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Smoked Chicken Drumsticks

by Brad Prose

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Grab a hold of these Smoked Chicken Drumsticks with crispy skin, juicy meat, and classic barbecue flavors. These are simple to prepare, easily customizable, and incredibly affordable – it’s no wonder they are a huge hit for the crowd!

Smoked chicken drumsticks served with different kinds of Bbq sauce and pickles

If you’re looking for one of the simplest meats to cook on your smoker, you’re in the right place. Smoked chicken drums are very straightforward, consistent, and relatively cheap. Not to mention, generally a huge hit with kids – which you know is a plus if you’re also a parent.

Don’t forget to check out Smoked Chicken Halves, Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, or Butterflied Chicken Drumsticks for some different options!

Why You’ll Love Smoked Chicken Drumsticks

  • Packed with flavor. Juicy dark meat, insulated with a blanket of crispy skin on the outside is hard to beat. Add in wood-fired smoke flavor to take it over the edge.
  • Affordable. When it comes to purchasing meat, this is something important to consider. Chicken drums are the least desired cut in general, making them an ideal replacement for chicken wings on the smoker.
  • Simple to prepare. Season, smoke, glaze if you want, and you’re done. Smoked chicken drumsticks have minimal preparation and the process is reliable.
  • Easy to time. Unlike smoked chuck roast, brisket, or pork shoulder, there’s no cooking stall with smoking drumsticks. You can count on them to be done within the same 15-minute window, every time.

Seasoning Choices

Chicken is one of the easiest meats to season, and it can take any type of flavor you can throw at it. Unlike beef, it’s easy to switch from sweet, spicy, sour, salty, or any combination in between.

  • Signature Sweet & Smoky Rub – This rub was originally designed for chicken, a combination of brown sugar and smoky chiles to create a mild heat with a well-rounded profile. It also gives the chicken a great color.
  • Smoky Southwest Dry Rub – If you’re looking for a flavor that leans more towards Mexican food, this is the one. The profile is darker, earthy, savory, and much less sweet than other rubs.
  • Spicy Pastrami Rub – Yes, chicken pastrami. Don’t be fooled, that doesn’t mean the chicken is cured pink! We’re borrowing the aromatics from a classic pastrami rub and adding a few twists, made to boost the savory flavors of poultry.
  • Pumpkin Spice BBQ Rub – Look past the latte crazy and focus on the warming spices of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and allspice. Toss in some smoky chipotle with a few other ingredients and you have a warm, savory rub that’s perfect on smoked chicken drumsticks.

BBQ Sauce Choices

Choosing a BBQ seasoning is half of the fun, but there is another way to layer flavor. Glazing, tossing, or dunking the drumsticks in a homemade sauce adds a third layer of delicious flavor (after seasoning and smoke) which you can mix and match. Try out one of these:

  • Maple Chipotle BBQ Sauce – This mustard-based golden sauce is tangy, spicy, and sweet. It’s designed for both basting during the cook as well as dunking.
  • Buffalo BBQ Sauce – Take the classic buffalo flavors and fortify them with ketchup, sugars, and aromatics to make a full-bodies BBQ sauce that kicks.
  • Korean Honey Mustard – Looking for heat? Thin out this sauce with a little apple cider vinegar and you’ll have glowing red drumsticks ready to wake up your tastebuds.
  • Teriyaki BBQ Sauce – Sweet and thick, this sauce comes together quickly and is one of my favorite ways to glaze chicken drumsticks.
Chicken drumsticks seasoned with the Signature Sweet & Smoky rub

Prepping the Drumsticks

Remember how I said this was easy? Yeah, there’s not much to do here, but there are a few tips to consider.

