Smoked Chicken Legs

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Make these easy Smoked Chicken Legs on your smoker or grill and enjoy juicy drumsticks that are perfect for tailgates, game day, and backyard barbecues!

smoked chicken leg being lifted by kitchen tongs.
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Why You'll Love This Recipe

  • ready to pop in the smoker in just minutes
  • deep smoky flavor with crispy skin
  • feeds a large crowd at parties and tailgates
  • tastes great with all types of southern sides
  • kid approved and budget friendly!

Recipe Spotlight

This recipe for smoked chicken drumsticks couldn't be more simple. I'll show you how to make the best smoked chicken legs ever...with tender, juicy meat and crispy skin!

Planning a party or a cookout with friends? Smoked chicken legs serve a large group and can be eaten with one hand so they're a popular choice for parties. Kids can't get enough!

Drumsticks are also a favorite way to celebrate the big game. Gather 'round your electric pellet smoker and enjoy tailgating while the delicious smoke flavor is doing its thing!

If you love using a Traeger pellet grill or other types of electric smokers, try my simple recipe for Smoked Chicken Thighs and Smoked Chuck Roast.

chicken legs cooking on Traeger grill.

Equipment Needed

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What Type of Wood is Best for Smoking?

Mesquite wood is intense and gives any type of meat a strong smoke flavor. Hickory falls somewhere in the middle. If you prefer something more subtle, try apple, pecan or cherry.

For reference, I cook on a Traeger Pro Series 22 grill (ad) and prefer using mesquite or hickory wood pellets for all of my smoked poultry recipes. I always use hardwood and stick to Traeger brand pellets for best results.

Ingredients

This recipe uses simple ingredients that will be ready to throw on the grill or smoker in a couple of minutes!

Feel free to use any spice rub you wish, or make it from scratch with my recipe below that has incredible flavor! See the recipe card for quantities.

  • garlic powder - a must for every dry rub
  • onion powder - provides onion flavor without the tears!
  • chili powder - gives the rub a little heat, but not too much
  • smoked paprika - choose the smoked version
  • black pepper - a good base that provides a little kick
  • kosher salt - enhances the flavor of the other spices
  • brown sugar - provides the caramelization and crunchy skin we all love
  • instant coffee granules - must be granulated instant coffee and not coffee grounds
  • bone in chicken legs with skin on - be sure to choose fresh, plump chicken
raw chicken legs on a sheet pan.

How to Smoke Chicken Legs

  • This chicken leg recipe doesn't need a lot of prep, so the best way to start is by making the dry rub. You can use your favorite rub or try my homemade spice blend which creates crispy, crunchy skin.
spice rub in a bowl.
  • The spice rub sticks better if you dry the drumsticks first and don't coat them with oil or sauce beforehand. Sometimes oil will cause the spices to slide off the drumsticks and you'll lose flavor and crunch.
  • Combine all spices together in a mason jar or container. Shake or mix well.
chicken legs sprinkled with dry rub.
  • Dry drumsticks with a paper towel and place on a sheet pan. Sprinkle dry rub on top of drumsticks, then turn over and add spices on the other side. Rub in with your hands until the spices fully saturate the legs.
spice rub after it has been rubbed into chicken.
  • Preheat the smoker to 275 degrees F. (This higher temperature keeps the skin crispy.)
  • Place chicken legs on the smoker rack and insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the drumstick. It's time to start the smoking process!
thermometer probe inserted into chicken leg.
  • Close the lid and smoke until the internal temperature of the chicken legs reaches 175 degrees.
  • Remove drumsticks from grill grate and rest on a plate for 30 minutes. Do not cover or the skin will become rubbery. Serve as is...or with your favorite bbq sauce!
cast iron plate filled with smoked chicken legs.

Smoking Guide

Even though chicken is fully cooked at 165 degrees F, dark meat needs to cook at least 10 degrees higher for best results. Anything less and the meat doesn't fall off the bone.

While the chicken legs are resting, be sure not to cover them with aluminum foil or any type of lid. (The crispy chicken skin you worked so hard to achieve will turn soggy if covered.)

