Lollipop chicken legs embody everything that is wonderful about classic barbecue. You are taking an inexpensive piece of meat and, with a little work, smoke and knowledge, turning it into something that tastes amazing and will delight your friends and family.
Here is my take on how to make chicken lollipops. I have tried to make it as easy to follow as possible so you can be smoking these on your pit tonight!
Brine the Drumsticks
Using a brine on these drumsticks has two benefits. The chicken will be even juicier and you can cook it to a higher internal temperature without it drying out.
The higher final temperature will make the meat even more tender.
- 1 quart water
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
Mix the ingredients and allow the chicken to brine in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.
Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse with cold water and then pat dry with paper towels.
Trim the Chicken Legs
This part looks tricky but after you do it once or twice it gets pretty easy.
- Start by running a sharp knife around the base of the drumstick. make sure you cut all the way around and through the tendons.
- Using a paper towel, grab, twist and remove the cartilage from the base of the leg.
- Use a pair of scissors and trim away any stray tendons.
- Press the meat all of the way to the other end of the chicken too create the lollipop.
- Season the lollipop liberally with your favorite bbq rub and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before placing it on your smoker.
FYI….I have a great rub for these on my post for Smoked Chicken Legs.
Smoke the Lollipop Chicken
Place the lollipops on your smoker set at 275F and cook them for an hour to give the rub time to set up and form a crust.
After an hour, dunk the meaty section of the drumsticks into a bowl of barbecue sauce. I used Sweet Baby Ray’s for these but any sweet sauce will work fine.
Return the drumsticks to the smoker and allow them to smoke another 30-45 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 185F.
Once the legs hit 185F remove them from the smoker, arrange for presentation and get ready to dig in!
What Wood to Use?
I smoked these lollipops on my Z Grills pellet smoker using an oak/hickory pellet blend and was pleased with the mild smoke flavor profile. If I had smoked these guys in my kettle then I would have used either maple or apple.
Chicken can easily take up too much smoke if you have a heavy hand with the wood. The light smoke of a pellet cooker is a nice way to avoid this problem.
This general framework for smoked chicken legs out to work for you regardless of whether you are cooking in an electric smoker, pellet grill or any other type of smoker as long as you are running at similar temperatures.
Lollipops Chicken Legs
- 2 lbs chicken legs
- 1 quart brine Recipe in NOTES
- 1/2 cup chicken dry rub Recipe in NOTES
- 2 cups Barbecue Sauce
- Place the chicken legs in the brine and let them soak in the refrigerator for four hours.
- Use a sharp knife to cut around the circumference of the base of the chicken leg. Make sure all tendons are cut.
- Push the meat from the base of the drumstick to the top to form the lollipop.
- Season the lollipop with the dry rub
- Smoke the chicken at 275F for one hour.
- Dunk the meat side of the lollipop into barbecue sauce and return to the smoker.
- Continue cooking until an internal temperature of 185F is reached.
- 1 quart water
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup seasoned salt
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon white sugar