Ultimate Guide to Barbecuing Chicken Drumsticks

How Long To Cook Chicken Drumsticks On The BBQ

When it comes to firing up the BBQ, nothing beats the sizzle of chicken drumsticks on the grill. Known for their juicy interior and crispy, flavorful exterior, drumsticks are a crowd-pleaser at any outdoor gathering.

This guide will delve into the best way to BBQ chicken legs, focusing on the unique flavors and grilling techniques that set them apart. Whether you’re a seasoned grill master or a novice looking to impress, mastering the how long to cook chicken drumsticks on the BBQ will elevate your grilling game, ensuring perfectly cooked, delicious results every time.

BBQ Chicken Drumsticks: Cooking Time Guide
Credits to Man Who Eats

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Cooking chicken drumsticks on the BBQ isn’t just about making a meal; it’s about creating an experience. Here’s why you’ll find yourself coming back to this recipe time and again:

  1. Ease of Preparation: Chicken drumsticks are straightforward to prepare. With a simple marinade or even just a few seasonings, they’re ready for the grill in no time. This makes them perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or a leisurely weekend BBQ.
  2. Delicious Results: The high heat of the grill seals in the juices, ensuring that each drumstick is both crispy on the outside and succulently juicy on the inside. This perfect texture, combined with the smoky flavors of the BBQ, results in drumsticks that are irresistibly tasty.
  3. Versatility in Meals: Chicken drumsticks are incredibly versatile. Serve them alongside a simple salad, over a bed of rice, or with a side of grilled vegetables. They can also be stripped off the bone and used in tacos, wraps, or even as a protein boost in a hearty salad.


To make your BBQ chicken drumsticks, you’ll need the following ingredients. We’ve also included some substitutions to help accommodate different dietary preferences or ingredient availability:

Ingredients for Chicken Drumsticks On The BBQ
Credits to Chef Dennis
  • Chicken Drumsticks: 8 large drumsticks
    • Substitution: You can use chicken thighs if you prefer darker meat with a bit more fat.
  • Olive Oil: 2 tablespoons to help the seasoning stick and crisp the skin
    • Substitution: Avocado oil or coconut oil are great alternatives.
  • BBQ Seasoning: 3 tablespoons of your favorite BBQ rub
    • Substitution: Make your own with brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.
  • Salt and Pepper: To taste
  • Optional Marinade (for extra flavor): Combine 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder.
    • Substitution: Use a mix of soy sauce, mustard, and maple syrup for a different flavor profile.

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions

Follow these detailed instructions to prepare and grill your chicken drumsticks for the best results:


  • If using, mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl and coat the drumsticks evenly. Let them marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or overnight for deeper flavor.
  • If not marinating, simply coat the drumsticks with olive oil and then liberally apply your BBQ seasoning, along with salt and pepper.

Preheat the Grill:

Heat your grill to a medium-high heat, aiming for around 375°F (190°C). If using a charcoal grill, make sure the coals are evenly distributed.

Grilling the Drumsticks:

  • Place the drumsticks on the grill. Close the lid and let them cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Turn the drumsticks, applying more BBQ sauce if desired, and close the lid again. Continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the drumsticks reach an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C).


Once cooked, remove the drumsticks from the grill and let them rest for about 5 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring your drumsticks are juicy and flavorful.


Serve your BBQ chicken drumsticks hot off the grill with your favorite sides, like coleslaw, corn on the cob, or a fresh garden salad.

how long to cook chicken drumsticks on the BBQ
Credits to A Family Feast

Prep the Chicken

Before you fire up the grill, the first step is to properly prepare your drumsticks to maximize flavor. Marinating chicken legs for BBQ is one of the best ways to infuse them with extra taste and tenderness:

  1. Marination (Optional but recommended):
    • In a large bowl, mix together your chosen marinade ingredients. For a basic marinade, combine 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder.
    • Submerge the chicken drumsticks in the marinade, ensuring each piece is well-coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight for best results.
  2. Seasoning:
    • If you choose not to marinate, start by patting the chicken drumsticks dry with paper towels.
    • Rub each drumstick with olive oil, then season generously with your BBQ seasoning mix, salt, and pepper to ensure every bite is flavorful.
Marinating BBQ Chicken Drumsticks
Credits to Johwan Doh, DDS
Seasoning BBQ Chicken Drumsticks: Cooking Time Guide
Credits to Real Simple Good

Cook the Chicken

Once your chicken drumsticks are prepped, it’s time to grill:

  1. Heating the Grill:
    • Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat, around 375°F (190°C). This temperature is ideal for cooking drumsticks thoroughly without burning the outside.
  2. Grilling:
    • Place the chicken on the grill, spacing them evenly to ensure consistent cooking.
    • Close the grill lid and let the drumsticks cook undisturbed for about 10 minutes. This helps to seal in the juices and get those perfect grill marks.
    • Flip each drumstick using tongs. If applying more marinade or BBQ sauce, now is the time to brush it on generously.
    • Close the lid again and continue grilling for another 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C). Make sure to monitor the temperature and adjust your grill heat as needed.
  3. Checking for Doneness:
    • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature by inserting it into the thickest part of the drumstick without touching the bone.
Guide on how long to cook chicken drumsticks on the BBQ
Credits to Eat at Home Cooks

Grilling chicken drumsticks to perfection involves careful temperature control and the right flipping techniques to ensure they are cooked evenly and retain their juiciness.

Optimal Cooking Time

Achieving the perfect doneness for chicken drumsticks on the BBQ is key to a successful meal. Here’s what you need to know about the timing:

  • Total Cooking Time: Generally, chicken drumsticks take about 20-25 minutes on a gas grill. However, the exact time can vary based on the size of the drumsticks and the heat of your grill.
  • Phase-Based Timing:
    • Cook the drumsticks for about 10 minutes on one side, then turn them over and cook for another 10-15 minutes on the other side.
    • It’s important to use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C), which is safe for poultry.
How Long Should You BBQ Chicken Drumsticks?
Credits to My Sequined Life

Remember, consistent heat and regular flipping are essential to prevent burning and ensure that each drumstick is cooked evenly throughout.

Grill Setup and Temperature

Setting up your grill correctly is crucial for cooking chicken drumsticks perfectly. Here’s how to optimize your gas grill setup:

  • Preheat the Grill:
    • Turn your grill to medium-high heat and allow it to warm up for about 10-15 minutes. Aim for a grill temperature of around 375°F (190°C).
  • Indirect Heat Method (Optional but beneficial for even cooking):
    • If your grill has multiple burners, turn off one burner and place the chicken drumsticks on that side of the grill. This allows them to cook indirectly, which helps cook them through without charring the outside too quickly.
    • For grills with two burners, you can turn on one burner to high and the other to low or off.
  • Direct Heat Cooking:
    • If using direct heat, place drumsticks over the active burners but be vigilant about flipping them regularly to avoid burning.
    • Maintain a consistent grill temperature, adjusting the burners as needed to keep the heat even.
Direct Heat Cooking and Indirect Heat Method
Credits to BBQ Champs Academy

Serving Suggestions

Grilled chicken drumsticks are versatile and pair wonderfully with a variety of side dishes and sauces. Here are some ideas to create a well-rounded meal that enhances the flavors of your BBQ chicken:

  1. Side Dishes:
    • Classic Coleslaw: A crunchy, creamy coleslaw balances the smoky flavors of the chicken.
    • Grilled Vegetables: Bell peppers, asparagus, and zucchini grilled alongside the drumsticks make for a colorful and healthy option.
    • Corn on the Cob: Grilled or boiled, corn on the cob is a classic BBQ side that’s always a hit.
    • Potato Salad: Choose a traditional creamy potato salad or a lighter version with olive oil and herbs to complement the meat.
  2. Sauces:
    • BBQ Sauce: Offer a selection of BBQ sauces, from sweet and tangy to spicy, to allow guests to customize their flavor experience.
    • Garlic Aioli: A garlic aioli can add a creamy texture and rich flavor that contrasts nicely with the crispiness of the chicken.
    • Chimichurri: For a fresher taste, a vibrant chimichurri sauce can add a herby, tangy kick that cuts through the fattiness of the skin.
  3. Breads:
    • Garlic Bread: Toasted garlic bread is a great addition for those who love a crunchy, flavorful side.
    • Dinner Rolls: Soft dinner rolls are perfect for sopping up any extra sauce or juices.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers BBQ Chicken Drumsticks
Credits to The Kitchn

Storing Leftovers

  1. Cooling: Allow the grilled chicken drumsticks to cool to room temperature before storing. However, don’t leave them out for more than two hours to prevent bacterial growth.
  2. Refrigeration:
    • Place the cooled drumsticks in an airtight container or wrap them tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
    • Refrigerate the drumsticks within two hours of cooking. They will last for up to 3-4 days when stored properly in the refrigerator.

Reheating Leftovers

  1. Oven Method (Recommended):
    • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
    • Arrange the drumsticks on a baking sheet and cover them loosely with aluminum foil to prevent them from drying out.
    • Reheat for about 10-15 minutes, or until they are heated through and reach an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C).
  2. Microwave Method:
    • Place the drumsticks in a microwave-safe dish and cover with a damp paper towel to help maintain moisture.
    • Use the reheat setting or set the microwave to medium power and heat for 1-2 minutes, checking periodically to ensure they are heated evenly.
    • Continue heating in 30-second increments until the desired temperature is reached.