Top Tips

Dark meat tastes better when smoked at a higher temp and cooked longer than white meat. It should be smoked at 275º F until the internal temperature reaches 175º F.

  • use a brown sugar dry rub for crispy skin
  • cook to temperature, not to time
  • skin-on chicken legs are crunchier
  • use mesquite wood pellets for best flavor
  • let drumsticks rest for at least 30 minutes
  • avoid rubbery skin by not covering legs

Recipe FAQS

How long does it take to smoke chicken legs at 275?

It's best to cook to temperature instead of time, but as an estimate, it takes anywhere from 1 ½ hours to 2 hours to smoke drumsticks at 275º F. The time depends on several factors, including outside temperature, the size of the meat, and type of smoker used.

Can the same dry rub be used for chicken wings and chicken breast?

Absolutely! In fact, you can use this dry rub recipe for all of your chicken and pork recipes. The brown sugar creates the perfect crust for poultry.

How long does smoked chicken last?

A good rule of thumb is to keep it in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. But, just to be safe, follow these USDA guidelines for food safety.

How do you make crispy chicken skin?

There are several ways to make the skin crispy. First, use a dry rub containing brown sugar for perfect caramelization. Next, smoke chicken at 275º without adding any sauce or spritzers. Finally, don't cover meat with foil or a lid while it's resting. If the skin still isn't crispy after it's fully cooked, place drumsticks on a sheet pan and broil in an oven at 500 degrees for a few minutes.

smoked chicken legs on grill grate in smoker.

What to Serve With Chicken Legs

What sides go best with smoked chicken legs? A small bowl of Blue Cheese Dip is awesome, but be sure to try these other southern favorites...

For the perfect backyard party or cookout, serve all of the above side dishes together and you'll be the talk of the town!

More Cookout Recipes

There's nothing quite like a southern BBQ Cookout! Try these meats as the perfect accompaniment to smoked drumsticks.

Storage and Freezing

Leftover chicken legs taste great the next day! Just reheat them on the smoker at 275º F, or pop them in the oven at 350º until heated throughout (about 10 minutes).

Using the microwave will make the skin rubbery so it's best to use the smoker or oven for reheating.

Drumsticks freeze well if placed in an airtight container or vacuum packed. They will freeze up to 6 months and can be thawed in the refrigerator overnight when ready to cook. Reheat on the smoker to crisp up the skin or place in a 350º oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Recipe Card

smoked chicken leg being grasped by a pair of tongs.

Smoked Chicken Legs

Make these easy Smoked Chicken Legs on your smoker or grill and enjoy juicy drumsticks that are perfect for tailgates, game day, and backyard barbecues!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: BBQ, Smoked Meat
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 322kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 12 bone in chicken legs with skin on

Instructions

  • Combine all spices together in a mason jar or container. Shake or mix well.
  • Dry chicken legs with a paper towel and place on a sheet pan. Sprinkle dry rub on top of drumsticks, then turn over and add spices on the other side. Rub in with your hands until the spices fully saturate the legs.
  • Preheat the smoker to 275 degrees F. (This higher temperature keeps the skin crispy.)
  • Place chicken on the smoker rack and insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the drumstick.
  • Close the lid and smoke until the internal temperature of the chicken legs reaches 175 degrees.
  • Remove drumsticks from grill grate and rest on a plate for 30 minutes. Do not cover or the skin will become rubbery.
  • Serve as is...or with your favorite bbq sauce!

Notes

  • Even though chicken is fully cooked at 165 degrees F, dark meat needs to cook at least 10 degrees higher for best results. Anything less and the meat doesn't fall off the bone.
  • Leftover chicken legs taste great the next day! Just reheat them on the smoker at 275º F, or pop them in the oven at 350º until heated throughout (about 10 minutes).

Nutrition

Calories: 322kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 317mg | Potassium: 345mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin C: 0.4mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    I'm excited to find a new recipe to make on my Traeger grill. I love how the skin looks so crispy! Can't wait to try.

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