How to Grill Chicken Drumsticks Like a Pro

How to Grill Chicken Drumsticks Like a Pro

When it’s BBQ time, chicken drumsticks are the undisputed stars. Their juicy insides and crispy, flavorful outsides make them a favorite at any backyard bash.

In this guide, we’ll explore the ultimate way to BBQ chicken legs, diving into the unique flavors and grilling techniques that make them so special. Whether you’re a seasoned grill master or a newbie eager to impress, learning how long to cook chicken drumsticks on the BBQ will take your grilling skills to the next level, ensuring mouthwatering, perfectly cooked results every time.

Grill Chicken Drumsticks
Credits to The Kitchn

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Grilling chicken drumsticks isn’t just about making a meal; it’s about creating an experience. Here’s why you’ll find yourself coming back to this recipe time and again:

Ease of Preparation: Chicken drumsticks are straightforward to prepare. With a simple marinade or just a few seasonings, they’re ready for the grill in no time. This makes them perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or a leisurely weekend BBQ.

Delicious Results: The high heat of the grill seals in the juices, ensuring that each drumstick is both crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Combined with the smoky flavors of the BBQ, this results in drumsticks that are irresistibly tasty.

Versatility in Meals: Chicken drumsticks are incredibly versatile. Serve them alongside a simple salad, over a bed of rice, or with a side of grilled vegetables. They can also be stripped off the bone and used in tacos, wraps, or even as a protein boost in a hearty salad.


To make your BBQ chicken drumsticks, you’ll need the following ingredients. We’ve also included some substitutions to help accommodate different dietary preferences or ingredient availability:

  • Chicken Drumsticks: 8 large drumsticks (or use chicken thighs for darker meat with more fat)
  • Olive Oil: 2 tablespoons to help the seasoning stick and crisp the skin (or substitute with avocado or coconut oil)
  • BBQ Seasoning: 3 tablespoons of your favorite BBQ rub (or make your own with brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper)
  • Salt and Pepper: To taste
  • Optional Marinade: Combine 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder (or substitute with a mix of soy sauce, mustard, and maple syrup for a different flavor profile)

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions

Follow these detailed instructions to prepare and grill your chicken drumsticks for the best results:

Prep the Chicken

Before you start grilling, the key to mouthwatering drumsticks is proper preparation to lock in flavor. Marinating chicken legs is highly recommended to boost taste and tenderness:

Marination (Optional but Highly Recommended):

  1. Mix Your Marinade: In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder for a simple yet flavorful marinade.
  2. Marinate the Drumsticks: Submerge the chicken drumsticks in the marinade, making sure each piece is thoroughly coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or, for best results, overnight.


  1. Dry the Chicken: If you skip marinating, start by patting the chicken drumsticks dry with paper towels.
  2. Season Generously: Rub each drumstick with olive oil, then season well with your favorite BBQ seasoning mix, along with salt and pepper.

Cook the Chicken

  1. Once your drumsticks are prepped, it’s time to grill:

Heating the Grill:

  1. Preheat the Grill: Get your grill to a medium-high heat, around 375°F (190°C). This is the sweet spot for cooking drumsticks thoroughly without burning the outside.


  1. Place the Drumsticks: Arrange the chicken on the grill, spacing them evenly to ensure uniform cooking.
  2. Initial Cooking: Close the grill lid and let the drumsticks cook undisturbed for about 10 minutes to seal in juices and create those perfect grill marks.
  3. Flip and Brush: Using tongs, flip each drumstick. If you’re applying more marinade or BBQ sauce, now’s the time to brush it on generously.
  4. Continue Cooking: Close the lid again and grill for another 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F (75°C). Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the grill heat as needed.

Checking for Doneness:

  1. Use a Meat Thermometer: Check the internal temperature by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the drumstick without touching the bone. It should read 165°F (75°C).

Optimal Cooking Time

Nailing the perfect doneness for chicken drumsticks on the BBQ is crucial. Here’s the timing breakdown:

  1. Total Cooking Time: Generally, chicken drumsticks take about 20-25 minutes on a gas grill. The exact time can vary based on the size of the drumsticks and grill heat.
  2. Phase-Based Timing: Cook the drumsticks for about 10 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for another 10-15 minutes on the other side. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C).

Grill Setup and Temperature

Setting up your grill correctly is essential for perfectly cooked chicken drumsticks:

Preheat the Grill:

  1. Warm-Up: Turn your grill to medium-high heat and let it warm up for about 10-15 minutes, aiming for a temperature of around 375°F (190°C).

