The perfect Summer BBQ treat! These pellet grill smoked chicken legs are smoked until they are tender, juicy, and have the perfect crispy skin.
Chicken legs are an underrated tailgate food, but also so good for so many occasions – games, guys’ night, summer BBQs, and more!
The outside is perfectly crispy with that crackly skin and the whole thing is full of incredible flavor that will have every bone licked clean.
Looking for more tailgate recipes? Check out Best Tailgate Recipes ( Over 50 Recipes)!
The BEST Smoked Chicken Legs Recipe
When I fire up the pellet grill for a tailgate or a backyard bbq, I always throw on a big pack of smoked chicken legs.
Why should you be making Smoked Chicken Legs?
Because they are always a huge hit! Forget smoking a whole chicken; it’s BBQ season and with a few simple ingredients, this recipe will give you incredible chicken and is the easiest and most cost-effective way to feed a lot of people on the cheap!
Smoking Chicken Legs
I’m cooking these smoked chicken legs on a pellet grill, but this recipe will work on any grill or smoker you have.
The key is to get the internal temp of the chicken legs up to about 185 degrees F.
That may sound like a higher temperature than you’d think, but that is because there is bone and dark meat. It needs a higher internal temp to separate from the bone.
I promise it will be tender and juicy with crispy skin if you do it like this. For an even faster and crispier method, try my Butterflied Chicken Legs Recipe.
Ingredient List for Smoked Chicken Legs
Meat/Protein: For this recipe, you will need about ten chicken legs. Suppose you want to serve more people—double or triple the recipe as needed.
For exact amounts, see the recipe card down below.
How to Make Smoked Chicken Legs
Prep the chicken. Remove chicken legs from the packaging and pat dry with a paper towel. Season the legs on all sides and then place them on a half-sheet pan with a drying rack. Let them sit uncovered overnight or for at least a few hours.
Preheat the grill. Preheat the pellet grill to 300 degrees F.
Season, the chicken. Pat the chicken dry and then toss it with the avocado oil, season the chicken a second time lightly and place it on the pellet grill close to the heat source.
Cook. Cook, the chicken for about 90 minutes on a hot grill. Spray the chicken every 30 minutes with cooking spray.
Add your Favorite BBQ Sauce (optional). Once you reach an internal temp between 185-190 degrees f, you can brush them with a sauce or serve them dry.
Serve. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Chicken Wing Prices are Though the Roof…Time to Call an Audible
When you see a place like Wing Stop trying to market chicken thighs, you know wing prices must be crazy high with no price drop coming any time soon.
That’s why I like to grab a pack of drumsticks at the store along with some chicken tenderloins to make grilled chicken tenders.
Using different cuts of meat can save you a ton of money, and honestly, as long as you bring the flavor with the seasoning, everyone will love them, and they won’t miss the chicken wings one bit.
You can even smoke some wings alongside these chicken legs, especially when you’ve got a big crowd to stretch out the food and the wallet a little.
Nobody says to cheap out on good food, but chicken legs are a solid value when you’re grilling out.
Pro Tips and Variations
Oven/Air Fryer: If you don’t want to cook these chicken legs outside, you can roast them in the oven or air fryer at 350 degrees F. for about 30-40 minutes until they reach an internal temp of 185 degrees F for maximum tenderness.
Storage: Before cooking, I pat the chicken legs dry, season them and place them on a half sheet pan with a dry rack so the skin can tighten up overnight.
Brine: I prefer the dry brine method seasoning the chicken legs the night before and leaving them uncovered in the fridge.
Reheat: The best method is to use the air fryer or an oven set to 350 Degrees F and cook for about 15-20 minutes until warm.
Chicken Lollipops: If you want to show off and make drumstick lollipops I have a step-by-step post on how to trim and cook them.
Store: To safely store any leftover smoked chicken legs, allow them to cool to room temperature. After they reach room temperature, place them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag and refrigerate them. You can safely store them in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
Seasoning. Looking to hit your wings with some additional seasoning? Consider using your favorite spice rub or sweet rub, brown sugar, black pepper, garlic powder, or cayenne pepper.
What Seasonings are Best for Smoked Chicken Legs
You can season your Chicken Legs however you like but here are just a few seasoning blends and dry rubs that I love and keep on hand, especially for chicken recipes.
Helpful Cooking Equipment
Wood Chips. Use your favorite type of wood or blend of wood chunks. A nice thing about smoking is that you can play with the wood chip blend or blends to find something you really like for each recipe.
Grills and Smokers. Whether you are using pellet grills, electric smokers, or even a gas or charcoal grill, you will want to pull it out and dust it off for this recipe.
Meat Thermometer. When grilling and smoking, internal temperature matters. I recommend using a digital meat thermometer.
Tongs. A nice pair of grilling tongs will come in handy when it is time to turn your smoked chicken drumsticks on the smoker and when it is time to take them off of the grill or smoker.
Basting Brush. If you plan to add an extra layer of flavor to your smoked chicken legs with your favorite BBQ sauce, then a nice basting brush will come in handy.
Frequently Asked Questions
I cook all dark meat chicken and turkey to 185 degrees F. It comes out more tender, and because of the higher fat content, it will stay juicy. Trust me on this one.
Yes, It’s the same cut of chicken just marketed or labeled differently depending on the region.
Sure, leg quarters are just the leg and the thigh of the chicken still connected. You can cut them apart and smoke them separately, or you can leave the leg quarter whole. Cooking time may take 10-15 extra minutes, depending on the size.
You may not be familiar with the term dry brining, but it has become a popular method of preparing meat for cooking. You probably know that a wet brine is generally a mixture of salt and water. Well, with dry brining, the liquid you use is the juices inside the meat. Season the meat with your favorite flavors or rubs, just make sure that it also includes salt, and you will be dry brining like a pro!
Because the result is juicier, more flavorful food, and the process is a lot easier and less messy than wet brining. You don’t have to find a container to brine in and somewhere to store it in the fridge. Instead, you complete the brining process on a baking sheet!
More Recipes You Will Love
- Smoked Bacon Wrapped Leg of Lamb
- Grilling a Thanksgiving Turkey
- Salt and Pepper Grilled Chicken Wings
- How To Grill Wings With Charcoal
- Smoked Honey Old Bay Wings-Pellet Grill Recipe
Pellet Grill Smoked Chicken Legs
- Pellet Grill or Charcoal Grill
- Remove chicken legs from the packaging and pat dry with a paper towel. Season the legs on all sides and then place on a half sheet pan with a drying rack. Let them sit uncover overnight or at least for a few hours.
- Preheat the pellet grill to 300 degrees F.
- Pat the chicken dry and then toss with avocado oil, season the chicken a second time lightly and place on the pellet grill close to the heat source.
- Cook the chicken for about 90 minutes spraying every 30 minutes with cooking spray
- Once you reach an internal temp between 185-190 degrees you can brush them with a sauce or serve them dry.