Perfectly juicy Grilled BBQ Chicken Legs or Drumsticks are seasoned with simple spices and basted with your favorite barbecue sauce. Learned how to grill chicken legs perfectly every time and be ready to enjoy the best barbecue chicken ever!
Grilled BBQ Chicken Legs
Flavorful bbq chicken drumsticks with a juicy interior and perfectly crispy skin, cooked on a grill, over direct and indirect heat may sound like a complicated task (it’s not!). Grilling bbq chicken over a two-zone fire is the best way to prevent dry chicken with burnt skin (and when it comes to grilled chicken recipes with classic bbq sauce, I think we all have done that).
Although bbq grilled chicken is the perfect summer dinner (alongside hamburgers and hot dogs), I would be lying if I say that I wait for grilling season and backyard cookouts to make this grilled chicken legs recipe.
I am a big fan of all things grilled, so as much as I love cooking on a charcoal or gas grill, a grill pan does the job when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Why You Should Make This Recipe
- Flavorful: Sweet, savory and smoky flavor. This recipe makes fabulously delicious chicken drumsticks.
- Budget Friendly: Skin-on or skinless chicken legs are well priced and often on sale at the supermarket. This is a great meal to feed a crowd.
- Kid Friendly: Grilled bbq chicken legs are easy to eat kids love the flavor of bbq sauce! Win, win!
BBQ Chicken Drumsticks Recipe Ingredients
Be sure to check the printable recipe card below for full ingredients and their exact quantities.
- Chicken Legs: When grilling chicken legs or drumsticks, I prefer skin-on chicken. The skin protects the chicken resulting in tasty and moist meat I’m also a big fan of dark meat chicken pieces. They are flavorful, succulent and juicy. For this recipe you can use chicken thighs, chicken quarters or chicken wings.
- Dry Rub: Instead of a marinade, this recipe uses simple spices that you probably already have in your pantry. Ground cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, sea salt or Kosher salt and ground black pepper.
- Oil: I use olive oil but you can use avocado or vegetable oil.
- Barbecue Sauce: You can use your favorite bbq sauce (homemade or store-bought).
How to Grill BBQ Chicken Legs
These are the highlights of how to make this recipe step by step. I am providing you with detailed instructions for grilling chicken drumsticks on a gas grill and a charcoal grill on the printable recipe card below.
- Mix Spice Rub: In a small bowl, combine the flavorful dry rub
- Season Chicken: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, rub or brush the chicken with olive oil and season with the spice mix. Set aside while you heat up the grill.
- Clean and Oil The Grill Grates: This is an important step that you should never skip!
- Heat up the Grill: We create 2 zones of heat. Direct heat (that’s the hot grill part) and an indirect heat side (or cooler side).
- Grill Over Direct Heat: Place the seasoned chicken pieces on the grill directly over the heat and cook for about 20 minutes, turning once every 5 minutes or so. This is like searing the chicken over high heat!
- Grill Over Indirect Heat: Move the chicken legs to the cooler side of the grill and brush them with bbq sauce. Grill the chicken for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165º F degrees.
- Rest and Serve: Remove chicken from the grill and allow to rest, tented with aluminum foil for 5 to 8 minutes. Enjoy!
The Secret To Perfect Grilled BBQ Chicken
The secret to the best, juiciest, most tender, almost fall-off-the-bone, perfectly cooked grilled BBQ chicken lies in the cooking method!
The term of 2 zone grilling used to intimidate me until I learned that it’s only a fancy term for direct and indirect heat (one area of the grill on, and another area off! Big whoop!
Because barbecue sauce has a high sugar content, it can burn easily. Grilling the chicken with the sauce over high heat produces chicken that is burnt on the outside while the inside is still raw.
- Direct Heat: Starting the grilling process over direct heat (or the part of the grill that is on) without applying the bbq sauce, allows the chicken to cook evenly and steadily while caramelizing and crisping up the skin without burning it. Think of it as “searing”.