Indirect Heat Method (Optional):

  1. Use Multiple Burners: If your grill has multiple burners, turn off one burner and place the drumsticks on that side. This allows for indirect cooking, which helps prevent charring.
  2. Adjust Burners: For grills with two burners, set one to high and the other to low or off.

Direct Heat Cooking:

  1. Monitor Closely: If using direct heat, place the drumsticks over the active burners and flip regularly to avoid burning.
  2. Consistent Temperature: Maintain a consistent grill temperature, adjusting the burners as needed to keep the heat even.


  1. Marinating (Optional):
    • Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl and coat the drumsticks evenly.
    • Let them marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or overnight for deeper flavor.
  2. Seasoning:
    • If not marinating, simply coat the drumsticks with olive oil and then apply your BBQ seasoning, along with salt and pepper.

Preheat the Grill

  1. Heat the Grill:
    • Heat your grill to a medium-high heat, aiming for around 375°F (190°C).
    • If using a charcoal grill, make sure the coals are evenly distributed.

Grilling the Drumsticks

  1. Cook the Drumsticks:
    • Place the drumsticks on the grill. Close the lid and let them cook for about 10 minutes.
    • Turn the drumsticks, applying more BBQ sauce if desired, and close the lid again. Continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the drumsticks reach an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C).


  1. Let the Drumsticks Rest:
    • Once cooked, remove the drumsticks from the grill and let them rest for about 5 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring your drumsticks are juicy and flavorful.


  1. Serve Hot:
    • Serve your BBQ chicken drumsticks hot off the grill with your favorite sides, like coleslaw, corn on the cob, or a fresh garden salad.
Marinating Chicken Drumsticks
Preheat the Grill
Credits to Grillaholics
Credits to Scrappy Geek
Let the Drumsticks Rest:
Credits to Jersey Girl Cooks
Serve your BBQ chicken drumsticks hot off the grill with your favorite sides, like coleslaw, corn on the cob, or a fresh garden salad.
Credits to Little Family Adventure

Serving Suggestions

Grilled chicken drumsticks pair wonderfully with various side dishes and sauces. Here are some ideas to round out your BBQ feast:

Side Dishes:

  1. Classic Coleslaw: Adds a crunchy, creamy contrast to the smoky chicken.
  2. Grilled Vegetables: Bell peppers, asparagus, and zucchini make for a colorful and healthy option.
  3. Corn on the Cob: Whether grilled or boiled, corn is a BBQ staple.
  4. Potato Salad: Opt for a traditional creamy version or a lighter one with olive oil and herbs.


  1. BBQ Sauce: Offer a variety of BBQ sauces, from sweet and tangy to spicy.
  2. Garlic Aioli: Adds a creamy, rich flavor that contrasts nicely with the crispy chicken.
  3. Chimichurri: A vibrant, herby sauce that provides a tangy kick.


  1. Garlic Bread: Toasted garlic bread is perfect for those who love a crunchy, flavorful side.
  2. Dinner Rolls: Soft rolls are ideal for soaking up any extra sauce or juices.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Storing Leftovers

  1. Cooling:
    • Allow the grilled chicken drumsticks to cool to room temperature before storing. However, don’t leave them out for more than two hours to prevent bacterial growth.
  2. Refrigeration:
    • Place the cooled drumsticks in an airtight container or wrap them tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
    • Refrigerate the drumsticks within two hours of cooking. They will last for up to 3-4 days when stored properly in the refrigerator.
storing leftovers Grill Chicken Drumsticks Like a Pro
Credits to Womanandhome

Reheating Leftovers

  1. Oven Method (Recommended):
    • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
    • Arrange the drumsticks on a baking sheet and cover them loosely with aluminum foil to prevent them from drying out.
    • Reheat for about 10-15 minutes, or until they are heated through and reach an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C).
  2. 2.Microwave Method:
    • Place the drumsticks in a microwave-safe dish and cover with a damp paper towel to help maintain moisture.
    • Use the reheat setting or set the microwave to medium power and heat for 1-2 minutes, checking periodically to ensure they are heated evenly.
    • Continue heating in 30-second increments until the desired temperature is reached.
Reheating Leftovers chicken drumsticks
Credits to Umy Recipes

Tips for Perfect Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

  1. Dry Rubs and Seasonings:
    • Apply a generous amount of dry rub or seasonings before grilling to create a flavorful crust. Ingredients like paprika, garlic powder, and brown sugar can add depth and complexity to the flavor.
  2. Avoid Overcrowding:
    • Give each drumstick enough space on the grill. Overcrowding can lower the grill temperature and lead to uneven cooking.
  3. Use a Meat Thermometer:
    • The best way to ensure your chicken is cooked safely and remains juicy is to use a meat thermometer. Chicken is safe to eat once it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C). Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the drumstick without touching the bone.
  4. Baste to Boost Moisture and Flavor:
    • If you like, baste your drumsticks with a little extra marinade or a suitable sauce during the last few minutes of grilling. This adds moisture and layers of flavor.

