grilled chicken legs were 'crispy!' Followed your recipe exactly. Delicious!
Love love love this recipe. I've made it a few times and it always turns out great. Thank you!
Great tips, my Chicken legs came out great. Thank You!
Hey there: Thanks for the great tips! I had cooked chicken before, but made the same mistakes over and over -- too high heat, and too low a finishing temp. I had always read 165 was the target point, but the chicken (thighs or legs) always came out kinda fatty and stringy. Taking the meat to 185 or even a little higher is the key to great texture. And the 7:2:1 seasoning mix (I also add one part smoked paprika) is all the seasoning you need. I apply it liberally, almost like I'm putting a rub on. It looks like it's going to be too salty, but it's not. The meat comes out crisp and tender and delicious. Thanks!
I made this tonight. Nervous as these were big drumsticks and I’m a novice griller. I tuned every 5-7 min and boy were they crispy and juicy. My only error was not enough seasoning, but will fix that next time.
Are skinless chicken drumsticks okay for this recipe?
I have some doubt about this much prolonged high heat on skinless drumsticks. The method is to get crispy skin and finish the meat. If you want to do skinless, I would suggest a light olive oil brush and probable about 350 degree convection (375 regular oven) to final temp of 180-185. Probably about 45-55 minutes depending on size of drumsticks.
Followed step by step and these turned out very nice, even though I think I still prefer your oven version. It's just more fun to grill :)
Is that celsius or fahrenheit?
So you leave the lid open or close in between clippings?
I hate spell check too.
Closed. General rules. Things under 1/2 inch thick can usually be cooked open. 1/2 to 1 inch is usually closed and 1 inch or more is always closed.
Thank you for this rule of thumb! I've never heard that before and it certainly helps.
How would I do this with open grill over hot coals.
My last experience with charcoal and open grilling is about 40 yrs ago. But here is my best,
You cannot be placing the chicken over high heat. The skin will be burnt black and the meat bloody. So you need to let the charcoal burn down some since it is hottest when it is about 10-15 minutes in so it needs to cool down a bit so probably about 25 minutes after lighting ( a guess) but you will need to cook at least 30 minutes and probably longer, so you need to maintain a temperature. Hard on open charcoal.
On gas, I recommend always to close the lid if the thickness is over 1 inch and you should close the lid if 1/2 to 1 inch. So frequent flipping and a bit longer grilling probably. And remember, you are cooking to a final internal temperature of 185. 165 is safe but stringy and tough.
So charcoal and the open top both present issues. Indirect cooking is possible but I have no suggestions about setup. I would probably cook something else considering the hardware limitations.
I dried the drumsticks and brushed them with oil. It was crispy and didn't stick to the grill.
I enjoyed the spice mix except it was too salty.