Grilled chicken drumsticks roasting over an open flame is as low-fuss as it is satisfying. This recipe is as easy to prepare as it is easy to customize to your own tastes. This meal is perfect for any season.
Then, of course, you will need a hot grill to throw these on, and don't forget your charcoal!
How to grill them over charcoal
This is my favorite way to grill chicken, as the mild meat really takes on the flavors or the charcoal. It can be hard for novice grillmasters to cook drumsticks over charcoal since it lacks traditional temperature controls, but that can easily be overcome by the miracle of indirect heating.
To start, lite your charcoal in a charcoal chimney and after they are piping hot pour them along one side of the grill, leaving the other side vacant of coals. Set your grate on the grill and rub it lightly with cooking oil to prevent sticking.
Here is the key: Do not place the chicken directly over the coals, or they will quickly burn before the meat is cooked through. Instead, line up the chicken just off the coals to ensure they have enough heat to cook, but not enough to burn.
If your chicken is still threatening to burn, just back it up a little further away from the coals. The further you get from the coals the cooler your cooking temperature will be.
Flip and rotate your chicken every five to ten minutes, grilling for approximately 30 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees.
How to grill drumsticks on a propane grill
Grilling your chicken drumsticks over propane is easier because you have temperature control knobs. You will still want to rub your grates with cooking oil though to prevent sticking.
Aim for a cooking surface temperature around 450 degrees, but don't worry if you don't have a thermometer to monitor that. Basically, all you need to do on propane is to keep the heat as high as possible without burning the chicken. If your chicken is burning too quickly, just lower the temperature. Again, plan on grilling for about half an hour.
BBQ Chicken Drumsticks
If you are craving BBQ chicken drumsticks hot off the grill, have no fear, they are effortless to make. Begin by seasoning the drumsticks with salt and pepper, then grill as directed above.
In the final ten minutes start painting the drumsticks with your favorite barbeque sauce as your flip the chicken. The heat from the grill with thicken it slightly and make it wonderfully sticky.
Due to the amount of sugar in BBQ sauces you need to wait until the final minutes of grilling to coat the chicken in the sauce, otherwise, the sauce would quickly burn and your grill would be a complete mess.
Spice rubbed drumsticks
When making spice-rubbed drumsticks the seasoning is added liberally prior to grilling and then cooked exactly as described in the recipe. Try any of these seasoning mixtures with your drumsticks:
- Basic Chicken Seasoning
- BBQ dry rub - Be careful with seasoning blends that contain a lot of sugar, as the sugar will easily burn.
- Blackened chicken
- Creole seasoning
Marinated drumsticks on the grill
Using your preferred chicken marinade, let the drumsticks soak in it for at least thirty minutes, up to a few hours. If your marinade contains a lot of vinegar, don't soak overnight as the vinegar can ruin the texture of the meat.
You can go easy on the seasonings when marinating chicken. Simply using salt and pepper is sufficient, or even a little paprika goes with most marinades. You want to stay away from overly strong flavors that will class with your marinade.
Once the chicken has finished marinating, discard the leftover marinade and grill the chicken as described in the recipe.
What to serve with grilled drumsticks
Expert Tips & Tricks
- If you use a charcoal grill you really should have a charcoal chimney starter. These are not only the easiest way to start charcoal, it also ensures you use a consistent amount of charcoal each time which will improve your grilling.
- Rubbing the grill grates with oil will help prevent the chicken from sticking while it cooks. Let the grates heat up before adding the chicken.
If your drumsticks are burning too easily lower the heat, or move the chicken away from the hottest part of the grill, and also flip the chicken more frequently.
Grill chicken drumsticks for approximately thirty minutes, flipping them every five to ten minutes to prevent burning and ensure they cook evenly. The chicken is done when it reaches 165 degrees.
No, you absolutely do not want to boil the drumsticks prior to grilling. When the drumsticks are grilled properly they will be juicier and have more flavor. Boiling is done primarily as a crutch to ensure you don't serve undercooked chicken, but that can easily be avoided.
The easiest way to tell when your drumsticks are done is with a meat thermometer. The chicken has finished cooking when it reaches 165 degrees. Alternatively, you can also tell by feeling the chicken, but this takes some experience. Raw chicken will be spongier to the touch, getting firmer as it cooks.
Grilled Chicken Drumsticks
- 2 pounds chicken drumsticks
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup BBQ sauce
- Dust the drumsticks with salt and pepper.*
- Fill charcoal chimney full of briquettes and lite. Once roaring hot, pour them onto one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty.
- Place grill grate over the coals and rub with a paper towel soaked in cooking oil to help prevent sticking.
- Once the grate is hot set drumsticks on the grill just off the coals, not directly over them. Grill for 30 minutes, rotating the drumsticks every 5-10 minutes. Back the drumsticks further away from the coals if they are threatening to burn.
- If using BBQ sauce, paint the drumsticks with sauce in the final ten minutes of grilling.**
- Heat your grill surface to approximately 450 degrees and rub the grates with a paper towel soaked in cooking oil.
- When the grates are hot add the chicken and grill for 30 minutes, flipping every 5-10 minutes. If the drumsticks begin to burn, lower the heat.
- Paint the drumsticks in BBQ sauce during the final ten minutes.