Variations and Flavor Options

Grilled chicken drumsticks are incredibly versatile, allowing for a range of flavor profiles depending on your taste preferences or the occasion. Here are some exciting variations to try:

  1. Marinades:
    • Classic BBQ: Mix your favorite BBQ sauce with a little honey and apple cider vinegar for a sweet and tangy flavor.
    • Lemon Garlic: Combine olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and herbs like rosemary and thyme for a Mediterranean touch.
    • Spicy Chipotle: Blend chipotle peppers in adobo sauce with lime juice and cilantro for a smoky, spicy kick.
  2. Dry Rubs:
    • Smoky Paprika Rub: Create a rub with smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground cumin for a smoky flavor.
    • Sweet and Spicy Rub: Mix brown sugar with chili powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper for a balance of sweet heat.
    • Herbaceous Rub: Use a combination of dried oregano, sage, thyme, and basil for an aromatic and herby profile.
  3. Glazes:
    • Honey Mustard Glaze: Whisk together honey, Dijon mustard, and a splash of soy sauce for a glossy, tangy glaze.
    • Teriyaki Glaze: Simmer soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and a touch of sesame oil until thickened for an Asian-inspired flavor.
    • Balsamic Reduction: Reduce balsamic vinegar with a bit of sugar until syrupy for a rich, decadent finish.

Nutrition Information

The nutritional value of grilled chicken drumsticks can vary based on the seasonings and marinades used, but here is a general breakdown based on a basic preparation of one drumstick without additional sauces:

  • Calories: Approximately 120-150 calories per drumstick
  • Protein: Roughly 17-20 grams of protein
  • Fat: About 5-7 grams of fat
  • Carbohydrates: Less than 1 gram if not using any sugary marinades or sauces
  • Cholesterol: Around 70-80 milligrams
  • Sodium: Varies greatly depending on the seasoning, approximately 70-200 milligrams
  • Fiber: Generally 0 grams unless served with a fibrous side
Nutrition Information  of grilled chicken drumsticks
Credits to Qasri Hills

These values can help you consider how grilled chicken drumsticks fit into your dietary needs. Keep in mind that adding marinades, especially those containing sugar, oil, or soy sauce, can alter these numbers significantly. For those watching their intake of sodium or sugars, opt for natural herbs and spices to flavor the drumsticks.

How to Grill Chicken Drumsticks Like a Pro
Credits to Scrappy Geek

Current Statistics: According to recent data, the popularity of grilling has been on the rise, with over 70% of U.S. households owning a grill or smoker. Chicken remains one of the most grilled items, with chicken drumsticks being a favorite due to their affordability and flavor. The average American consumes around 93 pounds of chicken per year, reflecting its status as a staple in many diets.

Mastering the art of grilling chicken drumsticks will elevate your BBQ game, making you the hero of any cookout. With these tips and techniques, you’ll ensure that every drumstick you grill is juicy, flavorful, and perfectly cooked. So, fire up that grill and get ready to impress your friends and family with some mouthwatering chicken drumsticks!


To prevent sticking, make sure your grill grates are clean and well-oiled. You can oil the grates by dipping a paper towel in oil and using tongs to rub it over the grates. Additionally, ensure that the chicken is lightly coated with oil before placing it on the grill.

Yes, you can use frozen chicken drumsticks, but it’s best to thaw them completely before grilling to ensure even cooking. Thaw the drumsticks in the refrigerator overnight or use the defrost setting on your microwave. Cooking from frozen can lead to uneven cooking and potentially undercooked meat.

For a mild, sweet flavor, apple or cherry wood chips are excellent choices. If you prefer a stronger, more robust flavor, hickory or mesquite wood chips work well. Soak the wood chips in water for about 30 minutes before adding them to the smoker or placing them in a smoker box on a gas grill.

To gauge the grill temperature without a thermometer, hold your hand about five inches above the grill grates. If you can only keep your hand there for 4-5 seconds, the grill is at medium-high heat (around 375°F to 400°F). Using a built-in grill thermometer or an infrared thermometer is more accurate.

Absolutely! To set up a gas grill for indirect cooking, turn on only one or two burners (depending on your grill size) and leave the others off. Place the chicken drumsticks on the cooler side of the grill, away from the direct heat. This method ensures even cooking without burning the exterior of the drumsticks.

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