There’s something deeply comforting about biting into a grilled chicken leg with delicately crispy skin and tender meat that falls off the bone.
Is it the nostalgia of summertime grilling with friends and family?
Is it because we’re literally holding the food that nourishes us in our hands?
Or is it the flavor of that PERFECT barbecue sauce and spices?
It’s probably a bit of all of it, right?
Stay tuned for our best chicken grilling tips, including:
- Step by step instructions for grilling chicken legs
- How long to grill chicken legs
- How to grill chicken legs on a charcoal vs gas grill
- The safest grilling temperature
- And! 7 chicken drumstick recipes your family will fall in love with.
How to grill chicken legs
Step 1: Always begin by preheating your grill. Aim for medium-high heat, 375-400°F. You need to achieve this higher heat before putting chicken on the grill in order to support even cooking and get that flavorful char on the outside.
Step 2: Season the chicken with your favorite spices. Dry rubs are our in-a-rush preference.
Here’s a simple but reliable dry rub recipe:
- Salt and pepper
- Garlic powder
- *optional* Add any other dried herbs you like.
If you’ve got more time on your hands, use a marinade. Let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight for maximum flavor.
Step 3: Cooking time! Place the chicken legs on the grill grates with the skin side down and immediately close the lid. Cook time is dependent on the thickness of your chicken legs, or if you’re using the recipe below to grill turkey legs.
6-8 minutes per side is a typical ballpark, but it’s important that you use a meat thermometer to confirm that the chicken reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.
Resist the urge to frequently flip the chicken legs while grilling. Disturbing the cooking process can lead to dry meat and prevent the development of the beautiful (and tasty!) external crust.
Step 4: After reaching the minimum internal temperature, remove the chicken legs from the grill and allow them to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Most people are familiar with this resting step when cooking steak, but it’s actually relevant for all meat. Letting meat rest after cooking gives the natural juices time to redistribute, which produces consistent tenderness in every bite.
Serve and enjoy!
Store leftovers tightly wrapped in foil in the refrigerator for no more than 4 days.
How long to grill chicken legs
As we mentioned above, the exact cooking time will vary based on the size of your chicken legs and the temperature of your grill.
As a result, rather than cooking time, we recommend that you pay more attention to the meat’s internal temperature.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, all chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F.
However, unlike our preference for medium-rare steak, we’ve found that the tenderest chicken legs come from cooking to an internal temperature of 185°F and then immediately removing the chicken from the heat source.
Should you cook chicken legs on a charcoal vs gas grill?
With a charcoal grill, the chicken legs will take on the smoky flavor of the charcoal. This produces the more rustic taste many of us associate with barbecue season.
However, keep in mind that the only temperature control available with a charcoal grill is manually adjusting the placement of the coals, which can significantly alter cooking time. Managing coal movement throughout the cooking process can be tricky, to say the least.
Alternatively, a gas grill offers consistent heat, which makes it easier to achieve even cooking. And the absence of charcoal smoke lets the chicken’s natural flavors come through with more prominence.
Under certain conditions, we alternate between both cooking options. This one really comes down to personal preference and skill/confidence with charcoal.
Grilled chicken leg temperature
Below, we’ve provided temperature and cooking time guidance based on three different weight categories.
However, remember that you’ll want to adjust the cooking time if you're grilling boneless chicken legs or if you prefer a more well-done or charred result.
|Weight of Chicken Legs||Cooking Temperature||Cooking Time (per side)|
|8-10 ounces||375-400°F||6-8 minutes|
|10-12 ounces||375-400°F||8-10 minutes|
|12-14 ounces||375-400°F||10-12 minutes|
Chicken Legs with Plums and Bok Choy
7 grilled chicken legs recipes
Some of the recipes below don’t specifically call for grilling, but if you’re drawn to the flavor profile of any, it’s easy enough to swap the cooking method for your grill.
Try something new today!
- Chili Chicken Drumsticks with Mint and Peanuts - Sometimes called “lollipops”, guest Chef Phillip Schaaf will teach you how to master the "frenching" technique that creates a more sophisticated look when you serve this sweet and spicy dish. And don’t skip the included salad recipe for a refreshing crunch!
- Chicken Drumsticks with Cumin and Lentils - This one packs a powerful protein punch. Pair with potatoes or rice for your new favorite fuss-free and nutrient-dense weeknight dinner.
- Sticky Honey Chicken Drumsticks - If a nuanced flavor profile lights you up, this one's for you. Honey sweetness meets miso and soy sauce umami, with citrus tang to round it all out. The delicate sprinkling of sesame seeds makes the presentation of this dish a stunner. And don’t forget the bok choy on the side.
- Mediterranean Chicken Drumsticks - The rich culinary traditions of the Mediterranean give us this mouth-watering and tender dish infused with aromatic herbs and zesty citrus. Serve this with your favorite salad for an easy weeknight meal, or a light lunch when you have guests.
- Chicken Legs with Plums and Bok Choy - Say hello to one-pan bliss. Juicy plums and Chinese five spice powder create an invigorating alternative to the typical poultry seasonings we’re used to. If you have a slightly adventurous palette, this recipe is for you.
- Grilled Chicken Chimichurri & Heirloom Tomato Salad - We’re solidly Team Cilantro, so any recipe with chimichurri gets our attention. (Extra suggestion: Increase the garlic. Thank us later.)
- Grilled Ginger-Glazed Turkey Drumsticks - Yes, this recipe was originally created for turkey drumsticks, but you’ll be delighted by the distinctive ginger glaze (featuring ginger ale as the secret ingredient, no less!) whether your grilled drumsticks are turkey or chicken. Either way, a winner!
Why pasture-raised and regeneratively-farmed chicken makes ALL the difference
Conventionally-raised chickens are often housed in cramped quarters with barely enough room to turn around, much less the freedom to roam natural grassland.
These conditions are inhumane and result in less nutritious and less tasty meat, and also lead to significant environmental degradation.
This is why Grass Roots is firmly committed to regenerative agriculture methods that prioritize meat quality, animal welfare, and the wellbeing of the land that feeds us all.
- Every Grass Roots animal is born, raised and harvested in the USA.
- Our chickens freely scratch and peck on non-GMO pasture every day.
- Absolutely zero added hormones or antibiotics.
- Rotational grazing and other regenerative farming techniques support plant diversity and the restoration of natural waterways.
And every package of Grass Roots meat is flash-frozen immediately after harvesting so that you get the highest quality taste and nutrient density.
Learn more about how we ship our pasture-raised chicken cuts all year round.
This cozy and comforting Paleo chili recipe is filled with ground meat and a ton of veggies to keep you full and satisfied. It’s a Whole30-friendly chili and AIP-compliant, too, with no tomatoes and no beans.
For ground meats: I recommend bison, pork, or beef or a mix! (I used bison and pork).