Perfect Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

5 from 4 votes
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Make perfectly grilled chicken drumsticks with minimal effort – they’re charred and crispy outside, tender and juicy in the middle, with meat that practically falls off the bone!

grilled chicken drumsticks closeup view

Not only are drumsticks inexpensive and easy to source, but you only need a handful of pantry ingredients and 5 minutes of prep to make perfectly grilled drumsticks every time. It is as easy as it gets! Prepare the marinade, toss the chicken in it to marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, then throw the drumsticks on the grill.

grilled chicken drumsticks in a round plat

Ingredients

  • Chicken drumsticks: You need medium bone-in, skin-on chicken drumsticks (aka chicken legs). Try to use ones of a similar size; otherwise, the grilling time for each will vary.
  • Oil: I used olive oil this time, but I also love using avocado oil.
  • Garlic: I love using garlic cloves when possible, but garlic powder works too.
  • Sweet paprika: Or smoked paprika to enhance the smoky profile further.
  • Chili powder: (Optional) or cayenne pepper/red pepper flakes for some heat.
  • Sea salt & black pepper: Use soy sauce instead for extra umami.
  • Lemon: I use a combination of lemon juice and zest for the best flavor and some brightening, tenderizing action in the marinade.
Ingredients for grilled chicken drumsticks

How to grill chicken drumsticks

Marinate the chicken: First, zest, then juice the lemon, mince the garlic. Add those and the remaining ingredients (paprika, chili, salt, pepper, and oil) to a small bowl and mix well. Then, toss the chicken (pat it dry first) in with the marinade in a large bowl/baking dish or a Ziplock bag, ensuring it’s well coated (you can even rub it under the skin).

Leave to marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes at room temperature. Or for even more flavor, marinate it for up to 12 hours (in the refrigerator). Bring it back to room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.

steps for marinating chicken drumsticks

Grill the chicken: Next, preheat the gas grill to medium-high heat (around 400-425ºF/200-220ºC), making sure the grates are clean, and oil them with a paper towel. Alternatively or additionally, rub a cut onion on the hot grill grates. This prevents sticking while adding a hint of extra flavor.

Once ready, remove the marinated chicken drumsticks from the marinade, shaking off any excess (to avoid grill flare-ups), and place them (with tongs) in a single layer, skin-side down, on the grill. Grill them for 25-30 minutes, flipping every 5-7 minutes for even cooking. Note that the exact grilling time will vary based on their size and the exact grill temperature.

grilled chicken drumsticks on the grill

How can you tell if grilled drumsticks are cooked?

The best way to check for doneness is to use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat (avoid bones). For chicken drumsticks, the internal temperature should reach 185ºF/85ºC. Note that although it’s safe to eat at 165ºF, like most chicken, chicken drumsticks are even better at 180-185ºF, producing tender meat with zero stringiness.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, pierce the meat near the bone. It should be knife-tender with no pinkness in the meat, and any juices that run should be clear.

Once you remove the chicken from the grill, allow it to rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute and settle, then serve and enjoy!

grilled chicken drumsticks showing the inside

Top grilling tips

  • Leave them to marinate: Marinating the drumsticks helps tenderize the meat and adds heaps of flavor.
  • Use room temperature chicken: After marinating, bring the chicken back to room temperature for 30 minutes to ensure even cooking.
  • To avoid grill sticking: First, clean the grates well to remove any residue. Then, oil the grates with an oil-dipped paper towel and/or a cut onion.
  • For even grilling: Flip the chicken drumsticks every 5-7 minutes, so they’re evenly cooked and browned all over.
  • Ensure they’re perfectly cooked: It’s best to use a meat thermometer, avoiding bones, ensuring they reach an internal temperature of 185ºF/85ºC.
  • If there are grill flare-ups: Move the chicken immediately to avoid overly charring it or the flavor being affected.
  • Leave them to rest: Leave them 5 minutes for the juices to settle and redistribute for the juiciest grilled drumsticks.

What to serve with grilled chicken drumsticks

More easy chicken recipes

If you try this grilled chicken drumsticks recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Perfectly Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

5 from 4 votes
By: Samira
Make perfectly grilled chicken drumsticks with minimal effort – they're charred and crispy outside, tender and juicy in the middle, with meat that practically falls off the bone!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 
 

  • 2.5 lb chicken drumsticks 9 medium size, bone-in, skin-on
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil or another high-heat oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika or smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (optional for some heat) or cayenne pepper/red pepper flakes

Instructions 

  • Zest and juice the lemon, and mince the garlic. Add those and the remaining ingredients (paprika, chili, salt, pepper, and oil) to a small bowl and mix well.
  • Toss the chicken (pat it dry first) in with the marinade in a large bowl/baking dish or a Ziplock bag, ensuring it's well coated (you can even rub it under the skin).
  • Leave to marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes at room temperature.
    For even more flavor, marinate it for up to 12 hours (in the refrigerator). Please bring it back to room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.
  • Preheat the gas grill to medium-high heat (around 400-425ºF/200-220ºC), making sure the grates are clean, and oil them with a paper towel.
    Alternatively, or additionally, rub a cut onion on the hot grill grates. This prevents sticking while adding a hint of extra flavor.
  • Once ready, remove the marinated chicken drumsticks from the marinade, shaking off any excess (to avoid grill flare-ups), and place them (with tongs) in a single layer, skin-side down, on the grill.
  • Grill them for 25-30 minutes, flipping every 5-7 minutes for even cooking. Note that the exact grilling time will vary based on their size and the exact grill temperature. Make sure to check they are ready before removing them from the grill.
    Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat (avoid bones). For chicken drumsticks, the internal temperature should reach 185ºF/85ºC.
    Although it’s safe to eat at 165ºF, like most chicken, chicken drumsticks are even better at 180-185ºF, producing tender meat with zero stringiness.
    If you don't have a meat thermometer, pierce the meat in the thickest part (without touching the bone). It should be knife-tender with no pinkness in the meat, and any juices that run should be clear.
  • Once you remove the chicken from the grill, allow it to rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute and settle, then serve and enjoy!

Video

Notes

To store: Allow them to cool, then store (within 2 hours of cooking) in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the fridge.
To freeze: In a freezer-safe container or Ziplock for up to 3 months. Allow them to thaw in the fridge overnight before using or reheating.
To reheat: I prefer to warm the chicken in the oven at 350ºF/175ºC for 10-15 minutes. Do so in a foil-covered baking tray with a splash of chicken broth for the most moist results.
Check the blog post for serving suggestions.
Course: Main
Cuisine: American, Global
Freezer friendly: 3-4 Months
Shelf life: 3-4 Days

Nutrition

Serving: 2drumsticks, Calories: 447kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 27g, Fat: 37g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g, Monounsaturated Fat: 18g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 150mg, Sodium: 731mg, Potassium: 363mg, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 0.3g, Vitamin A: 476IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 22mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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