- Indirect Heat: After the chicken is almost cooked all the way through, we transfer it to the indirect heat side of the grill (or the part of the grill that is off). This side is close enough to the heat source to cook the chicken steadily and gently without scorching it! During this time, the chicken absorbs the flavors of the barbecue sauce and caramelize the surface without burning it.
How Long to Grill Chicken Legs
The most asked question regarding cooking or grilling chicken is, how long does it take to grill chicken legs? The exact time depends on many factors, for example – how big are the chicken legs and how hot is your grill? Are you using a charcoal grill or a gas grill? Obviously, smaller drumsticks will take less time to grill than bigger ones, etc.
Although I can tell you that approximately it takes about 35 to 40 minutes to grill bone-in chicken drumsticks, the best way to determine the cooking time is by checking the chicken’s internal temperature using a meat thermometer.
The chicken legs are fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165ºF when you check the thickest part of the meat with an instant-read meat thermometer.
At What Temperature Should I Grill Chicken Legs
We set the grill’s temperature to medium-high (400ºF to 425ºF) and we keep one area of the grill off.
How Do You Prevent Chicken Drumsticks From Sticking to the Grill
- Clean the grill’s grates.
- Brush the grates with oil or use cooking spray. Coating the food with oil help as well.
- Keep the grill’s temperature under 450ºF.
Should I Marinate the Chicken with BBQ Sauce
No. Adding BBQ sauce to the chicken early on results in burnt chicken that is still raw inside. Due to the sugar content in barbecue sauce, you should only apply it after the chicken is at least cooked half way through.
What Is The Safe Temperature For Cooked Chicken?
For safety, always cook chicken until the juices run clear and the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use an instant-read thermometer for accuracy.
Storing and Reheating
Storage: Leftover grilled chicken drumsticks will keep, stored in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Reheating: Although you can enjoy bbq chicken legs cold or at room temperature, chicken legs can be reheated in the microwave or in a preheated 300ºF oven, uncovered for about 10-15 minutes. You can also use an air fryer for about 5-7 minutes at 375ºF
What to serve with BBQ Chicken
Here are a few delicious ideas!
- Grilled Asparagus (with Lemon Garlic Butter)
- Homemade Baked Beans
- Grilled Corn (with Orange Honey Butter)
- Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- Cilantro Lime Coleslaw
Follow me on social media for more recipe ideas & inspiration!
Grilled BBQ Chicken Legs
- In a small bowl, combine the ground cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, salt and black pepper. Set aside.
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towels then, rub or brush the chicken with olive oil and season with the spice mix. Rub the seasoning all over the chicken to coat well. Set aside while you heat up the grill
For Gas Grill:
- Clean and oil the grill grates. You can brush the grates with oil or use cooking spray. Preheat an outdoor gas grill to medium-high heat (between 400 – 425ºƒ) and turn off the burners on one side of the grill to create 2 cooking zones. A direct heat zone and an indirect heat zone.
For Charcoal Grill:
- Clean and oil the grates. Light a chimney with enough charcoal to cover half of the grill (Fill a charcoal chimney ¾ full). When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out the coals on one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty. This creates 2-zones, a zone of direct heat and a zone for indirect heat. Set the clean and oiled cooking grate in place, cover the grill, and allow to preheat for about 5 minutes.
For Both Gas and Charcoal Grill:
- Place the seasoned chicken pieces on the grill directly over the heat and cook for about 20 minutes, turning once every 5 minutes or so. You can close the lid in between flipping the chicken). Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill and brush the chicken pieces with bbq sauce.
- Grill over indirect heat for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the chicken's internal temperature reaches 160 – 165 degrees Fahrenheit, brushing the chicken pieces with BBQ sauce every time you turn them, about 2-3 times total.
- Remove the bbq chicken from the grill and allow to rest, tented with aluminum foil for 5 to 8 minutes before serving.
- If you remove the chicken from the grill when the chicken’s internal temperature reaches 160º F, the temperature will rise to 165ºF while the chicken rests. This is due to carryover cooking.