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Grilling juicy burgers is a classic in the summer and I make baked chicken legs all year round, but there’s just something about the smoky char of grilled chicken legs that brings a unique, irresistible flavor to a meal. The combination of tender meat, crispy skin, and that classic charred taste makes grilled chicken drumsticks perfect for summer!
I love how quickly grilling recipes get to the table, and this dish makes a perfect simple alternative to another favorite of mine, grilled chicken kabobs. They come together as fast as grilled steak and flaky grilled salmon, with juicy and tender results.
Why You’ll Love These Grilled Chicken Legs
- Savory smoky flavor
- Juicy, tender meat
- Perfect crispy skin
- Quick 10-minute prep
- No marinade needed
- Easy, healthy main dish for barbecues and cookouts
Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for chicken legs on the grill what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
- Chicken Drumsticks – For this recipe, you will need bone-in, skin on chicken legs. You can also use the same method for bone-in chicken thighs or chicken leg quarters (grilling time will vary). You’d need a different method for skinless white meat, like grilled chicken breast.
- Olive Oil – You can use any oil you prefer for high-heat cooking, such as avocado oil.
- Spices – For grilling chicken legs, I used a combination of sea salt (or kosher salt works), black pepper, smoked paprika (or regular works), garlic powder, and onion powder to season the chicken.
VARIATION: Use different seasonings.
You could also season the chicken drumsticks with 2 tablespoons of lemon pepper seasoning for a zesty twist, blackened seasoning for a more smoky, spicy flavor, jerk seasoning for a Caribbean flair, or simple poultry seasoning. Or keep the same spices from this recipe, but add cayenne pepper or chili powder for some heat.
How To Grill Chicken Legs
This section shows how to grill chicken drumsticks, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Prep. Clean your grill grates with an oiled paper towel. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Pat the drumsticks dry with paper towels.
TIP: Turn on all the burners for faster cooking, or only half of them for crispier skin.
If using the slower grilling option for crispier skin (see step 4 below), leave half of the burners off.
- Add oil. Brush both sides of each drumstick with olive oil.
- Season. In a small bowl, stir together salt, pepper, paprika, onion and garlic powder. Season drumsticks with the seasoning blend on both sides.
- Grill. For faster grilling, place chicken legs on the grill over direct heat and flip every 5-7 minutes. For the slower method that renders more crispy skin, cook over indirect heat instead and flip halfway through. With both methods, grill skin side down first. Cook until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F.
- Rest. Remove grilled chicken legs from heat and let rest, uncovered, before serving.
How Long To Grill Chicken Legs?
Grill chicken legs over direct heat for about 25 minutes, or for crispier skin, grill over indirect heat for 30-40 minutes. For the juiciest result, chicken drumsticks on the grill should reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees F.
Tips For The Best Grilled Chicken Drumsticks
Whether you use the fast method or the slow method for grilling chicken legs, these tips will help you achieve perfectly juicy meat and a crispy, charred exterior.
- Start with a clean grill. Clean the grates with an oiled paper towel beforehand. Doing so prevents sticking.
- Preheat the grill. Preheating the grill to medium-high heat also prevents sticking and ensures even cooking.
- Grill the presentation side down first. Grilling chicken drumsticks skin side down first gets you the prettiest grill marks.
- Keep the lid closed. Grilling chicken with the lid closed helps retain heat, promotes even cooking, and infuses smoky flavors by trapping and circulating the smoke within the grill.
- For crispy skin, cook over indirect heat. Cooking slowly will allow the fat to render so that the skin gets crispy. But if you want to cook them faster, you can cook over direct heat.
- How to troubleshoot sticking: If the chicken sticks, either the grill isn’t hot enough or the chicken needs to cook for longer before flipping.
- How to avoid flare-ups: If fat drips down and fire flares up, move the chicken to a different spot right away. Flare-ups can cause too much char on the chicken and affect the flavor.
- Use a meat thermometer. This is the best way to ensure your chicken is perfectly cooked! While 165 degrees F is safe, I highly recommend grilling chicken legs to 170 degrees F for juicy results. (This is always my recommended temp for dark meat to make it more juicy; white meat is the opposite.)
- Leave uncovered while resting. Covering will cause a steaming effect that will soften the skin and make it less crispy.
- Store: Place leftover grilled chicken drumsticks in the refrigerator, either in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Store for 3-4 days. You can also remove the meat from the bones and use the leftovers to make BBQ chicken salad.
- Reheat: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, place the chicken on a baking sheet, and heat for about 10-15 minutes until warmed through, or microwave them for a minute or two (but the skin will be soft). You can also reheat chicken legs on the grill itself, but wrap in foil and warm over indirect heat.
- Freeze: Cool completely, then place in airtight freezer bags or containers and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
What To Serve With Grilled Chicken Legs
Now that you’ve mastered the art of grilling chicken legs, complete your meal with some easy sides:
- Grilled Veggies – While the grill is hot, I like to whip up some simple sides like grilled asparagus or cauliflower steak.
- Salads – You can’t go wrong with summer salads like grilled peach salad, sweet mango salad, or super easy cucumber tomato salad.
- BBQ Classics – For a quick and easy BBQ side, pair these grilled chicken drumsticks with a simple potato salad, Instant Pot corn on the cob, or for a lighter side, cauliflower potato salad.
More Chicken Drumstick Recipes
Don’t want chicken legs on the grill? There are plenty of other ways to cook them:
Grilled Chicken Legs
Grilled Chicken Legs
Make the juiciest, BEST grilled chicken legs (drumsticks) with crispy skin using this easy method. A favorite for any barbecue or cookout!
Tap underlined ingredients to see where to get them. Please turn Safari reader mode OFF to view ingredients.
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Clean the grates of your grill with an oiled paper towel before cooking/preheating. Preheat the grill to medium-high for at least 10 minutes. (If using the slower grilling option below, leave half of the burners off.)
Pat the drumsticks dry with paper towels.
Brush both sides of each drumstick with olive oil.
In a small bowl, stir together salt, pepper, paprika, onion and garlic powder. Season drumsticks with the seasoning blend on both sides. (You can also add each seasoning individually instead if you like.)
Fast grilling option: Place drumsticks on the grill over direct heat, skin side down. Cook for about 25 minutes, flipping every 5-7 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees F (77 degrees C).
Slower grilling option for crispier skin: Place the chicken legs on the grill over indirect heat (do not place over a burner that’s on). Close the grill and cook for 15-20 minutes, then flip and cook for another 15-20 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees F (77 degrees C). (The safe internal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees F (74 degrees C), but letting them reach 170 degrees F (77 degrees F) will result in more juicy grilled chicken legs.)
Remove the grilled chicken legs from heat and let rest, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes before serving.
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Serving size: 2 grilled chicken legs
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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