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How to: smoke chicken legs on a pellet grill

These smoked drums just might convert a few white meat aficionados.

  • 1 flat of chicken drumsticks (8–10)
  • ¼ cup poultry seasoning or BBQ chicken rub
  • Optional: 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 ¼ hours
  • Servings: 8

When it comes to poultry, people tend to lean one of two ways. They either don’t care much for the dark meat, or they get in early for first dibs on a drumstick.

If you’re the type of person who’s never really reached for a chicken leg, one bite of a smoked drumstick just might change your mind about what your fork hits first.

Since there’s not a lot of meat on the bone, chicken legs are often sold in packs of 8, 10, 20 or more. Weighing in at about 4oz each, they’re typically the most economical part of the bird. You can find legs for about a buck a pound and sometimes close to half that price on sale, making them a great value. But even though they’re not the meatiest or most expensive part of the chicken, when cooked properly they’re arguably the most flavorful, perfect for smoking on your pellet grill.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. 1

    Preheat and prep the grill.

  2. Preheat your pellet grill to 225°F.
  3. Rinse your chicken legs in cool water and pat dry.
  4. 2

    Seasoning the chicken legs.

  5. Evenly season the chicken legs with poultry seasoning.
  6. 3

    Cooking instructions.

  7. Place a digital probe thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken leg without touching bone. Place the chicken legs in the center part of your pellet grill or on an elevated shelf.
  8. 4

    Monitor cooking temperatures.

  9. Smoke the chicken legs at 225°F for one hour. Then increase the heat on your pellet grill to 325°F and cook to an internal temperature of 170°F.
  10. 5

    How do you get crispy smoked chicken legs?

  11. At this point, the chicken is cooked and you’re finishing for a more browned and crispy skin. Continue cooking until the meat reaches 175°F or the skin has crisped to your desired doneness.
  12. 6

    Sauce and serve.

  13. If you plan on saucing the chicken legs, do so now by painting sauce on with a basting brush, and allowing them to cook for an additional 5 minutes.

How long to smoke chicken legs?

One hour is about the perfect amount of time to smoke chicken legs.

It takes about 30 minutes for chicken legs to start absorbing smoky flavor, and even a short smoke bath can add delicious nuances to your dish. 

You can smoke chicken legs for up to three hours but the skin can get rubbery if they smoke for too long at a low temperature. The method used in this recipe adds loads of smoky flavor and makes the skin crispy.

What temperature to smoke chicken legs?

In this recipe we smoke the chicken legs at 225°F for the first hour and then increase the temperature of the pellet grill to finish cooking.

225°F is a great temperature for smoking chicken legs because the pellet grill produces plenty of smoke and the food has time to soak it in. This dish actually brings one type of flavor at the initial smoking temperature and another, different batch of flavors during the warmer roasting, or finishing temperature.

You can smoke chicken legs anywhere between 185°F–275°F with noticeably more smoke on the lower side of the temperature range. At 275°F, your food still absorbs smoke but it will cook faster. It’s a bit of a tight-wire-act smoking food long enough so your taste buds benefit but not so long that the meat becomes dry or rubbery.

We finish this dish by raising the temperature of your pellet grill to 325°F.

How to cook chicken legs on a pellet grill?

It’s basically a two-step process to cook chicken legs on a pellet grill: a smoke bath, followed by a finishing sear. The warmer finishing temperature actually intensifies the taste of the meat and rounds out the smoky flavor.

Which pellets to use for chicken legs?

Kingsford® Hardwood Pellets are the perfect fuel for smoking chicken legs, and add just the right amount of sweet smoke you need to intensify savory dark chicken meat. Cherrywood Pellets are a standout for chicken legs. You’ll also find cherrywood pellets blended into Kingsford® Signature and Classic pellets.

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