Chicken drumsticks are great to cook on your smoker since they are delicious, inexpensive and cook fast. You can easily put a batch of legs on your bbq pit when you get home from work and have them ready to eat for dinner.
Chicken legs are pretty forgiving on the smoker and you don’t have to do much to make them delicious.
I wanted to share the cook times I use for smoking legs at two different temperatures.
Smoking Times at 275 and 325F
Picking the right temperature to smoke legs is a balancing act. When you cook them at really low temperatures like 225F you will end up with meat that is more tender and it will have a stronger smoke flavor simply because it will stay in your bbq pit longer.
When you cook them at higher temperatures like 325F the skin will have a better texture and you get to eat sooner 🙂
I prefer to cook legs at high temps.
I wanted to be able to share some precise cooking temperatures for you so I smoked two batches of drumsticks, one at 275F and the other at 325F.
FYI…I picked 275F as one of the cooking temperatures as that is the maximum temperature for many models of electric smokers.
Each batch rested at room temperature for 30 minutes before being placed on the smoker. I used a Z Grills pellet smoker for these experiments so I would know the exact temperature inside the smoker.
I cooked both batches of legs to an internal temperature of 170F.
Chicken is safe to eat at 165F but I like to take legs a little higher to loosen the meat up a little from all of the little tendons. I take smoked chicken thighs up a little higher to 180F but they have more fat and deal with the higher heat better.
- The legs cooked at 275F took 70 minutes to reach 170F.
- The legs cooked at 325F took 46 minutes to reach 170F.
I was surprised that the 50 degree temperature difference decreased the cook time by 52%. The big takeaway is to always use a digital thermometer to measure internal temperatures and do not rely solely upon time and temperature guides.
These legs got dressed with a little barbecue sauce and were plenty tasty for such a simple technique.
When I did this test with smoked chicken breasts I could tell a real difference between the chicken that was smoked at the two different temperatures. The breasts cooked at 275 were much more tender.
For these legs I didn’t notice any significant differences between the two batches. Both batches were equally tender and extremely juicy.
Do You Need to Brine Drumsticks?
I go back and forth on whether or not to brine drumsticks. You do not need to brine chicken legs but it does make them more juicy and flavorful. On the flip side, if I am cooking a weeknight meal then I often will not have the time to mess with brining.
I certainly used a brine in this article about grilling chicken quarters and in this article about making chicken lollipops.
I did some experiments with brine recipes in this post about brines for smoked chicken breasts and came away with the conclusion that a simple brine works just as well as complex and convoluted brines.
If you decide to brine the recipe I use is:
- 1 quart water
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
Let the legs soak for 2-4 hours.
What is a Good Dry Rub for Smoked Legs?
I used a store bought “Spicy Chicken Rub” for these drumsticks and, while the chicken turned out tasty, was not really impressed by the rub.
Here is simple but delicious rub for chicken legs that you can make at home.
- 1/4 cup smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup seasoned salt (Morton’s or Lawry’s brands)
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
What Wood Should You Use?
For me the choice of wood will depends on what device I am using to smoke the legs.
If you are using a cooker that naturally produces a low smoke profile such as a pellet grill or an electric smoker then use a wood that has a strong flavor such as hickory or pecan.
If you are smoking these on a device that gives a strong smoke profile such as a Weber kettle or Weber Smokey Mountain then use a milder wood such as apple or maple. Z Grills I use hickory.
Smoked Chicken Legs on a Pellet Grill
- 2 lbs chicken legs
- 1/4 cup smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup seasoned salt Morton's or Lawry's
- 2 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- Combine the seasonings (paprika, salt, pepper, chili powder, sugar) and mix well.
- Liberally season the chicken legs and allow the rub to soak into the drumsticks for 30 minutes.
- Set your pellet smoker to 325F. Use Hickory or Pecan Pellets
- Smoke for approximately 45 minutes until an internal temperature of 170F is reached.
- Sauce the legs if desired.