Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: August 11, 2023

With over a decade of experience as a barbecue enthusiast on a carnivorous diet, I can confidently say that smoked chicken legs have revolutionized my culinary experience.

Drumsticks take on the flavors of the dry rub and smoke while remaining juicy and soft, and crispy on the outside.

I talked to a local pitmaster about how to smoke chicken legs and developed a simple smoked chicken legs recipe that will please even the pickiest diners.

Quick Summary

  • Chicken legs are best smoked in a smoker at 450°F.
  • It takes roughly 2 hours to smoke chicken legs.
  • The best way to add flavor to your chicken is by using a dry rub.

5 Steps to Smoking Chicken Legs

raw chicken rubbed with spices

Follow these steps to get the juiciest results.

1. Prepare the Chicken

While you prepare the dry rub, take the legs out of the refrigerator for a little while.

In a small bowl, mix the following spices: olive oil, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and brown sugar, and set aside.

Dry the chicken legs with a paper towel before applying enough dry rub and carefully pressing it into the skin to ensure it sticks.

"The spice mixture for the smoked chicken legs can be as simple or as rich as you wish."
- Aaron Franklin, American Pitmaster & BBQ Chef

2. Preheat the Smoker

Let the chicken legs with the dry rub sit at room temperature as the smoker warms up.

3. Smoke the Chicken Legs

a photo of a smoked chicken leg pierced with a knife

Arrange the chicken legs neatly on the smoker grill once it has heated up, then secure the lid.

Smoke for about 90 minutes at 225°F or until a meat thermometer registers a minimum of 165°F in the thickest area of the drumstick [1].

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4. Sear the Chicken Legs

Crank the heat to a high setting of roughly 450°F once the chicken legs have finished cooking.

I recommend waiting for the legs to attain the recommended temperature while leaving them on the grill grates.

Start flipping the legs every 2 minutes once the smoker gets 450°F until you get crispy skin.

5. Rest

Remove them from the smoker and let them sit for five minutes to spread the juices before serving.

6 Tips for Best Smoked Chicken Legs

smoked chicken legs on a tray

Use these top tips to make the best-smoked chicken legs:

  • Moisture: To remove any extra moisture, pat the chicken legs dry with a paper towel.
  • Flavor: An excellent tip to enhance the flavor of smoked chicken is to use a dry rub.
  • Avoid overcooking: Chicken is thoroughly done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F. But dark meat like drumsticks is ready when cooked to 175. Typically, I remove my smoked chicken legs from the grill at 170 degrees because it will continue to heat up while it rests.
  • 225 degrees: This is an ideal temperature for smoking chicken. Use this temperature for your smoked chicken recipes, and then sear the chicken at the end to get the best of both worlds—that smokey flavor and that crispy skin.
  • Use cooking spray: Spritz the chicken legs with cooking spray just before smoking to prevent them from sticking, and again after flipping them over to turn the chicken skin crispy.
  • Pellets: Most pellets will work in a smoker or pellet barbecue, but cherry, apple, or pecan perform exceptionally well and have a delicious flavor. If too much smoke is produced, try switching to a new batch of pellets.

Side Dishes for Smoked Chicken Legs

Try serving smoked chicken legs with mac and cheese, some delicious creamed corn, or grilled green beans with feta cheese if you're serving them as the main course at dinner or picnic.

The drumsticks pair wonderfully with the popular taco salads, roasted sweet corn, and simple pickled vegetables like carrots that provide a bit of flavor and loads of crunch in larger barbecues and parties.

Use dipping sauces like teriyaki, goat cheese, honey mustard, BBQ sauce, and sweet and sour sauce for extra flavor.

A creamy blue cheese dip, red chili, and sweet bbq sauce are two of my favorite spices and dips for smoked legs.

Also Read: Instant Pot Chicken Drumsticks Recipe

Storing and Reheating Chicken Legs

cooked chicken legs in a glassware

After being smoked, leftover chicken legs can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days in an airtight container [2].

These taste good, especially when dipped in some BBQ sauce.

A medium grill is an ideal surface for reheating a smoked chicken leg.

