Grilling Chicken Drumsticks (Detailed Guide)

Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: December 5, 2023

Chicken drumsticks are simply delicious and one of the tastiest and juiciest parts of a chicken, apart from the thighs.

You'll find various different recipes on the internet for making the best grilled chicken drumsticks, but we'll tell you what top chefs like John Mitzewich, Gordon Ramsey, and Thomas Keller recommend!

Quick Summary

  • Grilled chicken drumsticks should be prepped, seasoned, and marinated before grilling.
  • The grill must be prepped correctly and at the right surface temperature.
  • It is crucial to achieve the recommended internal temperature if you want perfectly cooked, juicy chicken drumsticks.

Preheating And Prepping The Grill For Chicken Drumsticks

A charcoal grill on fire

We recommend that you prepare your grill before doing anything else.

This way, you can allow the grill to preheat while you prep the chicken, saving you some time and ensuring the grill is properly heated by the time the chicken is prepped.

Two types of grills commonly used are gas grills and charcoal grills. You can also make delicious grilled chicken drumsticks in the over. The way you prep the grill differs, and we all the methods.

Whether you choose to use a gas grill, a charcoal grill, or an oven, you can have amazingly tasty chicken drumsticks as long as you follow the correct prepping instructions for each.

To prep a gas grill, you must preheat the grill to reach a surface temperature of approximately 450° [1].

This should be the medium or medium-high setting on most gas grills. Your grill grates must be clean and oiled before you cook the chicken. You can use a paper towel or a brush to oil the grill grates with some vegetable oil.

To prep a charcoal grill, you need to create two zones. You will need about 4 lbs of charcoal (about 50 briquettes) to prep one-half of the grill.

You will use the other half of the grill to move the chicken pieces that are cooked and browned away from the heat source [2]. Remember to clean and oil the grill grates.

If you're using an oven, switch it on the grill setting and preheat it to a temperature of 450°. Make sure you have a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet available.

Also Read: How to Prepare Chicken Shredded in an Instant Pot

How To Prep Chicken Drumsticks For Grilling

Raw chicken drumsticks on a plate

You can start by removing any excess skin from the drumstick to prep the chicken.

The best way to grill chicken drumsticks is with the skin on, so don't remove the skin entirely.

Before starting the seasoning, you must pat the drumsticks dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture from the skin.

To make sure that the entire drumstick bursts with flavor, Chef John recommends that you make two to three cuts through the skin down to the bone.

This will also help the drumsticks cook more evenly when grilling them [3].

Another expert tip is to season the chicken drumsticks with generous amounts of salt on both sides before you marinade them.

This way, your drumsticks will have enough of a salty flavor that won't depend on how long you leave them to marinate.

How To Marinate Chicken Drumsticks

Cooked chicken legs on a plate

You can make the marinade once you've cleaned and cut the drumsticks and added some salt for seasoning.

Here is a 9-ingredient marinade from top chef Tom Keller for you to try [4]:

  • 2 tablespoons of red chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of hung curd
  • 2 tablespoons of cumin powder

Mix it all together, and voila!

Once you've made the marinade, you're going to place your chicken drumsticks and the marinade in a plastic Zip-Lock bag and mix it with your hands until the chicken is thoroughly covered in the marinade mixture.

Stick the chicken in the fridge and leave it to marinate for up to 12 hours (minimum 4 hours).

You can also marinate it overnight, should you wish to do so, but this isn't necessary.

Leaving it for 6 – 8 hours will be more than sufficient to achieve an amazing flavor. (Useful tip: Don't throw away the excess marinade when you're done).

If you don't want to use a marinade, you can use an all-purpose seasoning (Gordon Ramsey's 7:2:2 spice mix is particularly delicious!) and some cayenne pepper.

How Long To Grill Chicken Drumsticks

A close up shot of stacked up chicken

The length of time required grill a chicken drumstick to perfection depends on the size and thickness of the drumstick.

The thicker the drumstick, the longer it will take to reach the optimal internal temperature and vice versa.

Internal temperature is a very important factor when grilling chicken drumsticks. Therefore, having a meat thermometer is crucial to determine whether the chicken is cooked all the way through.

How To Cook Chicken Drumsticks On A Gas Grill

After cleaning and prepping the grill with oil, you need to check that it has preheated to 450° (as mentioned above).

After you've checked the grill temperature ready, place the chicken on the grill. You need to flip the chicken every 5 minutes so that you don't end up with a brown, crispy outside while the inside is still raw.

As you flip the chicken, also keep checking the internal temperature. Most recipes recommend that chicken be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°.

However, you will find that you will end up with tough and stringy drumsticks when you do this.

According to world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsey, chicken drumsticks tend to be more fibrous and need to be grilled until their internal temperature is around 180°.

Cooking chicken drumsticks using the above method takes approximately 30-35 minutes.

How To Cook Chicken Drumsticks On A Charcoal Grill

Chicken being grilled on charcoal

If you're using a charcoal grill, it is important to ensure that you avoid intense direct heat while grilling the chicken.

You don't want the outside of the chicken all burnt, and you also don't want the inside to be overcooked.

The best way to cook chicken drumsticks on a charcoal grill is to ensure that the flames aren't too big – you don't want charred flame-grilled chicken.

Once the chicken is on the grill, you need to flip them over every 5 minutes, checking the internal temperature regularly.

Once the chicken is a nice brownish color on all sides, move them to the other side of the grill to prevent overcooking them [5].

The aim is to reach an internal temperature of 180°.

Cooking drumsticks on a charcoal grill takes approximately 40 minutes.

How To Cook Chicken Drumsticks In The Oven

Ensure your oven has preheated to 450° and have your baking sheet and pan ready. Once the chicken has been marinated, place them on the baking tray and set the timer for 20-25 minutes.

After you flip them over and check the internal temperature, put them back in the oven for another 20-25 minutes.

Check the internal temperature again. If it is at 180°, then your chicken is done and almost ready to be served.

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About the author

Timothy Woods
CEO / Co-Founder
Timothy Woods holds a Kinesiology and Exercise Science degree from Jacksonville University and is CCC & GMU Certified. He's also the main man behind Carnivore Style. This food aficionado combines science and experience to spread the word about the carnivore lifestyle.
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