  • Season your chicken generously. Don’t worry, the sugars won’t burn as we are smoking the drums, not grilling them directly. Feel free to season to your preferences.
  • Dry-brine for crispier skin. This is a great strategy regardless, but if you’re not planning on saucing the drumsticks then it’s a must. Allowing the salt to draw out excess moisture while drying out the skin in the fridge will give you much crispier skin compared to seasoning right before. I recommend seasoning the drumsticks and allowing them to sit on a wire rack with a baking sheet for at least a few hours, up to overnight.
  • Binder is optional. You can use Worchestershire sauce, hot sauce, mustard, or any flavored liquid sauce as a binder for the rub before you apply it. It adds another layer of flavor, but it does prevent the skin from getting as crispy if you’re going to dry-brine.
Dry-rubbed chicken drumsticks are smoking at 275°F

Smoking the Drumsticks

This process is simple, all you need is a smoker or indirect setup for your charcoal grill to pull this off.

STEP 1: Preheat the Grill

Warm up your smoker to 275°F. If you’re using a charcoal grill, build a 2-zone setup with a warm and cool zone. You’ll be placing the chicken drumsticks on the cool side and cooking them indirectly.

Think about your choices for wood flavor and how it would pair with your seasonings. My favorite types for smoked chicken drums would be apple, mesquite, hickory, or maple. Use what you love!

STEP 2: Smoke the Chicken Drumsticks

Smoke the wings for about 80-90 minutes. Don’t mess with them! They will be just fine on their own, I promise.

Typically chicken is cooked til 165°F for safety, however, with wings and drumsticks I’ve found it’s best to push that higher. Cook them until about 180-185° and the skin will be crispier, and the meat will no longer be chewy.

Sauced the smoked chicken drumsticks at 165°F to finish them off in the smoker.

STEP 3: Sauce Them to Finish

Glazing the smoked chicken drumsticks with BBQ sauce is an optional step, but if you’re going to do it now is the time. When the chicken reads 165°F internal temperature, go ahead and add your sauce.

If the BBQ sauce you’re using is too thick, add a splash of apple cider vinegar to thin it out. It should be a nice glaze, not a thick gloopy mess.

Cook the wings for another 15-20 minutes until they are at the desired temperature.

STEP 4: Rest and Serve

Yes, even chicken needs a little rest after cooking. Thankfully only about 5-10 minutes and you’re good to go. By the time you’ve pulled them off and taken them into the house to set the table, they are practically ready to grab.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you reheat chicken drumsticks?

Yes, and the best way to do that is actually over the grill. Preheat your grill to medium heat and cook them indirectly to warm them up, and then sear them off to crisp them up.

Does this work for chicken thighs?

Actually yes it can. I do use similar temperatures for smoked bone-in chicken thighs as well. Competition-style chicken thighs are another discussion, which I am not referring to.

How long does it take to smoke chicken legs?

The drumsticks should take about 90 minutes at 275°F, give or take a few depending on their size.

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Smoked chicken drumsticks served with different kinds of Bbq sauce and pickles

Smoked Chicken Drumsticks

Grab a hold of these Smoked Chicken Drumsticks with crispy skin, juicy meat, and classic barbecue flavors. These are simple to prepare, easily customizable, and incredibly affordable – it’s no wonder they are a huge hit for the crowd!

  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves about 5-6 1x

Ingredients

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Instructions

  1. Pat the drumsticks dry, and apply a generous amount of seasoning to each. Place them on a wire rack with a baking sheet in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  2. Preheat the smoker to 275°F. Remove the drumsticks from the fridge and allow them to come to room temp while the smoker warms up.
  3. Place them in the smoker when preheated, allowing them to cook for about 80-90 minutes undisturbed.
  4. If glazing, brush on the BBQ sauce when the drumsticks are about 165°F. Allow them to continue to smoke for another 15-20 minutes.
  5. Remove the drumsticks when they reach about 180-185°F. They tend to be a little more crispy, falling off the bone and easier at this higher temperature.
  6. Allow them to rest for 5-10 minutes and serve.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Dry Brine: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 90 minutes
  • Category: Chicken & Poultry
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Dinner

Keywords: smoked chicken, chicken drumsticks, smoked chicken drumsticks, smoked chicken drums, chicken legs

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