Usually, warming through takes 10 to 15 minutes on medium heat.

The legs should be rotated every 5 to 7 minutes to ensure the skin crisps up.

They can also be reheated for 15 to 20 minutes in a 350°F (177°C) oven using a roasting pan or a baking sheet.

Also Read: How to Reheat Chicken Wings

Recipe Idea: Smoked Chicken Drumsticks Recipe

If you enjoy chicken drumsticks, this smoked chicken legs recipe is an excellent option whether you're using a traditional or electric smoker.

Recipe Overview

raw chicken legs with spices
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Servings: 4 people


  • 8 fresh or frozen chicken drumsticks: If they're frozen, thaw them in a refrigerator before cooking.
  • Olive oil: Any neutral oil, including vegetable, avocado, canola, grapeseed, or peanut oil.

Smoked Chicken Dry Rub

  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground dried ginger


a photo of raw chicken drumsticks and olive oil on a wooden board
  1. Heat a smoker to 225℉ by adding wood chips, pellets, or logs if necessary. Cherry or apple wood are my two preferred types of wood chips to use in this recipe. Hickory and pecan wood are very powerful for chicken, so I do not suggest using them.
  2. Dry the chicken legs with a paper towel before putting them in a deep bowl.
  3. Combine the salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, oregano, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne powder in a small bowl with the brown sugar.
  4. Pour olive oil over the chicken legs and toss to massage all the meat.
  5. Rub the spices into the skin with your fingers.
  6. Close the lid after setting the chicken legs on the smoker grates with indirect heat.
  7. Cook the chicken legs in the smoker for about 90 minutes. Check the internal temperature of one drumstick's thickest portion using a digital meat thermometer.
  8. Remove from the smoker if you are smoking your chicken legs dry or without any sauce when the internal temperature reads 165. If you want to baste the meat with your favorite bbq sauce, do so when it reaches 165°F on the inside.
  9. The smoked chicken legs should sit at room temperature for 5 minutes after being removed from the smoker. Resting prevents the fluids from leaking out when you bite into the drumsticks.

Recipe Notes

  • On average, chicken legs produce 1.5 oz of meat per leg, so if you're serving a nice variety of sides, aim to serve two chicken legs per person. Plan to do three legs per person if your side dishes are small.
  • You can replace the recommended herb with your preferred dry rub. This smoked chicken leg recipe yields a rub enough for two chicken dishes. Put any leftover rub in an airtight jar for storage. It can be kept for up to seven days in the refrigerator.
  • Don't cover the chicken thighs after smoking them; doing so will cause the skin to turn rubbery. For juicy meat, let them sit unattended for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  • The leg and thigh parts frequently need to be trimmed to eliminate extra skin and fat, which may be done quickly with kitchen shears. You are not required to cut them, so you may choose not to. Leave a sensible amount of skin to keep the chicken moist, juicy, and tender.
  • Grill chicken for two to three minutes over high heat for additional crispy chicken skin.

Nutrition Facts (Per Drumstick):

  • Calories: 158 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Protein: 25g
  • Fat: 7g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Net carbs: 1g


How Long to Smoke Chicken Legs at 225°F?

You should smoke chicken legs at 225°F between 1 and a half and 2 hours. The length of time varies depending on external temperature, the meat's size, and the type of smoker.

How Do I Know Chicken Legs Are Ready?

Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature to tell you if your chicken legs are ready. The recommended temperature is 165-175°F.

Perfecting Smoked Chicken Legs

This recipe for smoked drumsticks is ideal for picnics, backyard cookouts, and gatherings.

The drumsticks can be served hot from the smoker or crisped on the grill after being covered in your favorite barbecue sauce.

A top-grade and freshest chicken is, of course, the ideal way to begin a recipe.

If you're unsure where to begin, consider using ButcherBox, a meat delivery service that will send free-range, humanely farmed, GMO-free meat to your house.

The service provides various shipping options, so check out ButcherBox by going to our homepage and learning more about them.


  1. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2022/10/03/cooking-meat-it-done-yet#
  2. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/leftovers-and-food-safety
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