Tips for Perfect Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

Grilling chicken drumsticks to perfection involves more than just timing and temperature. Here are some key tips to ensure your drumsticks are juicy, flavorful, and safe to eat:

  1. Dry Rubs and Seasonings:
    • Apply a generous amount of dry rub or seasonings before grilling to create a flavorful crust. Ingredients like paprika, garlic powder, and brown sugar can add depth and complexity to the flavor.
  2. Avoid Overcrowding:
    • Give each drumstick enough space on the grill. Overcrowding can lower the grill temperature and lead to uneven cooking.
  3. Use a Meat Thermometer:
    • The best way to ensure your chicken is cooked safely and remains juicy is to use a meat thermometer. Chicken is safe to eat once it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C). Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the drumstick without touching the bone.
  4. Baste to Boost Moisture and Flavor:
    • If you like, baste your drumsticks with a little extra marinade or a suitable sauce during the last few minutes of grilling. This adds moisture and layers of flavor.

Variations and Flavor Options

Grilled chicken drumsticks are incredibly versatile, allowing for a range of flavor profiles depending on your taste preferences or the occasion. Here are some exciting variations to try:

  1. Marinades:
    • Classic BBQ: Mix your favorite BBQ sauce with a little honey and apple cider vinegar for a sweet and tangy flavor.
    • Lemon Garlic: Combine olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and herbs like rosemary and thyme for a Mediterranean touch.
    • Spicy Chipotle: Blend chipotle peppers in adobo sauce with lime juice and cilantro for a smoky, spicy kick.
  2. Dry Rubs:
    • Smoky Paprika Rub: Create a rub with smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground cumin for a smoky flavor.
    • Sweet and Spicy Rub: Mix brown sugar with chili powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper for a balance of sweet heat.
    • Herbaceous Rub: Use a combination of dried oregano, sage, thyme, and basil for an aromatic and herby profile.
  3. Glazes:
    • Honey Mustard Glaze: Whisk together honey, Dijon mustard, and a splash of soy sauce for a glossy, tangy glaze.
    • Teriyaki Glaze: Simmer soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and a touch of sesame oil until thickened for an Asian-inspired flavor.
    • Balsamic Reduction: Reduce balsamic vinegar with a bit of sugar until syrupy for a rich, decadent finish.
  4. Preparation Methods:
    • Indirect Grilling: For more even cooking and a gentler approach, use the indirect heat method by placing drumsticks away from the direct flame.
    • Direct Grilling: For a charred, crispy exterior, grill your drumsticks directly over the flame, monitoring closely to prevent burning.
    • Smoking: For those with a smoker, smoking chicken drumsticks infuses them with a deep, woodsy flavor that’s hard to replicate.

Nutrition Information

The nutritional value of grilled chicken drumsticks can vary based on the seasonings and marinades used, but here is a general breakdown based on a basic preparation of one drumstick without additional sauces:

  • Calories: Approximately 120-150 calories per drumstick
  • Protein: Roughly 17-20 grams of protein
  • Fat: About 5-7 grams of fat
  • Carbohydrates: Less than 1 gram if not using any sugary marinades or sauces
  • Cholesterol: Around 70-80 milligrams
  • Sodium: Varies greatly depending on the seasoning, approximately 70-200 milligrams
  • Fiber: Generally 0 grams unless served with a fibrous side

These values can help you consider how grilled chicken drumsticks fit into your dietary needs. Keep in mind that adding marinades, especially those containing sugar, oil, or soy sauce, can alter these numbers significantly. For those watching their intake of sodium or sugars, opt for natural herbs and spices to flavor the drumsticks.


Flare-ups are caused by fat dripping onto the heat source and igniting. To handle flare-ups, temporarily move the drumsticks to another part of the grill away from the flames, or keep a portion of your grill free from coals or burners turned off for this purpose. Always keep a water spray bottle handy for stubborn flare-ups, but use it sparingly to avoid dousing the coals or burners.

To ensure even cooking, use a two-zone heat setup on your grill. Place drumsticks over indirect heat for most of the cooking time, and finish over direct heat to achieve a crispy exterior. Rotate and flip them regularly to promote even cooking.

To ensure even cooking, use a two-zone heat setup on your grill. Place drumsticks over indirect heat for most of the cooking time, and finish over direct heat to achieve a crispy exterior. Rotate and flip them regularly to promote even cooking.

If you’re short on time, even a 30-minute marinate can infuse flavor into the chicken. For quicker absorption, use ingredients like salt and acid (vinegar or lemon juice) in your marinade.

Disclosure: Our blog contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

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